Spy Jam

Looney Tunes: Back in Action is the last theatrical movie made that features the Looney Tunes. As well as the last movie made by “Warner Bros. Animation,” because it bombed at the box office. Needless to say it never quite reached the cult status that Space Jam has. Which is a shame, because I feel it’s very underrated. Unlike Space JamLooney Tunes: Back in Action feels like the live action/animated Looney Tunes movie we should have gotten to begin with. They actually give them the spotlight this time. With meta humor and a respect for the long history of the characters. Like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, cartoon characters are actors in the real world. Daffy Duck is sick of being Bugs Bunny’s sidekick, so he gets fired for demanding a change. Long story short, they become secret agents, travel to Las Vegas, Area 52, Paris, Africa, and even outer space. While trying to prevent the evil chairmen of the Acme Corporation from getting his hands on the “blue monkey.” They also fight Looney Tunes “villains” along the way. Brendon Fraser stars as the human (in a long list of movie’s he’s done with CGI characters) and Timothy Dalton plays his secret agent father. Looney Tunes: Back in Action has a ridiculous premise, but I think it fits the characters well.

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Bugs and Daffy fight off Elmer Fudd

I Believe I Can Fly

Space Jam is easily one of the weirdest ideas for a movie ever. How did they even pitch this movie? “Hey, I have an idea for this movie that brings together Michael Jordan, Looney Tunes, and space aliens.” Seriously bizarre, but it’s one of my generations biggest guilty pleasures. I’ve seen it so many times on VHS and even in school once. Even though I’m not much of a basketball fan. Not that I didn’t at least know who Michael Jordan was. Every kid knew him as the best player in basketball. I mostly just came for the Looney Tunes. Since my mom introduced me to them at a young age. Like I said, Space Jam is the weirdest guilty pleasure movie there is. Space Jam centers on a semi fictionalized version of Michael Jordan’s life. As he retired from basketball to become a baseball player. There’s also an alien planet called Moron Mountain with an amusement park searching for a new attraction. Meanwhile Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of the Looney Tunes live in the center of the Earth. Everything comes together when the aliens seek to enslave the Looney Tunes for their amusement park until they use a game of basketball as a challenge against them. The aliens steal the talent of famous players, the Looney Tunes kidnap MJ, and a big wacky game is played. Space Jam is notable for a few things. As Mel Blanc passed away, the Looney Tunes now have a variety of new voice actors. This was also the first appearance of Lola Bunny. A female bunny girlfriend for Bugs who was strangely sexualized. Despite the dumb premise and the fact that MJ obviously can’t act, Space Jam is awesome! It’s absurdly funny, has one of the best soundtracks ever, and made live action/animated alien basketball movie’s work.

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Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny play basketball

42

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a movie I’m still trying to figure out. I’ve been putting off this review for a long time, because I’m still unsure of how it’s supposed to make me feel. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is based on a British series of books. Which in turn is named after a fictional book also titled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A universal guide book to all things in the universe. The book series is probably popular in its home country, but I’ve never read it. The movie’s humor didn’t exactly click with me. Half the time I wasn’t sure if they were trying to be funny or not. As far as the plot goes, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is about last surviving man Arthur Dent. As the Earth was demolished by aliens called Vogans. Something about making room for some kind of space expressway. Everything else just felt more like a bunch of ideas mashed together. Like intelligent singing dolphins. There’s also a starship called the Heart of Gold that uses an “improbability drive.” A depressed robot called Marvin the Paranoid Android. A gun that makes you see things from a person’s perspective called a “Point-of-view gun.” As well as a supercomputer named Deep Thought that reveals the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything. Which is “42.” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is just not my cup of tea.

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Marvin the Paranoid Android and the crew

P.S. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is also the first movie to be released exclusively on DVD (without a VHS release).

