Les Plaisirs Simples de la vie

Amélie is all about the little things. Like peeling off dry glue from your fingers or knocking over a set of dominos. Something that’s currently known as “oddly satisfying.” I’m personally partial to cracking my knuckles. Although they can be a bit tricky to watch at times, I still make an effort to watch foreign films every now and then. Amélie is a French film that reached a universal audience and received 5 Oscar nominations. Becoming so popular in the U.S. that I knew I had to check it out eventually. Amélie Poulain is a bright-eyed young waitress who enjoys life’s simple pleasures. Her pleasures include sticking her hand into bags of grain and cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon. When she discovers a 40 year old box full of childhood treasures, Amélie makes it her life’s mission to find whoever it belongs to. Which leads her down an even greater path towards improving the lives of everyone around her. From co-workers and neighbors to strangers on the street. What makes her so unique is that she’s not in it for the recognition. She leaves the people she’s helped without ever taking any recognition for it. Unfortunately that comes at a cost to her own happiness. Something she thankfully learns to fix. French actress Audrey Tautou perfectly captures Amélie’s imaginative spirit. Making Amélie a surreal romance that’s just as oddly satisfying as I hoped it would be.

4. A

Amélie enjoys cracking crème brûlée with a teaspoon

Exhibit A

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb takes the living museum concept and does something deeper with it. By exploring the origin behind the magical Egyptian tablet that brings everything to life. What more could they do? Battle of the Smithsonian literally brought all the most famous exhibits to life. After deciding to keep the American Museum of Natural History open over night, everything seems to be going well for Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley. Until the power of the tablet starts to wear off. So Larry takes Ahkmenrah, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedidiah, Octavius, Dexter the monkey, and a caveman version of himself to the British Museum. Where Ahkmenrah’s parents can hopefully fix the problem with the tablet. Larry’s much older son Nick tags along as well. As far as comedians are concerned, Rebel Wilson is the only new one. Larry doesn’t have a love interest this time after being interested in both a fellow museum employee and a waxed version of Amelia Earhart. Instead Stiller’s caveman doppelgänger gets a comical love interest with Wilson’s British night guard. Since there’s less of a focus on the exhibits, the only notable one is Sir Lancelot. He gets most of the funny scenes. Including one with unexpected cameos from Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve. The possible loss of the exhibits is surprisingly emotional. Though not as emotional as the real life loss of both Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams. Both of whom passed away before its release. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb isn’t the most imaginative installment, but it is a satisfying enough conclusion to this fun trip through history.

3. NATMSOTT

Larry and company ride the trolly

Preceded by: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Landmark Battle

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian takes the living museum concept and does something bigger with it. By taking all the action to the most famous collection of museums in the United States. The Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. Since the events of Night at the Museum, Ben Stiller’s Larry Daley has left his night guard position to pursue his dream of being an inventor. All his success distracts him from the fact that all his friends at the American Museum of Natural History are being shipped off to the Smithsonian archives. Specifically Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedadiah, Octavius, and Dexter the monkey. Rexy and Theodore Roosevelt stay behind, but Robin Williams does show up again as a Teddy bust. The Egyptian tablet stays behind as well (or so they thought). Dexter swipes the tablet and it brings the entire Smithsonian to life. So it really helps to know a thing or two about history. And expect even more comedians. Like Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, or Hank Azaria. They’re hilarious, but some of them might have over improvised. Azaria plays Kahmunrah, evil brother of Ahkmenrah. He allies himself with famous historical villains Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Al Capone. Meanwhile Larry first allies himself with General Custard. Then famed pilot Amelia Earhart. Amy Adams is the best new addition to the cast. Along the way they encounter famous exhibits like the Thinker, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air and Space Museum, and even paintings that they can walk into. All of it ends with a massive battle where Larry becomes a jedi night guard equipped with a flashlight saber. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian takes full advantage of its fun concept.

