I Am Your Daughter

The Others is another kind of haunted house film. Psychological horror became very popular with movies like The Sixth Sense. The Others is also known for a twist that I unsuccessfully tried to avoid. Despite an English speaking cast that includes Nicole Kidman, The Others is technically a Spanish film. It was directed by Alejandro Amenábar and won Best Film at the Spanish Academy Awards. The Others takes place in a large old fashioned house during 1945 and centers on a small isolated family.

Kidman is fully committed to playing the paranoid fiercely religious mother Grace Stewart. The rebellious Anne and timid Nicholas are her children with a life or death sensitivity to light. The constant candlelit dark rooms make for a very creepy atmosphere. And that’s before any hint of ghosts. The only other occupants are Fionnula Flanagan as the housekeeper, Eric Sykes as the gardner, and Elaine Cassidy as the mute servant that Grace recently hires. They behave very strangely, but not as strange as Christopher Eccleston as Grace’s veteran husband who mysteriously returns from the war.

The titular others rarely make their presence known. Doors are unlocked, curtains are taken down, and mysterious voices are heard. The most iconic scene features Grace encountering her daughter under a veil who looks like an older woman. The twist is a deeply disturbing double whammy that reveals who the ghosts truly are. The Others will leave you guessing until the very end.

The Others

“I am your daughter”

Championship Vinyl

High Fidelity is a top 5 hit from the early 2000’s. Record stores were still around at the time, but the original Nick Hornby novel was written in 1995. The only difference was setting the movie in Chicago instead of London. Apparently the music scene is just as good in both locations. Although I can relate to the new setting, High Fidelity wasn’t on my radar until my half brother recommended it. It does fit the Gen X mentality that he’s part of.

Rob is a slacker who works at his record store Championship Vinyl. Since John Cusack often plays romanticly troubled loners, he was perfect for the part. Of course his sister Joan Cusack had to be around yelling at him. Rob breaks the fourth wall, creates random “Top 5” lists, and works through a relatable personal crisis. Over the course of the movie, Rob tries to figure out what went wrong with every romantic relationships in his life. From Catherine Zeta-Jones as the alternative Charlie to Lisa Bonet as cool local singer Marie.

Any of Rob’s women could be the one, but Rob focuses all of his attention on long-term ex-girlfriend Laura. Danish actress Iben Hjejle is an interesting casting choice, but she does make it count. Much like Empire Records, High Fidelity has an awesome soundtrack. The difference is I’ve actually heard most of these songs. Todd Louiso plays Rob’s meek coworker Dick, but it’s Jack Black who had his biggest breakout role as the obnoxious Barry. His Tenacious D cred gave him all the music knowledge he needed. High Fidelity is a romantic comedy that rocks.

High Fidelity

Rob and Barry at Championship Vinyl

The Bank Heist

Ocean’s Thirteen is a back to the basics grand finale. Unlike Ocean’s Twelve, the third installment is a lot easier to follow. Like Ocean’s Eleven, all the action is kept at a Las Vegas casino. The entire male cast along with director Steven Soderbergh remained committed. Including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, and Shaobo Qin. The titular Ocean’s Thirteen refers to Eddie Izzard’s Roman Nagel becoming a consultant and Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict being brought in as a last resort.

You’d think Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones would be the remaining two, but neither of them return since they were unsatisfied with their limited screen time. Instead Sea of Love co-stars Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin round out the star-studded cast. Pacino is the new villain Willy Bank who swindles Reuben out of a casino. Reuben’s significance is increased when he suffers a heart attack and Danny Ocean takes revenge. He plans to ruin Bank’s hotel by affecting its 5 star rating and rigging the machines in the casino. Together with Rusty at his side, the entire team gets a chance to shine.