Only in the Movies

It’s hard to believe Hugo is a Martin Scorsese movie. As it doesn’t have an R rating, gangsters, drugs, or profanity. Can this really be the same guy who directed The Wolf of Wall Street just 2 years later? It is, even if it isn’t Scorsese’s first time doing something less adult. Hugo is just his first children’s movie that he directed. It has a PG rating, child actors, and is shot in 3D. You may think such a deviation wouldn’t work, but only the best directors can pull it off. Which is why Hugo received 11 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. It ended up winning 5. Most notably Best Visual Effects. Even if the movie doesn’t seem effects heavy, there’s actually a lot that you won’t even realize is an effect. When I first discovered Hugo I wasn’t sure what it was about. All I could gather was that it was about an orphan who lives in a train station clock tower. Who apparently befriends a girl, tries to evade an inspector, and is trying to activate a robot of some sort. I didn’t exactly know what all these seemingly random pieces were supposed to mean. Until I saw the movie. Among other things, I was surprised to learn that Hugo was actually about the history and love of cinema. Wasn’t expecting that. It’s what makes Hugo such a delightfully charming movie.

Hugo hangs from the clock tower

What’s in the Box?!

SE7EN is a deeply disturbing movie about the sinful nature of the world. It details the difficult task two detectives have in searching for a serial killer. One who uses the seven deadly sins (gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath) as a motif. SE7EN is one of very few movies my parents said never to watch. I held off as long as I could, but being a film critic makes that a bit difficult. It comes with the job. Speaking of jobs, Detective Mills and Detective Somerset have a horrifying job. Part of the reason I don’t watch CSI homicide shows is because there are just too many dead bodies in them. It’s what makes SE7EN so tough to watch. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt play polar opposites, but both of them deliver realistic performances. Although Brad Pitt’s final acting scene is questionable. Since the villain is a serial killer, it unfortunately feels like someone like this could exist. Even if some of his methods might seem impossible. Kevin Spacey gives an unsettlingly creepy performance as the John Doe. The most well known scene involving the box is at the end and it’s also the most disturbing. SE7EN was David Fincher’s first good movie, but not one I’ll ever see again.

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“What’s in the box?!”

This is Madness

300: Rise of an Empire doesn’t really need to exist. Since 300 (SPOILER ALERT!) ends in the death of Leonidas and his Spartan army. It didn’t seem like a sequel was a possibility. Especially considering Zack Snyder was more focused on the DCEU at the time. Nevermind the fact that the graphic novel doesn’t have a continuation. Still, they found a way to make a sequel. 300: Rise of an Empire is actually based on an unpublished Frank Miller comic called Xerxes. The movie takes place before, during, and after the events of 300. From the perspective of the Athenians. Specifically their General Themistocles. 300: Rise of the Empire reveals the origin of “god-king” Xerxes, the warship Battle of Artemisium, and the Battle of Salamis after the fall of the Spartan army. It does capture the look and action for the most part, but without Snyder’s direction, it feels more like an imitation. You can tell by how overly gory it is compared to 300. The blue caped Athenians are also not nearly as interesting as the red caped Spartans. The only interesting character is the villainess Artemisia played by Eva Green. She’s a ruthless, beautiful, and somewhat sympathetic naval commander. As I explained previously, it can’t be a coincidence how similar her character is to her Sin City: A Dame to Kill For character. Aside from her, 300: Rise of an Empire just doesn’t work without the ferocity of Spartan warriors.

Themistocles fights off an army

Preceded by: 300

This is Sparta!

300 ignited a once dying genre in a way that hadn’t been seen before. It’s as if the graphic novel it’s based on came to life right on the screen. I read the comic later on, and yes, it fully embodies the Frank Miller comic both visually and verbally. A feat that only the previously unknown Zack Snyder can pull off. By using a combination of beige filters, historically accurate props, and costumes. While adding his unique brand of super violent, super bloody, R rated slow motion fight scenes. 300 is set in 480 B.C. during the Persian war in the Battle of Thermopylae. Where King Leonidas leads an army of 300 spartan men against the Persian “god-king” Xerxes. A giant man covered in golden jewelry. As a king, Leonidas commands his army with fierce determination and often screams every word he says. Making Gerard Butler a perfect choice for the role. As most people know, 300 is the farthest thing from historical accuracy. Although I did learn about Sparta in social studies, and I can at least say that their birth, upbringing, fighting style, attack positions, and brutal way of life is accurate. All the monsters and goat men are just Zack Snyder nonsense. Even if they do add a bit of flourish to the movie. I said before that the movie is a very direct adaptation. The only thing they add is a subplot involving the Queen, since the comic is actually very short. 300 was such a big deal when it first came out. It spawned memes, spoofs, and dozens of imitators. There’s also a lot of women (and some men) who liked it because of all the ripped Spartan warriors. All of which make 300 an over-the-top pop culture epic. “This is Sparta!”

