Welcome to Take Five, your weekly list of five random movie recommendations. Most people don't have time to watch five movies in a week. Most people don't even have five minutes to take a break and relax. Take Five is here to quicken your search for reliable entertainment (or at least movies that I deem entertaining) so you can enjoy what little free time you have. And really, who reading this article doesn't want to spend their free time watching movies? It's not like you're on a sports Web site.
By George Rose
September 29, 2009
Since I've been sick this last week with a sinus infection, thanks to the dreadful weather that is always present in the early stages of the fall season in New Jersey, I've actually had lots of time to watch movies in the past few days. Any week where I can watch more than one movie is a great week. Any week where I can watch a few movies AND watch an entire season of television is a week to die for. Since my illness doesn't seem to be going away quickly, this might very well be that week. Read on and find out.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Oddly enough, I was also sick the week Hellboy II came out last summer. I had a throat infection that left me hospitalized and on bed rest for almost an entire week. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't move. That didn't bother me, though. What nearly killed me was being denied the ability to go see one of the summer's big action sequels to a comic book property. If I had had the strength to drink a glass of water, I might have had enough fluids in me to cry. Instead, I just laid there in my vegetative state cursing the gods. I could have gone to see it the next weekend but once I miss opening weekend a movie becomes irrelevant. With each passing summer week, a new movie worth seeing is released. Miss one week, miss one movie. It didn't help either that after Hellboy II came The Dark Knight and, well, I had to see that four times in theaters to get the full effect.
Luckily I stumbled onto Hellboy II this week while resting up on the couch. Sure, I could have gotten the Bluray from Netflix any day of the last year but it just slipped my mind. As soon as the movie started, I was reminded why I wanted to see it so badly to begin with. The first Hellboy was great, full of action and humor. Guillermo del Torro was and is a great director, and since he's helming the upcoming Hobbit films I feel compelled to support his work. The worlds he creates (both in Hellboy and his Pan's Labyrinth) are beautiful and haunting at the same time, and any film that can balance the two is worth watching, even if only on mute. Hellboy II was no different.
For those who don't know, Hellboy is a demon living among the humans of Earth. He has lived among us since he was a baby, so he is similar to humans in nearly every way except in appearance. As part of a secret government agency, he is forced to live under the radar, protecting those he envies until they discover he existence. Since humans aren't always the nicest creatures (anyone who has been to high school knows that), he must decide which side of the multi-realm war his allegiance belongs to: those like him that live under our world or the humans that regard him as a beast. Making this all the more complicated is his human-looking girlfriend, a woman with fire powers who is currently pregnant with his baby, and an underworld prince seeking the power to raise the Golden Army. It's all pretty straightforward once you get into it, but the movie is bigger, has more action, more humor and more of everything you loved about the first Hellboy. Would you expect anything less from a summer sequel?
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Ok, so Dracula: Dead and Loving It sits at 4% on RottenTomatoes. That's pretty bad, right? Whatever, I once recommended the Power Rangers movie. Now it's time for a slapstick Leslie Nielsen movie. I don't know why so many people poorly reviewed the film (most of the reviews are just a "thumbs down" green splatter, very few actually have comments) but they did. Now it's up to me to help bring the movie up to a whopping 8%. Oh, the silly things I believe in.
So why this movie? Because I grew up watching Leslie Nielsen making a fool of himself. He was the king of spoofing movies back when I thought spoofing was a veritable form of entertainment. This was of course before movies like Date Movie, Meet the Spartans, Dance Flick, Superhero Movie and all the other spoof garbage came out and put the final nails in the spoof coffin. Back before spoofing was just throwing together a bunch of different movies into one, tied together with pop culture references and Simon Cowell look alikes. Leslie Nielsen, though, made spoofing an art form. He was dim witted but funny, his films always held together by some semblance of a plot. They weren't Jim Carrey-level classics, but Nielsen's Naked Gun movies, Spy Hard and Wrongfully Accused were all entertaining to the ten-year-old that I was. But I've since grown up and have developed a whole new set of unreasonable fetishes. HBO's True Blood is one of them, hence my recommendation of Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
The thing about this movie is that it's directed by Mel Brooks, whom I typically cannot stand. Blazing Saddles was a massive disappointment to me. I can't believe how many people I listened to tell me that movie is a "classic". I'm not saying his Dracula spoof is a classic, but I'm also not throwing around big expectations hoping someone blindly follows me. The movie is a retelling of the classic Dracula storyline: Dracula torments some English people, Van Helsing is brought in to get rid of the monster, so on and so forth. With so many failing at producing serious retellings of the vampire, it's nice that someone bothered attempting a spoof. I could watch the little Dracula bat with a big Leslie Nielsen face fly into a window any day. It may not be as funny as The Hangover, but in time that won't be so funny either. Dracula: Dead and Loving It was great when I was a kid and is still moderately entertaining. It sure didn't make me any sicker than I already was. That's got to say something.
Just like the spoofing genre, the horror genre has been on a recent freefall. My personal favorite punching bag is, of course, Sorority Row. Then there's the recent disappointment known as Pandorum. And Jennifer's Body. And Halloween II. Wow, horror really sucks, doesn't it? And those titles were all released in the last month! It wasn't always like that. In the '70s and '80s, most of the horror entries were original ideas and were actually frightening. Then I was born in 1985 with a 666 birthmark on my scalp and the genre died a painful death. Just kidding but seriously, what happened to horror after 1985?