2. NATMBOTS

Abraham Lincoln lifts up Larry

Preceded by: Night at the Museum & Followed by: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

History Comes to Life

Night at the Museum brings history to life… literally! As it turns out, Night at the Museum is the first movie I went to see after my longest theater going drought ever. I usually see movies all year round, but 2006 was surprisingly scarce. I remember when Night at the Museum came out. It was part of three trailers that premiered on Nickelodeon. Deck the Halls, Eragon, and of course Night at the Museum. The latter being the only one I wanted to go see. It was also the only movie I ever saw on Christmas Day. I was drawn to the concept because of all the museums I went to and my knowledge of historical figures. Ben Stiller plays newly appointed night guard Larry Daley. An ordinary guy thrust into the extraordinary world of a museum that comes to life every night. He was hired by three elderly guards played by legends Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, and Mickey Rooney. The American Museum of Natural History contains the skeleton of a T-Rex, stuffed animals (including a particularly rambunctious monkey named Dexter), waxed figures, miniatures, statues, and an Easter Island head. Of course the concept can be played for laughs. Which is why the cast is made up of comedians. Like Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Rickey Gervais, or Robin Williams. Robin Williams is surprisingly perfect for President Theodore Roosevelt. Although Mickey Rooney gets the funniest lines. Other important historical figures include Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, and Christopher Columbus. Night one is pure chaos, night two goes well until something goes wrong, and night three is where the conflict comes in. All because of an ancient egyptian tablet. Night at the Museum is a historical lesson in fun.

1. NATM

Larry runs from Rexy

Followed by: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

All American Girl

American Psycho 2 has nothing to do with American Psycho. Apart from the title and forced use of Patrick Bateman at the very beginning. As I’ve seen with so many other sequels in the past, this was a completely different script that was modified to cash in on the success of a much more successful movie. It couldn’t be more thinly veiled if its tagline read “You know that movie you like, please like this too.” Apparently Bateman was killed by a 12 year old girl who refers to him as a serial killer. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the ambiguous nature of his murders. We then follow the much less interesting girl named Rachel grow into Mila Kunis. I’m sorry, but there’s no way I’ll ever be intimidated by Mila Kunis. She’s described as an all American girl. In another desperate attempt to link the unrelated movies together. Her dream is to work for the FBI in order to stop other criminals. Meaning she has to kill a lot of people just to ensure her position at Quantico. People are slow to realize William Shatner and a bunch of students are dead. While the modern college setting makes it worse than it already was. American Psycho 2 should have remained a forgotten slasher movie.

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Rachel seduces her professor

Preceded by: American Psycho

Did You Know I’m Utterly Insane?

American Psycho is a movie so entertaining, most people probably don’t read the subtext. But they should, because it’s not just about the guise of normality, and the underlying nature of insanity, it’s also a personal statement about late 80’s corporate America itself. American Psycho is arguably the movie that really made us take notice of Christian Bale. His unhinged, yet somehow charismatic performance as Patrick Bateman is one of the best of his career. He’s almost like the anti-Bruce Wayne (heck, his last name is only one letter off from Batman). Patrick Bateman is a yuppie banker by day and serial killer by night. He enjoys lengthy shampoo commercial-like morning routines and dissecting girls, because he’s utterly insane. His masculine attitude makes it surprising to discover the movie was written and directed by women. Although Bateman kills a lot of people, it’s unclear whether any of it is actually happening. Even when he says things that are unsavory. Bateman puts on the facade of a car salesman, displaying his vast knowledge of music, until the moment he strikes. His most memorable kills involve chopping up the Joker with an axe over business cards and dropping a chainsaw on a girl while naked. As his killing becomes more over-the-top, the line between reality and imagination becomes more questionable. It speaks to the hidden insanity that can exist in anyone in society. Themes like like this were really popular at the time. American Psycho says more than we see on the surface.

