Take Five
By George Rose
June 23, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the genesis of the Lawrence Welk Show!

For those of you who haven't been following the Take Five articles, this past weekend was my brother's wedding. He's Greek and he married a Greek girl. The chances were small that such a union would take place while in the melting pot of America but fate stepped in and made sure it happened. For those of you who don't follow this article regularly, you also don't know that I am an avid midnight-movie-goer. The greatest thing about the summer movie season is that they show all the new releases the day before they come out at midnight. I pride myself on going to these shows so that I can help spread the word (good or bad) all opening weekend long. Needless to say, I will be at the midnight showing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

On rare occasion, I am convinced not to go to a midnight show. These reasons might include a) someone makes me promise to wait until Friday or Saturday so I can see it with them or b) the only new releases are Imagine That and Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. I saw nothing that weekend for obvious reasons. Because my brother's wedding was this weekend, I had no choice but to go to a midnight movie on Thursday, for fear I might not see a film until Monday. That just can't happen!

This weekend we were offered Year One and The Proposal. Both looked only moderately funny but I'm a fan of all the stars involved in both pictures. With regards to Year One, Jack Black and Michael Cera are funny men, though they usually do better when cast aside others instead of headlining their own feature. While the concept of a prehistoric comedy could have been hilarious, the movie looked like the stars dressed as cavemen, acting and talking the way they would in an interview. Cera looks just like George Michael from Arrested Development, Superbad and Juno. Black looks like the chubby funny guy. Funny, but lacking any sense of originality.

As for The Proposal, I love both Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. Reynolds rarely disappoints as an actor, even if the films he chooses aren't of the highest quality. I enjoyed him thoroughly in Just Friends and Definitely, Maybe (one of my past Take Five picks), and while I loathed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he was still tolerable as Deadpool. Bullock, on the other hand, is one of my favorite leading ladies. She is quite funny, charming, and yes, even sexy. With the help of some botox, she looks young enough to be paired with Reynolds and the chemistry seemed perfect in the trailers.

I had planned to see Year One at midnight on Thursday, assuming I would be going with one of my buddies and knowing he would prefer the comedy geared towards younger men. Instead, he decided to pass on the laughs so he could hang out with a lady friend (can you blame him?). He said I could hang out with them if I wanted but, much to his shock and confusion, I am a fan of going to the movies alone. It's not a baseball game, people, it's a movie! You aren't supposed to talk during it so what does it matter if you go alone or with a group of 20 people? Like I said above, if someone can promise me they will go with me on Friday or Saturday, I will wait. However, my brother got married and it was either see a movie alone on Thursday or wait until Monday. The choice was simple.

Since I am a bigger fan of Bullock and Reynolds then I am of Black and Cera, I decided to see The Proposal. As I drove to the theater, I put on the radio (94.5 PST, for all you tri-state area dwellers) and Taylor Swift's "Love Story" came on. What a coincidence, right? Or was it fate? Either way, the cheesy, romantic sappiness of the evening had begun! I bought my ticket, got my usual soda and popcorn, and sat down just in time for the previews. One worth noting is All About Steve. It was fitting because it stars Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper. Cooper just scored big with The Hangover and, after seeing The Proposal, I'm sure Sandra is about to have a decent sized hit on her hands (*now that the weekend estimates are in, The Proposal is in fact a hit and Bullock's biggest opening ever... yay for Bullock!). The problem with All About Steve is that it doesn't look that great. If Cooper knew The Hangover was going to be massive, I'm sure he would have waited for a better picture to be his follow-up. As for Bullock, All About Steve looks like a step down from The Proposal, which is not the direction this woman should be looking in. She won't be so desperate after The Proposal brings her back to the top, like Miss Congeniality did, though All About Steve feels like a Miss Congeniality 2. That was a bad move and I fear her film in the Fall will be too.

As for The Proposal itself, it was very enjoyable. It wasn't as good as The Hangover and it wasn't the best romantic comedy ever made, but it's Bullock doing what she does best and we haven't seen her attempt this kind of work in a long time. I think what made me enjoy the movie so much was Betty White, because seeing her made me think of the tragic loss of her Golden Girls costar Bea Arthur, and thinking of Bea put me in a forgiving mood. I was eager to enjoy Bullock and Reynolds, despite their recent missteps in Hollywood. Thank you, Bea, for being the woman you were and for helping me focus on the positives of the stars I love instead of trying to be a pessimistic critic as usual. I didn't expect or hope to have a good time going into The Proposal. Instead, I made sure to. There were definite moment of boredom but for the most part I smiled, laughed and even got teary eyed.