One of the movies others have referred to as a "classic" that I don't have a problem agreeing with is Carrie, based on the story by Stephen King. It's funny how much of his catalog has been turned into movies. Some of his books-to-movies are just plain dreadful (I still can't get the taste of Pet Sematary out of my mouth). Others are met with decent success (The Mist was watchable). Carrie, on the other hand, should be remembered as one of his greatest horror stories told. Why? Because the twist ending isn't that an obnoxious clown is really a giant spider.
The story isn't one massive setup to one giant letdown. It's a simple story of a young woman named (you guessed it!) Carrie, immortalized on screen by the unbelievable Sissy Spacek. She received an Oscar nomination for playing the shy high school girl who is taunted by everyone after an unfortunate incident in the school's shower facilities. One of the girls tormenting Carrie actually feels bad about embarrassing her in the shower, enough so that she asks her boyfriend to take Carrie to the senior prom instead of her. Another girl does not feel so bad. In fact, she plans an evening more humiliating than anything she's experienced before. Unfortunately for those at the prom, Carrie learned she has developed telekinetic powers. Powers that are waiting to erupt at just the right moment.
Carrie isn't the scariest movie but it's definitely intriguing. Like I said, Sissy Spacek is wonderful but, then again, when isn't she? She was brilliant in In The Bedroom and you can tell those acting chops stemmed from a long, successful career going all the way back to Carrie. Maybe she got lucky, starring in one of the few Stephen King stories that transitioned well onto the big screen. Or maybe the movie is so good because of it was one of the first big successes of director Brian de Palma's career. Whatever is the reason, all parts came together and made Carrie a horror classic worth remembering.
Father of the Bride: Part 2 (1995)
I'm aware that I recommend a lot of movies from my youth that most people wouldn't deem recommendation worthy. I just recommended Dracula: Dead and Loving It. I've recommended the Power Rangers movie and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Heck, I've even recommended Halloween: H20. But one of the movies that I remember from childhood that I enjoyed and is something people of all ages can find appealing is Father of the Bride: Part 2, not just action figure or horror movie lovers.
After a long night of trying to sleep with a nasty cough, I went downstairs to find my younger brother watching this movie. At first, I sat down beside him to fun of him. Not because the movie isn't good but because I don't think my brother will ever get married. But then I found myself watching the movie and remembering how we would watch it with our mother when we were kids. My mom loved the Father of the Bride movies and passed that interest down to her children. The thing is, they're actually quite funny. I've seen Part 2 many more times than Part 1, because I was only six-years-old when Part 1 came out. By the time Part 2 was out, I was old enough to be present when my mother watched the VHS on repeat.
Steve Martin stars as George Banks, a man who can't seem to handle the changes that come with life. In Part 1, he struggled with seeing his daughter get married. That's why they called the movie Father of the Bride. Though there is no wedding in Part 2, the story continues with George's daughter and wife both getting pregnant at the same time. Yes, hilarity does ensue. Did I mention that George's wife is played by Diane Keaton? This is one of her recent roles that doesn't have her styled in wild, highlighted hair or big belts over collared dresses. But still, it's Diane Keaton, and she's lovable no matter how she looks. If the Martin-Keaton pair isn't enough for you, Martin Short returns as the extremely hilarious and eccentric Franck Eggelhoffer. There isn't much more to elaborate on, since the movie is mostly pregnant woman gags with occasional dramatic elements, but if you're looking for a Martin or Keaton comedy that is leagues better than Martin's Cheaper By The Dozen or Keaton's Mad Money, this is it.
The Green Mile (1999)
Ok, this is a historic Take Five moment. Brace yourselves, everyone. Normally, I enjoy bashing on Stephen King. Why? Because he's a successful writer and I'm an unemployed one. That, and some of his books really don't transition well to the big screen. At all. But today, I'm not only going to recommend one of his movies... I'm recommending two. First Carrie, now The Green Mile. It may never happen again, so pay close attention. Even though I was sick this past weekend, I decided to go to my buddy's apartment on Saturday night and hang out with some friends. When I got there, two TVs were on. One had a Yankees game on and the other had The Green Mile. Since these are all straight men and sports are my kryptonite, I expected to be sitting alone in front of The Green Mile while they all watched sports. Oddly enough, everyone but one guy was watching The Green Mile. This made me proud.
It didn't just make me proud that they chose movies over sports. I was proud that the movie they chose is actually a great movie and not something plot-less with naked women all over the place. You'd be surprised at some of the movies I've walked in on them watching, so it's really no joke when I say I was both shocked and proud at their Green Mile selection. It's not that I think this way of all straight men, just the ones I find myself friends with.
Anyway, the movie is about a death row inmate who isn't at all what he seems. When Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) meets John Coffey (Michael Clark Duncan), it's assumed he's guilty of murdering two young girls, mainly because John is a giant and could crush a car with his bare hands. Once we get to know John, we discover that he's afraid of the dark, has special healing powers and is, well, not the sharpest tool in the shed. The acting in this movie is superb, especially Duncan, who earned a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his role. I was thrilled when I saw the movie on TV because I was looking for a fifth movie to recommend this week and, seeing as how I figured I'd finally throw Stephen King a bone, this seemed appropriate. Also, it featured a Stephen King staple: the magic glow! I laughed when the pile of sticks glowed blue in Pet Sematary and rolled my eyes when the spider's stomach glowed orange in It. Nothing like that happened when I was watching John's hands glow as he brought an animal back to life, but I did realize in that moment that Stephen King really has a hard on for seeing things light up. Oh well, I got my fifth recommendation and King got two nods this week. This time, everyone's a winner. Except I'm still sick. Maybe King can send John my way.