Kiss Me, Beneath the Milky Twilight

Never Been Kissed is all about that magical moment we all experience. Unless your one of the few who hasn’t. I can relate to the title and lead character. Since I myself have gone a long time without being kissed. Josie Geller is a newspaper copy editor looking to become a serious journalist. Her big break comes when she’s assigned to work undercover as a high school student.

This is obviously a big suspension of disbelief. Since there’s no way a 25 year old would pass for 17. Then again, Drew Barrymore looked pretty young for her age at the time. So who knows if it would fool people in real life. Josie was a nerd back in high school and just as it seems like she’s falling into old habits, she finds a way to be popular. Along the way falling in love with her teacher. Which brings up a bunch of ethical questions considering how close they get before her secret gets out.

Her brother who tags along, also finds himself in an underaged relationship. Despite that detail, it leads to one of the most romantic movie kisses of the decade. When Josie is kissed on a pitcher’s mound. Never Been Kissed is another teen movie I just had to watch. I didn’t realize before I watched it, just how many actors I recognized were in it. But Drew Barrymore’s lovable performance is what makes Never Been Kissed such a 90’s gem.

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Sam kisses Josie

Beautiful All Along

She’s All That is the best example of the trope “Beautiful all along.” That thing in movies where an “unattractive” girl with glasses and a ponytail takes off her glasses, lets down her hair, and suddenly she’s gorgeous. She’s All That is also a contemporary high school retelling of Pygmalion aka My Fair Lady. It became one of the most popular teen movies of the late 90’s. Since it probably follows the most teen movie clichés.

Zack is the popular jock who’s just been dumped by his conceited girlfriend. You can tell it’s the 90’s, because she leaves him for a guy who was on The Real World. His friend then proceeds to make a bet that Zach can turn any girl he choses into a prom queen. He chooses the artsy social outcast Laney Boggs. After a few failed attempts, she finally lets her guard down after the iconic makeover. Rachael Leigh Cook is clearly very attractive, but her character arc is still the most genuine part of the movie. Since she struggles with letting herself come out of her shell.

The same can be said about 90’s mainstay Freddie Prinze Jr. at times. The only thing that distracts from the romance is a few out of place moments. Like the bizarrely raunchy lunch room scene. Of course the secret does comes out and you already know what to expect, but it doesn’t make their first kiss any less effective. I didn’t even realize the song “Kiss Me” came from this movie. Since it feels like it fits another 1999 teen movie a bit better. Regardless, She’s All That is in fact, all that.

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The new Laney Boggs

P.S. I’ll bet you didn’t know M. Night Shyamalan wrote part of the movie.

Guns, Lots of Guns

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is basically one big action scene. It practically makes John Wick: Chapter 2 look like a preview to the main attraction by comparison. This was definitely my second most anticipated movie of the year and the trailer only fueled my excitement. Since John Wick has become such an action icon recently, you could definitely feel the excitement in the audience. After having 2 separate contracts on his life, Wick has officially become excommunicado. With a $14 million contract placed upon him.

Which is why Parabellum has more violence than any of the other films in the franchise. More than earning its R rating. The Matrix connection is very direct this time, because Wick fights his way through New York using guns, lots of guns. As well as knives, swords, axes, or any random object he can get his hands on. He also winds up on horseback and on a motorcycle. Parabellum also takes Wick on a more personal journey that takes him across the globe. With the help of Angelica Houston as someone from his mysterious past.

The Continental and assassin underworld is a bit more fleshed out as well. Probably the biggest surprise would be Halle Berry as a fellow assassin who assists Wick (along with her attack dogs). She proves to be more than capable of handling herself just like the equally ageless Keanu Reeves. In the end, John Wick has to battle rival ninjas and even bigger threats that seem to leave the door open for another sequel. With extended well choreographed mayhem like this, I don’t know how John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will ever be topped.

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John Wick goes hunting

Preceded by: John Wick: Chapter 2

Contract on a Killer

John Wick: Chapter 2 further proves that it is possible to make an action sequel of equal or greater impact. After the thrill ride that was John Wick, I knew I had to see John Wick: Chapter 2 in theaters. My whole family and I went to see it, since we’re suckers for a good action flick. Although I wasn’t thrilled to see a few young children considering its R rated hyper violence. John Wick: Chapter 2 makes the wise choice of doubling down on its over-the-top action and gun fights. With a bit more humor added, but not dominating the film.