Okay, enough about The Proposal. I have five movies to recommend and not much free time to do it (as usual). It appears I opted for the longer intro this week, maybe to compensate for the short one I wrote last week. In any case, I have work in a few hours so I have to use what little break I have left after the long weekend to think of a few good movies you might enjoy until the next article is released. Let's see what I can come up with...

A Time To Kill (1996)

You should know by now that I not only like to discuss what's coming out and what just came out, but also what some of the stars of the new releases did before their latest pet project. This week, in honor of Sandra Bullock's hit The Proposal, I offer you A Time To Kill. As you read the reviews for The Proposal, you'll hear plenty of reference to the other rom-coms she's starred in. Miss Congeniality, Two Weeks Notice and Forces Of Nature are just a few of them, but what about the other movies? Bullock is an actress with a wide range of abilities (Crash is one you're all probably most familiar with) but one of my favorites is A Time To Kill.

Also starring Samuel L. Jackson and Mathew McConaughey (in one of his rare serious roles), the film is about a black man from the South named Carl Lee Hailey (Jackson), who is on trial for murdering the two white redneck men who got away with raping and torturing his daughter. McConaughey's Jake Brigance is his attorney while Bullock's Ellen Roark is the stellar law student on hand to help. Dealing with this during a time of racial unrest doesn't make any of this easier and neither does the involvement of the NAACP and KKK. Burning crosses, bombings and protesting are scattered through the film, helping to create the serious tension around the stars who are otherwise known for more comedic work.

What makes this serious movie so surprising is the involvement of director Joel Schumacher, who is also known for more comedic work (remember those rubber nipples in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin?). I guess having a script based on the book by John Grisham didn't give Schumacher too much of a chance to add in his own personal touch. Instead he lets the story and actors take over and what's left is an intense courtroom drama that's a perfect addition to the resumes of those involved looking for versatility.

Singing In the Rain (1952)

Another week, another throwback to the ancient films found in Hollywood's vault of classics. I've mentioned taking a film course in college before and while I only took one (I could only afford to take one since my focus was Marketing and Writing) they showed lots of movies worth mentioning. Obviously a class about filmmaking isn't going to reference the movies you shouldn't want to emulate (you know, movies like Wolverine). While I wouldn't have selected these movies for myself, they were mostly enjoyable and had something to learn from.

One I remember fondly is Singing In The Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. Kelly is Don Lockwood, a silent film star who is about to appear in his first "talkie". As the film gets underway, he meets and begins to fall in love with Reynolds' Kathy, a chorus girl who is unimpressed with his acting accomplishments. When Don's usual leading lady, Lina, turns out to be a disaster in the talkie-musical, he suggests to the produces to dub over his costars voice with Kathy's. Naturally, Lina isn't happy about this and tries to sabotage the up-and-coming actress.

The film is funny, full of wonderful music and even garnered the picture two Academy Award nominations (actress and musical score). As much as I hate to admit it, there is a reason some of these older films are considered classics. This movie isn't a remake or sequel. It is original and better off because of it, the kind of film young movie makers should want to watch to get inspired instead of paying $12 to see The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 in its umpteenth incarnation. There hasn't been a good musical in theaters for a while now, so if you're in the mood for some song and dance this is the film for you.

Pieces of April (2003)

Remember when Katie Holmes was awesome? I do. After all, I grew up with a scrapbook full of her pictures from magazines and Dawson's Creek snapshots. This was of course before Tom Cruise stopped the rising star from becoming a household name for acting skills. Instead, she's known as Mrs. Crazy Scientologist Baby Maker. It's a bad, played out joke, I know, but you get the point. The girl used to have a chance and Pieces of April was helping to make that happen.

Holmes is April, if course, in a day-in-the-life-of adventure about how a girl cast out from her family must throw together a Thanksgiving dinner for them. April's mother is dying so the family must reunite in what might be their final holiday together. Her family (made up of Oliver Platt and Patricia Clarkson, among others) recounts the trials they have gone through with April as they drive from Pennsylvania to visit her in New York, while April scurries around her apartment building preparing for the feast. The apartment building is filled with a variety of characters that contribute to the quiet humor of it all, especially April's African-American boyfriend, who is bound to shock her parents. The actors deliver some of their strongest performances (Clarkson received an Academy Award nomination), and while she wasn't nominated Katie Holmes proves she can do more than marry into insanity or be the weakest link in Batman Begins.

