Life of Pi is a breathtaking story of survival backed up by even more breathtaking visuals. Life of Pi is Ang Lee’s first CGI heavy movie since the disastrous Hulk. So I wasn’t too certain how it would end up. All that changed when I saw the final product. Life of Pi takes place primarily on a boat that the titular Indian boy Pi has to share with a Bengal tiger. The movie is told from the point of view of an older Pi who tells his improbable story to the novelist Yann Martel (the real life author of the fictional tale). It starts with Pi’s childhood, his family life, and his introduction to Christianity. Then he ends up in a terrible freighter accident that leaves him stranded on a life boat. What I didn’t realise was that there are more animals present then just the tiger. They just don’t live as long as he does. You may be wondering how someone can survive on a boat with a man-eating tiger? Well Pi actually uses a small makeshift raft for most of his journey. In the end, it’s never made clear whether Pi’s fantastical story of flying fish and carnivorous islands is true or not. Life of Pi has some of the most beautiful lifelike effects I’ve ever seen. The tiger looks so real that it might very well convince you it is. The same can be said for the water. Life of Pi truly deserves all the acclaim and awards attention its gotten.
The Pursuit of Happyness is proof that Will Smith deserves an Oscar. Before seeing the movie, I knew of its reputation for being sad. I also knew that The Pursuit of Happyness starred Will Smith and his real life son Jaden Smith. Which might not seem all that appealing now, but bare in mind that Jaden was only 8 years old at the time. He was fine as long as he didn’t have to carry the whole movie. I first saw the movie in my Junior health class. We were watching a lot of movies about some form of depression. The Pursuit of Happyness is the true story of Chris Gardner. A struggling recently single father who sells bone density scanners to local hospitals. Since the job isn’t always successful, he has to leave his son in daycare, and eventually ends up homeless. His only hope is to earn employment as a stockbroker. As he displays a high amount of intelligence (even being able to solve a Rubik’s Cube). Will Smith’s emotional performance is what saves the movie from being another cautionary tale. The only major difference from the real life Chris Gardner is that Will Smith doesn’t look a thing like him. Which isn’t a problem because he’s not exactly an icon. The Pursuit of Happyness is an unalienable right that we all should watch.
Full Metal Jacket features some of Stanley Kubrick’s best and most poignant commentary. It’s one of many Vietnam War movies to depict the war for the harsh reality that it was. I know that anytime I look at history, Vietnam always seemed like the most unnecessary war America has ever fought. It certainly affected soldiers a great deal mentally. Full Metal Jacket takes place on an island where Marines experience basic training. This is where the late great R. Lee Ermey comes in. Gny. Sgt. Hartman is easily the most iconic movie drill instructor of all time. From his opening monologue to his final insult, he truly shines brighter than any other character in the movie. Of course it helps that Gunny was a real life Marine who improvised a majority of his lines. Which is saying something since Kubrick almost never allowed improvisation. The second most memorable character is Private Pyle. Played by a heavier Vincent D’Onofrio. His character is the most tragic and at times sympathetic. Since he can’t do anything right and gets picked on the most. Full Metal Jacket very much feels like two seperate movies. The first half with boot camp is more well remembered than the part with the actual war. Not that there aren’t still parts of it that stand out. I didn’t even realize this was the movie that features the line “me so horny, me love you long time.” It portrays the Vietnam War for the horrific nightmare that it was. By depicting the soldiers as conflicted killing machines. Full Metal Jacket will leave you with mixed emotions, but a very clear message.
This is Spinal Tap documents the “true” story of British rock band Spinal Tap. As documentarian Marty Di Bergi (played by director Rob Reiner) travels with them on their world tour. Of course none of this is real, but it’s all done in a mockumentary style. This is Spinal Tap is a movie my parents really enjoyed and suggested we watch. For me, my main reason for watching the movie was because of Small Soldiers. For some reason the movie featured 2 different cast reunions. With Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer voicing the Gorgonites. Every actor in This is Spinal Tap does a brilliant job of playing a stereotypical British hair band rocker. Though I wasn’t sure if I’d find it as funny as people who grew up when this kind of band was most popular, but This is Spinal Tap is hilarious! Each member of the group goes about portraying their ridiculous career with complete sincerity. A lot of which is a parody of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. Whether they’re explaining spontaneous combustion, defending their sexist album cover, misunderstanding little sandwiches, or presenting their amplifier. Which goes up to 11 (“so it’s one louder”). This is Spinal Tap is funny for just how accurate to musicians it really is.
The Dirty Dozen is the original Suicide Squad. A group of military operated criminals forced to fight on missions or face certain death. The Dirty Dozen was a movie my mom suggested we watch. Since it’s one of her favorite military movies. For me, my main reason for watching the movie was because of Small Soldiers. For some reason the movie featured 2 different cast reunions. With surviving members of The Dirty Dozen voicing the Commando Elite. Although sadly, 5 out of 12 members of the titular dozen are still alive. The Dirty Dozen uses a 3 hour runtime to detail every facet of a soldiers training. Tough guy Lee Marvin plays Major Reisman. The man tasked with training a group of convicts to fight in a secret suicide mission for the Army. Since there are 12 of them, only about 8 of them have any major character development. Some being more reasonable than others. With them being played by notable actors such as John Cassavetes, Donald Sutherland, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Clint Walker, and Tony Savalas. The reason they’re called the “Dirty Dozen” is because they refuse to shave in cold water. Their story ends with a mission to take out a group of Nazis. The Dirty Dozen is a unit we should all enlist in.
