A Small Pond

Big Fish is a wonderfully imaginative tall tale from the mind of Tim Burton. Although at first glance, you might not even realize its a Tim Burton movie. It’s a lot brighter and more colorful than most of his movies. There’s also no Johnny Depp in sight. Big Fish is about a man named Edward Bloom, who can’t help but exaggerate the story of his life. When he falls ill, his son comes to stay with him, but his relationship with his father is strained by fact that he thinks he was never honest with him. The movie jumps back and forth between the past and present. With the stories ranging from bizarre, funny, and sweet. Bloom encounters witches, giants, werewolves, and big fish on his travels. Something I didn’t realize before I saw it. Which was actually when I was a kid. My cousins suggested I watch it, so I did. I was too young to appreciate though. So I saw it when I was older and now I think it’s one of Tim Burton’s best. Big Fish isn’t as gothic as most of his films, but that’s what gives it its charm.

Edward Bloom plants a field of flowers

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Car Wars

American Graffiti is the second and last movie George Lucas directed before the Star Wars saga. American Graffiti also has nothing to do with science fiction. It was so good that it earned Lucas his first Oscar nomination for directing and writing. American Graffiti is about “cruising culture,” the last days of teenhood, and rock ‘n’ roll. Far from the thought provoking sci fi or epic space battles Lucas is known for. Like most great teen movies, American Graffiti doesn’t really have a plot. A bunch of teen friends do their own thing until the night is up. Yes, the entire movie takes place in one long night. The likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, and even Harrison Ford are seen in their younger years. What makes it so special is how much it influenced teen films. I don’t know much about this “cruising culture,” but it must have been a common youthful pastime. Not only did Lucas get nominated, but Candy Clark got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for playing a rebellious teen. Though I liked some misadventures better than others, they’re all good in making the movie great. While American Graffiti may be one of six George Lucas directed movies (four of which are Star Wars), it stands out for being one of the best teen movies ever.

Mel’s Drive-In

Hanukkah Hullabaloo

Happy first day of Hanukkah to all my jewish readers. While there are hundreds of Christmas movies and specials out there, Eight Crazy Nights is kind of the only Hanukkah movie that anyone knows about. And even it can be mistaken for a Christmas movie. If you thought modern Adam Sandler was bad in live action, just wait till you see him in animation. Eight Crazy Nights is about a jewish man who gets in trouble with the law and has to do community service with an old man on the eight days of Hanukkah. Adam Sandler voices three characters (which is just as irritating as it sounds). I really have no idea what he was thinking when he made this movie. Eight Crazy Nights is cynical, disgusting, mean spirited, and gross. Like all the other modern Adam Sandler movies, we got poop, pee, and fart jokes galore. With the most blatant product placement I’ve ever seen in an animated movie. There’s also the usual racist jokes and fat shaming too. The animation only gives Sandler more power to be visually disgusting as well. It’s animated, but it’s not for kids. There’s an abundance of swearing and sexual humor. Like if Family Guy was a movie about Hanukkah. I’m not jewish, but I’d just like to formally apologize for this movie. Eight Crazy Nights is crazy bad.

Davey acts like a jerk (center)

Soul Sisters

Dreamgirls swings and pops. Based loosely on the Motown act The Supremes, Dreamgirls recalls the history of The Dreams. A soulful group that goes through many trials and tribulations. The lead vocalist gets more famous, they lose a member, and replace her with someone else. By far the greatest strength of the movie is in its music. My parents are big fans of Motown and I’ve taken a liking to it as well. Its also got a cast that seems odd on paper, but really delivers. Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson all star in Dreamgirls. Eddie Murphy got a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the first time in one of his only dramatic roles. Meanwhile, American Idol quarterfinalist Jennifer Hudson actually won Best Supporting Actress. It’s also the most expensive movie made with an all african american cast. As well as the movie with the most Oscar nominations without a Best Picture nomination, which is 8 nominations (3 of which are Best Original Song nominations). If you love music, then you’ll love Dreamgirls.

The Dreams

What is Line?

Oh, hi Mark. The Disaster Artist is a brilliant telling of the making of the best worst movie ever made, The Room (a movie I’ve already reviewed). At this point I’ve seen The Room two times, read the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, played the online game, and seen countless reviews from YouTube critics such as the Nostalgia Critic. Needless to say, I became a huge fan. Imagine my excitement/ curiosity when I found out they were making a movie about its creation. I don’t normally see James Franco/ Seth Rogen movies, but this isn’t like the others. Much like Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist gives a sincere look at what it’s like to make a movie, good or bad. Tommy Wiseau set out to make a great movie, but ended up making one of the worst. While Greg Sestero befriended Tommy with the goal to become a more experienced actor. James Franco disappeared in the role and Dave Franco was really good as well. Much like Tommy, James Franco directed the movie himself. They managed to make a movie that’s both funny and real. The production is spot on with many scenes that remake The Room perfectly. Sure there are moments from the book that they left out, but the movie hit on all the right stuff. The Disaster Artist deserves many Oscar nominations. Which is extremely ironic.