Linus has the idea to bring in Benedict and attempts to seduce Barkin who plays Willy’s personal assistant. Saul plays the hotel reviewer while the real guy suffers many misfortunes. Frank sticks to the blackjack table, Livingston rigs the machines, and Yen contorts himself through an elevator shaft. Virgil & Turk work alongside Mexican laborers in order to create rigging devices. Basher is given several important roles to create an Earthquake and distract Bank from discovering who they are. Vincent Cassel is also back as the Night Fox, but he gets duped once again. Ocean’s Thirteen plays to the strengths of the original film.

4. Ocean's Thirteen

Ocean’s Thirteen

Preceded by: Ocean’s Twelve & Followed by: Ocean’s 8

With Interest

Ocean’s Twelve is complicated even by heist standards. Ocean’s Eleven was fast-paced and entertaining, but the sequel is too slow and more concerned with star-power. Steven Soderbergh returns to direct alongside the entire cast from the first movie. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Elliott Gould, Carl Reiner, and Shaobo Qin all return as Ocean’s Eleven plus one. Ocean’s Twelve refers to Julia Roberts temporarily joining the team. After the casino heists, Danny Ocean and his team were tracked down by Andy Garcia returning as rival Terry Benedict.

He forces them to pay back the money they stole with interest. Leading to a series of difficult to follow heists in Europe. Some of which involve a mysterious master thief known as the Night Fox. Vincent Cassel plays French Baron François Toulour who steals priceless objects using gymnastics. Eddie Izzard plays another thief who helps them steal a fabergé egg. Ocean avoids arrest, makes a deal with Toulour, and attempts to pay back Benedict with a time limit. Lack of focus may be caused by how much screen time they give each character. Rusty has an increased role that includes a romance with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Isabel, a Europol detective trying to arrest the thieves.

Linus tries to take on a leadership role, Reuben works closely with the team, Frank is mostly in jail, Livingston is a failed stand-up, Basher is still very British, Yen continues contorting himself, Saul leaves since he’s too old, and Virgil & Turk continue to bicker. Danny is in a stable relationship with Tess, but Roberts has a reduced role since she was pregnant. There “so ridiculous it’s kind of clever” idea is to have Tess literally disguise herself as Julia Roberts. It only gets weirder when Bruce Willis shows up as himself. Ocean’s Twelve has too many ideas for a straight-forward heist.

3. Ocean's Twelve

Ocean’s Twelve

Preceded by: Ocean’s Eleven & Followed by: Ocean’s Thirteen

Are You In or Out?

Ocean’s Eleven made heist films cool again. 2001 was filled with first installments in successful franchises. I never watched the Ocean’s trilogy, because I’ve never been a big fan of heists. Luckily Ocean’s Eleven has more entertainment value than the 1960 original. A remake was considered for decades until Academy Award winning director Steven Soderbergh gave it a fresh spin. The Rat Pack has its familiar faces, but I knew the modern cast of Hollywood A-listers a lot better. You’ve got George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould, and Carl Reiner all in one movie. Along with cameos from original cast members and TV actors.

The only character who keeps their name from the original movie is Danny Ocean. Clooney is effortlessly charismatic as the ex-con gentleman thief who plans a scaled down heist of three Las Vegas casinos. The job is personal since Danny plans on winning back his ex-wife Tess who’s dating rival casino owner Terry Benedict. Roberts has believable chemistry with Clooney and Garcia makes a good villain. Ocean’s Eleven consists of criminal specialists and trusted colleagues. Pitt is the perfect foil for Clooney as his constantly snacking right-hand man Rusty Ryan. The heist itself requires meticulous planning, surveillance, and deception. Damon is lowly pickpocket Linus Caldwell who gets close to the mark.

Mac acts as con man card dealer Frank Cotton. Reiner is another much older con man Saul Bloom who commits to his role. Gould is the wealthy casino informant Reuben Tishkoff. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan are mechanic brothers Virgil and Turk Malloy. Eddie Jemison is the all important electronics expert Livingston Dell. Cheadle is explosives expert with an exaggerated English accent Basher Tarr. Shaobo Qin is a real life acrobat who plays a crucial role in the heist as “The Amazing” Yen. The heist itself is tense and full of clever twists. It’s satisfying to see Ocean’s team actually get to keep the money. Ocean’s Eleven makes every second count.