Insomnia is Christopher Nolan’s least talked about film. Even though it’s just as good as the rest of his filmography. Insomnia takes place in Alaska and it details an aging LA police detective’s search for the killer in a local murder case. It’s probably most remembered for its fog sequence and its log chase. Al Pacino plays the detective and Robin Williams surprisingly plays the killer. Although I’m well aware that Robin Williams has done serious work before. It’s still unusual to see him in a role like this. Much like Vertigo, insomnia is used more as a plot device. Rather then the sole focus of the movie. Insomnia is of course the inability to sleep sometimes for long periods of time. Which leads to daytime sleepiness, agitation, and hallucination. Al Pacino plays an insomniac very well. A combination of guilt, pressure, and stress is what makes his character this way. Plus Alaska apparently doesn’t get dark during a certain time of the year. Having watched Insomnia at night, it made the experience feel all the more authentic. It’s also ironic that Christopher Nolan made a movie all about sleep 8 years after a movie about a lack of sleep. Insomnia is guaranteed to keep you awake.
Lucy is about an American woman living in Taiwan who unlocks 100% of her brain capacity. I didn’t realise how similar the overall concept of Lucy and Limitless was until it was pointed out to me. Even though both films go about portraying superintelligence differently. Lucy is forced to smuggle a bag of blue drugs inside her stomach. The bag bursts inside of her and it expands her mind gradually until she reaches 100%. Each percentage is time stamped throughout the movie. Lucy is only an hour and a half long. So everything in the movie centers around her progression in intelligence. Which is much more over-the-top then you might expect. Of course she has total recall, but she also remembers absolutely everything about her life (including her birth). Plus she has telekinesis, telepathy, mental time travel, she can alter her appearance at will, and she never shows emotion. While Lucy is just crazy enough to be entertaining, I think it thinks it’s more important than it actually is. With all their talk about the universe and evolution. Which is totally ridiculous when you see how it ends. Let’s just say it involves a flashdrive. Luc Besson says there’ll be a sequel, but I think one Lucy is enough for my brain to handle.
Limitless is about a writer named Eddie Morra who unlocks the limitless possibilities of his brain. By taking a clear pill called NZT-48. Probably the only drug I’ve wanted to take. Eddie is a struggling writer who’s just had his girlfriend break up with him. His drab existence literally brightens up when his friend gives him a sample of the mysterious drug. Leading to a better life for Eddie as he uses his newfound intelligence to build up his social standing. Limitless doesn’t have the most exciting premise, but it’s concept is really fascinating. Like I said, NZT-48 boosts your intelligence. Giving you total recall of information, math skills, the ability to learn an entire language, and to see all of a situations possible outcomes. All of which is shown visually. I can just imagine all the limitless things I would do with NZT. Since I’ve always wanted to have superintelligence. The only problem is the side effects. Making you feel horrible the next day or putting your brain on fast forward. Bradley Cooper does a great job at both. Limitless was also successful enough to have a short lived TV series. One that I enjoyed and wish lasted longer. Limitless can best be summed up in one word, smart.
The Spirit is another really old comic book superhero nobody’s heard of that they felt needed a movie (not made in the 90’s for a change). Despite DC and Marvel being full of superheroes to make movies for. The Spirit is as old as 1940. He made his debut in a newspaper comic that was either light hearted or dark. The character the Spirit was always dressed in a suit, with a fedora, gloves, domino mask, and a distinctive red neck tie. Apart from coming back to life, he didn’t have any powers (in the movie he has a healing factor). I assume the character was popular back in the day, but some of it hasn’t aged well. Specifically his blackface sidekick Ebony White. Making a movie adaptation seemed like a bizarre choice. The Spirit is directed exclusively by famous graphic novel writer Frank Miller. It proves that he’s clearly lost whatever made him so good in the first place. As he’s obviously trying to recreate the success of Sin City. By once again using black & white mixed with color and silhouettes in key areas. Only it seems much more random and less artistically crafted. It’s not like the Spirit comics had that visual style to begin with. Storywise, The Spirit is one big bombastic mess. Half the time it was trying to be a comedy. With an over-the-top performance from Samuel L. Jackson as archenemy the Octopus. This is clearly the worst performance of his career. Made even worse by him and Scarlett Johansson dressed as Nazis. Meanwhile Eva Mendes is the sexy femme fatal who is constantly objectified. I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish with this movie, but The Spirit is just plain damn weird.
The Towering Inferno is when disaster movies were at their peak. Both literally and figuratively. After watching another hugely successful 70’s disaster movie (The Poseidon Adventure), my mom told me that we had to watch The Towering Inferno. Arguably the top disaster movie to come out of that decade. Since it was the only one nominated for Best Picture among 7 other Oscar nominations. A feat it more than earns considering its nearly 3 hour runtime and all-star cast that includes Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, and Fred Astaire. Like the aforementioned Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno also won for Best Original Song. “We May Never Love like this Again” also sung by Maureen McGovern. The Towering Inferno is set in the tallest building in the world dubbed the Glass Tower. Its disaster is a fire that erupts throughout the building. Trapping party guests on the very top floor of the 138 story tower. Something that only happened because the contractor cut conners. So the fire department has to somehow figure out a way to get people out and put out the uncontrollable fire. Which sounds like an even bigger nightmare then dealing with water. Sadly we don’t have to imagine it, because something very similar happened on 9/11. That’s why The Towering Inferno is dedicated to the brave firefighters working everyday to keep us safe from disaster.