Along with a gratifying Matrix reunion between Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. After finally reprocuring his car, John Wick retires once again. Until a past agreement between an Italian crime lord comes back to haunt him. His refusal leads to his house being blown up (his new dog is thankfully ok). When his mission backfires, John Wick finds himself stuck in a $7 million contract on his life. Where he kills every bloodthirsty assassin that crosses his path. He even puts his infamous pencil kill to good use.

Ruby Roses’ mute assassin and Common’s rival assassin make the biggest impact. What makes the sequel so good is not just the non-stop action, but the deeper look into the fascinating assassin underworld. People just seem to turn a blind eye to their entire operation. One of their most sacred rules is never to kill on Continental grounds. When John Wick breaks this rule, all bets are off. John Wick: Chapter 2 is a shot above the rest.

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John Wick goes hunting

Preceded by: John Wick & Followed by: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

The Baba Yaga

John Wick is the most surprisingly successful action movie released this decade. Until this point, Keanu Reeves was barely finding any success after the Matrix trilogy. I wasn’t paying too much attention to it at the time, but John Wick became the comeback he needed. Hence the line “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.” Finally shaking off his surfer bro image for a truly menacing character. My only regret is not seeing this gloriously violent R rated action fest in the theater.

John Wick appears to be just an ordinary guy who recently lost his wife. He’s left with nothing but his vintage car and a puppy that his wife gave as a final gift. All that comes crashing down when a group of Russian gangsters, lead by the sniveling son of the boss, steal his car and kill his dog. Giving him the most unique motivation of any action hero. As it turns out, John Wick is really the most deadly former hitman ever to come out of a secret assassin underworld.

They called him “The Baba Yaga.” He digs up all of his old weapons and goes on a killing spree against the ones who did him wrong. John Wick’s long hair, beard, and well-tailored suit made him an instant icon. Despite pushing 50, Keanu Reeves perfects the art of gun fu. In insanely well choreographed easy to see hands-on gun fights. Along with a few one-on-one fights with other contract killers at the Continental Hotel. Having stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch direct was a stroke of genius. John Wick is modern action cinema at its finest.

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John Wick takes aim

Followed by: John Wick: Chapter 2

The Man Named Blondie

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is often regarded as one of the greatest Westerns ever made. It’s definitely the best Spaghetti Western that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen the movie twice. Not realizing the first time that it was part of a franchise. Despite the lack of “Dollars” in the title, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is actually the third installment in the Dollars Trilogy. A series of Westerns that were never meant to be connected. Even though Clint Eastwood’s “The Man with No Name” has unmistakable characteristics like barely speaking, quick fire precision, and cigar chewing.

He goes by Blondie in this one (due to his blonde hair). The reason he doesn’t wear his trademark pancho until the very end is because this is apparently a prequel. Since the Civil War is depicted. The title refers to three individuals who are all searching for $200,000 worth of gold buried in a cemetery. Honorable bounty hunter Blondie represents the good. Ruthless mercenary Angel Eyes (also played by Lee Van Cleef) represents the bad. And slimey outlaw Tuco represents the ugly. He’s not Mexican, but Eli Wallach does get a lot of the best lines.

After a rough partnership finds Blondie and Tuco apart, together, and blowing up a bridge, it ultimately ends in the cemetery. Where Angel Eyes engages in a tense three-way Mexican standoff. Sergio Leone’s camera work is on perfect display here. With Ennio Morricone’s iconic score in the background. Now there’s two kinds of movie reviewers: those who love cowboy movies and those who don’t. I happen to love them, to a certain extent. While it is overly long (nearly 3 hours), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is still a Western to strive for.

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Blondie

Preceded by: For a Few Dollars More

The Man Named Manco

For a Few Dollars More marked the return of everybody’s favorite cowboy. Clint Eastwood once again plays “The Man with No Name.” This time being referred to as Manco (Spanish for “one-armed”). Due to the success A Fistful of Dollars brought Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone wasted no time making a sequel.