This was one of the films that was in theaters as I was discovering and trying to be a part of the independent film scene. I went to see it on my first real date (I'm not talking "let's hang out" high school date, but real dinner-and-a-movie date) and it gave us plenty to talk about. It was funny (not LOL funny, but "life can be complicated" funny), heartwarming and the kind of reminder you need that family isn't about how different you all are but rather how much you do for the ones you love. It put Patricia Clarkson on my map of actresses to keep an eye on and was one of the last films Katie Holmes did that I respected her for. You should watch this movie for no other reason than paying tribute to a once fine actress in the making.

Hero (2002)

Let's throw a foreign film into the mix. Jet Li is a Chinese actor many American are familiar with, since he crossed over in such Hollywood films as Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die and The Forbidden Kingdom (with Jackie Chan). One of his best films, or at least one that I consider to be among his best, is Hero. Li's character is nameless. Seriously, he has no name. That's how important the actions and story of this character are. See, the Chinese know how to make movies too. They avoid fart jokes and pointless films that simply showcase the actors doing their usual (I'm talking to you, American film producers) in exchange for vibrant colors, mystical action and intense acting.

The story follows this nameless hero as he battles and beats three of China's most well known assassins, who are out to destroy the King Qin and his plans of unifying the seven kingdoms of the nation (this was before it was unified and ruled by one emperor). While the story seems straight forward, there is a plot twist that requires the story be retold again in its true form, allowing for several versions of some of the same fight sequences, all equally colorful and beautiful as the one before. I'm not a biggest fan of reading subtitles but it says something great about a film when you barely notice them at all. Hero is one of those films. The movie is filled with some of China's biggest names, my favorite of course being Ziyi Zhang. You might know her from films like Rush Hour 2 and Memoirs of a Geisha. Both of these stars deserve bigger careers in the states, should they decide to take more time away from their native country.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)

Oh, that's right, I'm going there. Because of this week's upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen release, and since I already recommended the classic '80s cartoon movie in a Take Five article, I offer you the Power Rangers movie from my childhood! C'mon people, I already told you about a classic from the '50s, a foreign language film, and other "good" movies. Give me just one this week that we all know is utter B.S. but that means something close to me. That's what films are all about! How they make you feel, despite what a professional critic or rational person thinks.

When I was a kid, I was huuuuuuge Power Rangers nerd. You're probably laughing but it's not as bad as the whole Barney craze (which I was thankfully not a part of). I loved Amy Jo Johnson's Kimberly (the pink ranger) and wanted so bad to be Billy (the blue ranger). Obviously the pink ranger liked the green ranger, who later became the white ranger, because he was a handsome rebel with a better body than the blue ranger, who was smart and wore glasses. I wanted to be a smart guy because I saw how useful he was to the group. I didn't know at the time that the show was promoting the idea that women are shallow and prefer body over brains. It's really just the show that says that, right? That can't possibly have some truth to it!

In any case, these six power rangers are used to battling Zordon in the TV show, but he has been pushed aside in the film by the more powerful Ivan Ooze. He, of course, wants to take over the world with his mind control substance made of... purple ooze. Ok, so the show and film aren't very subtle. If you want further proof, the yellow ranger is a Chinese girl and the black ranger is an African-American guy. This brand has little tact but I was a kid and didn't know any better. Maybe if Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg collaborated on this project instead of Transformers, it wouldn't have bombed in theaters the way it did. Doesn't matter, because I was still a child in love and saw it with my only friend who was also a fan.

If you want the honest truth, watch any of the other four movies I just recommended before watching this one. The point of this recommendation is that I'm not going to pretend I have only ever enjoyed top-tier movies. I like cheesy movies, I like foreign movies, I like independent movies and I like really, really, really crappy shows sometimes that leads to a blind devotion to the Hollywood film product in the making. If you think I'm alone, look at the success of the first Transformers film and the success to come with the second. It may be a better movie than Power Rangers but that's just because of the talent involved. The point is you like cheesy TV shows and films others regard as bad (Transformers is only 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, hardly a winner in the eyes of a judgmental critic) just as much as I do. Don't be ashamed of the crap you love. I'm not, so recommend away!