AP

Patrick Bateman examines his axe

Followed by: American Psycho 2

You Pushed Me Down the Stairs

Death Becomes Her is for anyone with a fear of aging. After completing the Back to the Future trilogy, but before Forrest Gump, Robert Zemeckis made the unusually unique dark comedy Death Becomes Her. A movie I was always strangely fascinated by. Mainly for the bizarre out of context scenes I saw of it. Plus the fact that it was the last 90’s winner for Best Visual Effects I was yet to see. Death Becomes Her features two out of character performances from ageing actresses. Goldie Hawn and more surprisingly, Meryl Streep. Who I guess needs a break from constant awards attention every now and then. They both play rivals obsessed with youth and caught between the same man. Bruce Willis is a plastic surgeon turned mortician who ends up leaving Hawn’s Helen for Streep’s Madeline. An obese Helen comes back looking younger than ever several years later and it’s not long before Madeline tries to discover her secret. An often half naked Isabella Rossellini reveals that it was a potion that grants eternal youth. Just try not to die, because that’s where the fun begins. The bizarre stuff I was talking about are the women becoming walking corpses. Madeline ends up with a backwards neck, Helen is shot through the stomach, and both are knocked around with shovels. The Oscar win makes perfect sense because half the time it seems like they’re just showing off. Death Becomes Her also became big with LGBT people. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with drag queens. Between all the slapstick death scenes is a moral about living life to the fullest. Death Becomes Her certainly makes a good case for that.

Death Becomes Her

“The potion”

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is aptly titled. I know I can relate considering most of my crushes have been blonde. Chief among them is “blonde bombshell” Marilyn Monroe. This would end up being the fourth movie I’ve seen with her in it. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes stars both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. Although Russell has more screen time and gets plenty of laughs with her dry wit, it’s really Monroe who steals the show. It’s her breathy voice and sex appeal that people remember. She plays a showgirl named Lorelei. Cinema’s most loveable gold digger. Who along with her partner in crime Dorothy, travels on a boat before marrying her rich fiancé. Unbeknownst to her that a detective is secretly trying to find dirt on her. Since Lorelei seems to only care about money. Obviously these morals are iffy, but her logic actually sort of makes sense. She claims marrying a rich man is like marrying a pretty woman. It’s not the only reason, but it helps. Of course the most iconic scene is her performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in a pink dress. A scene that’s been recaptured countless times. It’s the reason Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a silly screwball comedy that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

GPB

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”

Hold Out Your Leg

It Happened One Night is the original romantic comedy. Well it was actually one of the last rom-coms released in the pre-Code era of Hollywood. That’s how they were able to get away with such risque content. It Happened One Night is an essential Academy Award winning movie to watch. Since it was the first of only three films in history to win the Big Five. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. All of which were much deserved. It Happened One Night follows a runaway bride who’s a wealthy heiress. Something most film’s didn’t tackle back then. Let alone have unmarried men and women sleep in the same room. That’s exactly what Ellen Andrews does when she meets former newspaper writer Peter Warne on a night bus. He doesn’t like how spoiled she is and she doesn’t like him in return. Their tune changes over the course of several nights. I’m not sure which night the title is referring to, but they get into all kinds of crazy situations. The most iconic by far is when the two are hitchhiking. While chomping on a carrot that would inspire Bugs Bunny, Peter attempts to flag down a car using his thumb. Until Ellie decides to use her leg… it works immediately and it was such a scandalous thing to do at the time. After more than a few misunderstandings, the ending is left to the imagination. This is one of Clark Gable’s two most memorable characters. He deserved the Oscar just as much as Claudette Colbert did. It’s so rare for a movie to give equal screen time to both its male and female co-stars. It Happened One Night is funny and sweet in all the right places.

IHON

Ellie hitchhikes

Kitty, Panties and Flawless Kissing

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is the most mature thing Nickelodeon did at the time. As it was given a PG-13 rating. Granted it was only released in the UK, but that’s still not the image Nick usually displays. The film is full of sex jokes, mild swearing, and innuendo. It’s also very British. Hence the title that may confuse those stateside. Such as myself. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging refers to three important things in teenager Georgia Nicholson’s complicated life. Angus is her beloved cat, she disapproves of wearing thongs, and she has her heart set on snogging the boy she fancies. Most of the innuendo comes from Georgia and her friends almost constant sex talk. As well as one character wearing a thong or the inclusion of gay characters. I can’t say that the film spoke to me too much, but Georgia’s problems are quite relatable. Her mostly unknown actress of the same name does well in the role. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was the only actor I recognized (and I didn’t even realize he was British). The main theme that Georgia deals with is growing up. Something her best friend seems to be doing faster than her. In the end, it’s important to just be yourself. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging has a dodgy title, but a brilliant message.

ATAPS

Georgia (right center) and her friends spy