2. Ocean's Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven

Remake of: Ocean’s 11 & Followed by: Ocean’s Twelve

One Word Can Change Everything

Yes Man is Liar Liar if always telling the truth was replaced with always saying “yes.” It seems far-fetched, but the movie is based on a true story. Humorist Danny Wallace wrote Yes Man after deciding to only say “yes” to everything for 6 months. Before Ant-Man, director Peyton Reed had Yes Man. It’s far from groundbreaking, but it was the right kind of comedy for Jim Carrey’s creative slump. Carl is a closed off divorced bank loan officer who says “no” to everything.

Bradley Cooper plays his concerned friend Peter who tries to get him out of his comfort zone, but it’s John Michael Higgins as a former colleague who turns Carl’s life around. It’s at a “yes” seminar that Terence Stamp convinces Carl to be a “yes!” man. I wasn’t sure how saying “yes” to everything would be funny, but Carrey knows how to make it hilarious. Carl says “yes” to every pop-up add, every sign-up sheet, and everything else that comes his way. Even an uncomfortable proposition from an old lady. The positive impacts are a promotion from his eccentric boss played by Rhys Darby and using his newly acquired talents to help people.

Carl speaks Korean to a bridal shop employee and talks down a suicide jumper by singing “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind. He also falls in love with the equally outgoing Allison played by Zooey Deschanel. Their spontaneous relationship goes well at first, but there are obvious problems with saying “yes” to everything. Like giving a homeless man all his money, getting in a fight, or agreeing to move in with Allison. The inevitable misunderstanding is predictable, but they do get back on track with a balanced message. Yes Man gets a “yes” from me.

Yes Man

Carl learns to say “yes”

From Gentle to Mental

Me, Myself & Irene gave Jim Carrey an excuse to go crazy. 2000 wasn’t always the best year for comedians who were popular in the 90’s. Me, Myself & Irene is the second collaboration between Carrey and the Farrelly Brothers. Aside from being a road movie set in Rhode Island, Me, Myself & Irene is a bit dumber than Dumb and Dumber. The title refers to a split personality disorder. Carrey plays friendly pushover and state trooper Charlie Baileygates. When his wife leaves him for an intelligent black little person, Charlie lives in denial with his three black children.

All the disrespect and pent up rage causes Hank to come out. I feel like any problem people had with The Cable Guy is much worse in Me, Myself & Irene. Hank is a foul mouthed psychopath and sexual deviant who lets out Charlie’s aggression. Carrey’s manic energy is funny when he’s trying to put down an injured cow, but not so much when he’s attacking children. The Farrelly Brothers’ gross out humor also goes too far with sex toys and less creative poop jokes.

Black jokes are funny to a degree, but the sons constantly saying “motherf***er” gets old after awhile. Anthony Anderson is the only recognizable actor in the trio. Renée Zellweger is the titular Irene who hates Hank, but begins to fall for Charlie. She’s caught up in an overly complicated plot by a criminal ex-boyfriend. Chris Cooper, Robert Forster, and Richard Jenkins give the movie credibility, while narrator Rex Allen Jr. gives it an easygoing feel. Of course it does go off the rails with a physical fight between Charlie and Hank. Me, Myself & Irene can only do so much with two Jim Carrey performances.

Me, Myself & Irene

Charlie, Hank and Irene take the road

The Orchid Thief

Adaptation. is an adaptation of a book being adapted within the movie that’s being watched. If you thought Being John Malkovich was bizarre, director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman matched that insanity in a very meta way. Adaptation. was always on my radar, but it was mostly a co-worker who recommended it. The adaptation takes place during the filming of Being John Malkovich as Charlie Kaufman works on his next movie project. Nicolas Cage earned his second nomination for Best Actor as his insanity is put to good use playing both the real life Charlie and his fictional twin brother Donald.