For a Few Dollars More isn’t brought up as much as the other film’s. Despite being one of the strongest in the inevitable trilogy. Manco is now working as a bounty killer. Hunting outlaws for a large sum of money. This brings him into direct contact with a fellow bounty killer. Lee Van Cleef revitalizes his career playing Colonel Douglas Mortimer. A rival that nearly matches Manco’s quick fire precision.

Their best moment would have to be when they shoot each other’s hat, and then agree to work together to kill the most ruthless outlaw of them all. By far one of the most despicable, irredeemable, diabolical villains I’ve seen in a Western. Along with a disturbing flashback, the church scene cements his evil status. It makes you root for Manco and Mortimer’s mission to be a success. Finally ending with a standoff that might be more personal than previously thought. For a Few Dollars More is the darker follow up this western series needed.

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Manco

Preceded by: A Fistful of Dollars & Followed by: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Man Named Joe

A Fistful of Dollars has a classic western set up. A mysterious stranger strolls through a town, reluctantly agrees to help with a conflict, and earns a reputation. A Fistful of Dollars is what is known as a Spaghetti Western. A subgenre of Western film made by Italian filmmakers. It wasn’t a hugely successful genre, but this movie was the first one to make a huge impact.

For director Sergio Leone’s extreme close-ups, drawn-out long shots, stronger performances, and Ennio Morricone’s score. The legendary Clint Eastwood stars for the first time as “The Man with No Name.” Despite being called Joe a few times (since he’s an average Joe). The goal was for his character to have no identity, and thereby, be easier to identify with. Eastwood pulls this off with his trademark stare and growl. The Stranger is best recognized by his cowboy hat, pancho, cigar, and quick precision fire on a revolver.

While entering the Mexican town, he decides to make money by playing both sides of a conflict. Until it becomes more apparent which side is the true enemy. Culminating in a climax that includes a bulletproof vest. Making “The Man with No Name” one of the coolest heroes ever put to screen. Despite being not so subtly lifted from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. A Fistful of Dollars is still a game changer.

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Joe

Followed by: For a Few Dollars More

I Love Dogs (私は犬が好きです)

Isle of Dogs is a symmetrical tale of man’s best friend. After utilizing stop-motion animation for Fantastic Mr. Fox, it was unclear whether Wes Anderson would use it again. A canine adventure set in Japan wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The inclusion of every Wes Anderson regular made me assume they would be voicing the dogs, and I was right.

Meanwhile, all Japanese citizens are voiced by Oriental actors (even Yoko Ono). None of which includes subtitles. Isle of Dogs takes place in a distant future with an overpopulation of diseased dogs. So the Mayor throws them all away on an island made of trash. Where dogs must contend with fighting for survival and eating garbage. Until a little pilot named Atari comes to the island looking for his beloved lost guard dog.

Due to the heavier themes of disease, politics, and occasional animal violence, Isle of Dogs received a PG-13. Making its deadpan humor feel all the more adult. I’ve never had a dog, but the whimsical adventure makes me want one even more. As it gives a more introspective take on being a dog. With Wes Anderson’s most finely placed camera work to date. I love dogs and Isle of Dogs as well.

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The Little Pilot searches for his lost dog Spots

Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves

Mermaids is the underwater tale of several mermaids exploring the ocean… just kidding. Happy Mothers Day Everyone! Mermaids is actually about a 1960’s mother who has a difficult relationship with her oldest daughter. My mom recommend we watch the movie, because of how many actors we recognized.

Cher plays the mother Mrs. Flax, Winona Ryder plays the oldest daughter Charlotte, and a debuting Christina Ricci plays the youngest daughter Kate. Bob Hoskins also plays a part as a willing love interest. The title actually refers to a costume Mrs. Flax wears for a party, but water is present in other parts of the story. Since Kate is an avid swimmer. Charlotte and her mother mainly come to blows for their conflicting ideologies.

Mrs. Flax has a free spirited gypsy mentality that has them constantly moving. While Charlotte finds comfort in the catholic lifestyle. Which has her questioning her own sexual attractions. Ending with a near fatal tragedy that has the two accusing the other of being a tramp. The absentee father would be the thief that stole their car. Mermaids is a humorous tale of the undying bond a mother shares with her daughter. Love you mom.❤️

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The Flax family