Greg Sestero (left) and Tommy Wiseau (right) watch The Room

A Tale of Two Christmases

The Holiday is like two Christmas movies in one. When British Iris Simpkins and American Amanda Woods both face love problems around Christmas, they decide to switch houses for a holiday. Iris travels to Amanda’s mansion in Los Angeles and Amanda travels to Iris’s cottage in London. They both manage to find love, but in two very different ways. Amanda is a movie trailer producer who lives in Los Angeles. She breaks up with her long time boyfriend after he cheats on her. When she does the swap, Amanda tries to adjust to living in a cold climate and driving on the left. Then she meets Graham, Iris’s good looking brother. The two start a complicated relationship that receives a lot more screentime than the other romance in the movie. Amanda and Graham’s relationship is a sweet one with lots of chemistry…

Amanda (right) and Graham (left)

Iris is a writer for The Daily Telegraph who lives in London. Her feelings are hurt when the man she’s been pining for for years gets engaged. When she does the swap, Iris spends most of her time getting to know an elderly screenwriter who lives next to her new home. He opens her up to many old movies. Something that she eventually shares with Miles, a composer who works with Amanda’s ex. Iris and Miles relationship is odd, but not without its fun moments. The Holiday survives mostly from its star power. Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black all star in the movie. I enjoyed watching it for the most part. It’s sweet, but way too long and kinda predictable. Though it does have a lot of nice houses that fans of decor will enjoy. The Holiday may not be a Christmas classic, but its romances makes for a pleasant viewing experience.

Iris (left) and Miles (right)

Lights, Camera, Action!

Ed Wood is one of the all time best movies about bad movies ever made. I’ve previously talked about the work of Ed Wood in my review for the “so bad it’s good” movie Plan 9 from Outer Space. The movie that he’s most known for, but he has done more. Tim Burton actually decided to make a movie about all his great accomplishments. Unlike most biopics, Ed Wood is shot entirely in black and white. It really sets the mood and the feel of the time. Ed Wood was just a struggling filmmaker who was just trying to get his foot in the door. He had bizarre ideas for movies, dressed in women’s clothes, and had no budget whatsoever. Yet somehow he managed to get Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi to star in 3 of his films. As well as Vampira (the original Elvira). How did Ed Wood manage to get someone like Bela Lugosi you may ask? He actually befriended him when he was old and pretty much lost his career. Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi to perfection. The movie itself is also surprising outstanding. Johnny Depp plays Ed Wood with an almost childlike sense of wonder. We see how Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and of course Plan 9 from Outer Space was filmed. They capture bad filmmaking perfectly. Sure Ed Wood is known as the worst director of all time, but at least he was doing what he loved.

Ed Wood (right) prepares to shoot a picture

Piggy Pilot

Porco Rosso is probably the most bizarre Hayao Miyizaki movie. Which is saying a lot. Porco Rosso was one of the last Studio Ghibli movies I saw, because I thought the premise was a little too weird. A World War I flying ace works as a bounty hunter… oh and he also happens to have a pig face (it’s a curse, he wasn’t born with it). But like most of his movies, Porco Rosso is surprisingly great. It’s probably one of the breeziest Hayao Miyizaki movies I’ve seen. Its also got the best sense of humor. Which considering the premise, isn’t much of a pig surprise.

Porco Rosso takes flight

A Single Tear

Glory is a highly acclaimed war movie about the Civil War’s first voluntary unit. Yet somehow it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination. I saw the whole movie in my sophomore U.S. history class. Glory assembled a group of fantastic actors with its best performance being Denzel Washington. He plays a difficult soldier who (in one of the best Oscar moments) cries a single tear when being disciplined. Glory also feels a lot more authentic than most war movies. The Civil War was not an easy war to fight. One scene actually depicts what it would have been like to load one of the old fashioned rifles. As a race movie, it hits all the right points without being to heavy handed. The only gripe I have is that I don’t really buy Matthew Broderick as a colonel. Other than that, Glory is a glorious war picture that should have been nominated.

The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

Between Heaven and Hell

What Dreams May Come has some interesting ideas, but questionable execution. On one hand, the visuals are both creative and beautiful, but on the other hand, nobody remembers this movie. I’ve heard of a lot of Robin Williams movies, but What Dreams May Come was not one of them. I actually first discovered it when I saw a list of movies to win Best Visual Effects. Which is easily the movies greatest strength. What Dreams May Come is about a man who dies a year after his children died. He goes to Heaven, but his wife goes to Hell after she commits suicide from depression. Being a christian, I wouldn’t exactly call its depictions of Heaven or Hell accurate, but it’s a movie so suspension of disbelief. Heaven is depicted as being either a golden kingdom or a moving painting. Pretty much whatever your own personal imagine Heaven would look like. Upon hearing that his wife killed herself, they make a trip to Hell, and try to rescue her (like I said suspension of disbelief). Hell is depicted as something of a coal mine with lost souls trapped in the ground. What Dreams May Come has a ridiculously depressing premise and only one redeeming quality, its visual effects. See it for that reason only.

Heaven