Kaufman suffers from severe writer’s block attempting to adapt The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Since the book is mostly about flowers, it somehow makes sense to make a movie about trying to make it interesting. Charlie is also full of self-loathing and has sexually frustrated fantasies with Judy Greer. Cara Seymour, Tilda Swinton, and Maggie Gyllenhaal play fictional characters, but Ron Livingston and Brian Cox play a real life movie executive and story consultant respectively. As Charlie works on his script and Donald writes the fictitious thriller The 3, Susan Orlean is in the process of writing The Orchid Thief.

Of course Meryl Streep received another Oscar nomination as the real life author. Although initially objecting to her portrayal as a sexually repressed drug addict, Orlean’s book is well adapted. All the awards attention ended up going to Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper as the titular orchid thief John Laroche. He’s rough on the outside, but his passion for flowers awakens something in Orlean and Kaufman. Their stories intertwin in a crazy way that obviously never happened. Adaptation. ended up better than the intended source material.

Adaptation.

Charlie and Donald Kaufman work on adapting

His Big Day is Her Big Problem

The Wedding Planner isn’t the magical experience it should be. It’s the debut film from the mostly comedic director Adam Shankman. At least 2 different couples were cast before settling on Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Brendan Fraser would’ve dated the movie even more in the 2000’s. As would Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr, but at least they have guaranteed chemistry. This was the first rom-com from J.Lo and McConaughey and their chemistry is sorely lacking.

J.Lo is the titular wedding planner named Mary (because of course) who leads a boring life despite the romantic nature of her job. Her Italian father wants her to marry the persistent Massimo played by an Italian Justin Chambers. The Wedding Planner is full of rom-com clichés like Judy Greer as Mary’s quirky co-worker or the improbable meet cute that brings the leads together. This time it’s Mary being rescued from a runaway dumpster. McConaughey is smooth Doctor Steve who almost kisses Mary in the rain on a romantic date.

I didn’t see the twist coming, but I should’ve figured Steve was the groom in Mary’s next big wedding. Bridgette Wilson plays wealthy heiress Fran who’s engaged to Steve. The revelation makes Steve look bad and it doesn’t get better knowing he’ll end up with Mary in the end. Mostly because Massimo and Fran aren’t stereotypically bad alternatives. Steve and Mary fall in love over the course of her wedding planning and end up stopping 2 weddings at the same time. The Wedding Planner has attractive leads, but not enough originality to tell a convincing romance.

The Wedding Planner

Steve rescues Mary

…Pick a Side

The Break-Up is about as funny as an actual break up. Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston are capable leads with good chemistry who have done well in other romantic comedies, but director Peyton Reed can only do so much with the premise. Gary and Brooke live in Chicago and meet at a Cubs game. Gary is a tour guide and Brooke works in a gallery. Although Gary pursues Brooke a little too insistently, they do seem to have a healthy relationship.

Until their first fight that you’ll have to get used to. All the constant passive-aggression makes for an unpleasant viewing experience. Gary and Brooke’s families are polar opposites who go really over-the-top in a cringy dinner scene. Of course Jon Favreau plays Gary’s best friend, but there’s also Jason Bateman as a realtor who helps them work through their break up. Since they share an apartment, Gary and Brooke become contentious roommates who do whatever they can to hurt the other.

Brooke goes on dates with good looking guys and walks around naked just to make him jealous. Aniston’s PG-13 nude debut is worth some attention. Meanwhile, Gary continues to play video games, invite his friends over, and even hire strippers. Nobody looks good in this scenario, but I did find some of the jokes amusing. As long as it wasn’t mean spirited. They try to have an emotionally satisfying happy ending, but by the end I just didn’t care if they got back together or not. The Break-Up breaks too many rules to be satisfying.

The Break-Up

Gary and Brooke separate