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Leonidas engages in war

Followed by: 300: Rise of an Empire

You’re Killin’ Me Smalls

The Sandlot is my all time favorite baseball movie. As I’ve explained before, sports aren’t my thing. When I watch movies about them I usually like them for different reasons. The Sandlot is no exception. It’s mainly a movie about friends who hangout, play baseball, and other activities. I wasn’t too young when I watched it, but I got hooked right away. It even helped me understand baseball a little better. Since I can relate to new kid Scotty Smalls. A kid who has trouble fitting in (I do know who Babe Ruth is though). Until he meets the kids from his local sandlot. I also knew people like Benny and the rest of group (each with their own quirk). Kids who are very serious about baseball. But they do other things too. They have a sleepover, that ends in a discussion about “the Beast.” They go to a carnival where they eat chewing tobacco and get sick. They go to a local pool on a hot day. That’s where the famous “mouth to mouth” scene comes from. And finally, they try to get their ball back from the aforementioned “Beast.” A giant dog from over the fence that eats lost baseballs. This particular ball happens to be signed by Babe Ruth. This is my favorite part of the movie, because of how creative it is. It’s also worth mentioning James Earl Jones is in it (4 years after his role in Field of Dreams). The Sandlot is funny, quotable, and a perfect summer vacation movie. Happy Fourth of July!

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The boys from the sandlot

I Wish I knew How to Quit You

Brokeback Mountain should have won Best Picture instead of Crash. Honestly, which one of those movies are people gonna remember. When Brokeback Mountain first came out, people only knew it as “the gay cowboy movie.” That’s certainly how I knew the movie back in the day. Which is why I (and likely other straight men) avoided watching it. It took me awhile, but I finally decided I should just go ahead and watch it. Brokeback Mountain was the first movie Ang Lee directed after the mistake that was Hulk. Showing that he really should stick to what he knows. Even earning him a Best Director Oscar for his trouble. It’s about two men who are hired to herd sheep in the titular mountains. All their time spent together leads to a forbidden romance that nobody can know about, because it takes place in the south during the 60’s. The only thing I have a hard time getting past is the adultery. Both characters have wives and children that they leave to “go fishing.” Making their relationship more complex and eventually end in tragedy. Brokeback Mountain is filled with great performances from Heath Ledger (R.I.P.), Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathaway. It’s likely the main reason it didn’t win was because the Academy wasn’t ready to award a movie with a gay romance Best Picture. Even though their sexuality is a subject of debate. I probably won’t see it multiple times, but Brokeback Mountain is a very well made movie.

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Ennis (right) comforts Jack (left)

I’m Walking Here!

Midnight Cowboy is the original gay cowboy movie. Even though the main character is neither gay nor a cowboy. He dresses like a cowboy, but this is the 60’s we’re talking about. So why is Midnight Cowboy remembered the way it is? Well Midnight Cowboy is about Joe Buck. A dishwasher who leaves Texas to become a hustler in New York. As he believes his looks will make him irresistible to women. Little does he know, the big city isn’t as forgiving as he thinks. Both Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman deliver award worthy performances which keep the movie from feeling too hard to watch. Hoffman plays a disabled con man named Rico “Ratso” Rizzo. He’s the one responsible for the movie’s most famous line “I’m walking here!” Which was entirely improvised. It’s one of the most famous quotes in movie history and a testament to Hoffman’s acting ability. His character is also the most tragic character I’ve ever seen him play. Let’s just say you won’t know how to feel by the end. Midnight Cowboy is most remembered for being the first (and only) X rated movie to win Best Picture. By today’s standards it would have been R, but all the references to homosexuality made it X. It may be bleak, but Midnight Cowboy is a landmark movie and the first truly shocking Best Picture winner.

“I’m walking here!”