Tag Archives: Weekend Film Recommendation

Weekend Film Recommendation: I Love You Phillip Morris

19 Aug
I know I’ve talked about this film from time to time on this blog, but it is a new arrival to Netflix and if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the time.  I Love You Phillip Morris is the story of Steven Russell, a happily married man and a member of his local police.  When an accident forces him to reevaluate his life, Steven becomes openly homosexual and decides to live his life without regard for other peoples’ opinion and, more importantly, the law.  Once his extravagant lifestyle of conning and fraud catches up with him, he lands in prison where he meets Phillip Morris.  After falling in love with Phillip, he devotes himself to freeing Phillip from jail and pulling off a series of ridiculous and impossible cons so they can live the perfect life together.

I Love You Phillip Morris marked the return of Jim Carrey to the style of R rated humor that hadn’t been seen since Me, Myself, and Irene (though not as hammy), a refreshing change of pace from the comedies he chose for the nine years in between. 

This is exactly how we felt too Mr. Carrey

The story is excellently written and well paced, and really keeps the watcher engaged in the two characters and their relationship throughout the movie.  The subject matter is a little grotesque at times, but the aforementioned delivery of Jim Carrey throughout really softens the shock.  There is a lot of social commentary within the movie (did I mention it takes place in Texas), but it is not so in your face that it feels like sermon rather than an entertaining comedy.  The performance of Ewan McGregor as the titular Phillip Morris is worth noting as well.  While he plays more of the straight man in this comedy (no pun intended), it really works to humanize the two individual’s relationship and solidify the chemistry of the two leads.

Click here to add I Love You Phillip Morris to your Netflix queue.

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Weekend Film Recommendation: This is Spinal Tap (1984)

5 Aug

If you are a fan of heavy metal, rock music in general, or improvisational comedy, this film’s for you. If you haven’t already seen this movie and you love any of those things, I would actually question your credibility. Even if you don’t like any of those things, it can be equally humorous to see that culture spoofed in what is widely considered of the greatest comedies of all time.

This is Spinal Tap is a mockumentary about the fake British heavy metal Spinal Tap (played brilliantly by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer) on their comeback tour. Their previous success has been eclipsed by their huge egos and an amateur filmmaker (Rob Reiner) is capturing their downward spiral in a hilarious commentary of the heavy metal culture.

While the movie is funny enough in and of itself, what adds to it is that most of the dialogue was ad-libbed, much like many of other films that followed from Christopher Guest and company (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind). Not only that, but Guest and McKean wrote all the songs for the band and everyone in the band is actually performing on their respective instruments on the soundtrack. Even though everyone in the film made up most of their own dialogue, only Guest, McKean, Shearer and Reiner received writing credit despite their best efforts to convince the Writer’s Guild Board of Directors otherwise.

Entertainment Weekly ranked this as the #1 Cult Film of All Time and Premiere voted this the #1 Comedy of All Time in 2006. You will find several references to this film throughout pop culture, mostly when talking about music, or anything for that matter, being “cranked to 11”. There are plenty of outstanding things to say about it and I was pretty sure most everyone had seen it, but recently I would mention it and several people said they hadn’t, so that’s why I am including it as a Weekend Film Recommendation.

Here is the trailer:

To add This is Spinal Tap to your Netflix Instant Queue, click here. If you get the DVD version instead, there is a commentary track that features the band doing the commentary and is considered one of the best DVD commentaries around.

 

Weekend Film Recommendation: About a Boy

22 Jul

When I was digging through the Netflix Instant catalogue, there were multiple categories that this film came up in. Several people in the reviews labeled this as a “chick flick”, but I don’t necessarily agree with that description. While About a Boy certainly has some romantic comedy elements it is really a coming of age tale for a man in his late thirties. Plus, it is really easy to tag anything that stars Hugh Grant as a romantic comedy.

Will (Hugh Grant) is a rich playboy who lives in shallow extravagance due to the royalties of a popular Christmas song that his deceased father wrote. He goes to single parent support groups and claims to have a child just to hit on vulnerable women. When he meets a twelve year old boy (Nicholas Hoult) who is the outsider son of a depressed mother (Toni Colette) his life begins to change drastically as he is forced to let other people into his life and grow into full adulthood.

The film received a solid 93% on RottenTomatoes and garnered a lot of praise when it was released in 2002. Hugh Grant usually plays a bumbling good guy who stammers a lot, but actually switches to a smooth-talking player for this role. The script is snappy and insightful, providing an intriguing look at someone in denial about having to grow up. There is a love story, which primarily provides the idea that this is a “chick flick”, but it is really more of a backdrop to Will’s evolution into a man. The trailer really doesn’t do this movie justice in that regard, making it definitely have the appearance and sound of a romantic comedy, dropping popular names like Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’ Diary, and playing that annoying Five for Fighting song. However, the actual film is thoughtful and a poignant character study, and probably the only role that I really like Hugh Grant in.

Here is the trailer anyway, even though I don’t think it provides and accurate picture:

To add About a Boy to your Netflix Instant queue, click here.

If this doesn’t catch your fancy, try Poolhall Junkies, which I just couldn’t feel justified about giving a full blown recommendation, but is a rather entertaining film.

Weekend Film Recommendation: Cop Land (1997)

15 Jul

When James Mangold was announced as the official director to take on The Wolverine, the next installment in the X-Men franchise, his work on Walk the Line, Girl Interrupted, and 3:10 to Yuma were often mentioned in the same breath.  While the often unmentioned Cop Land may not be his best or most recognized work, it deserves to be mentioned as one of Mangold’s many great movies.  Cop Land is the nickname for Garrison, NJ a small suburb of New York city that is the home to a number of NYPD officers.  The sheriff of the town Freddy Heflin, idolizes most of his constituents and their profession, but is limited to his role as Sheriff because he is deaf in one ear due to an accident.  His opinion of the officers and his abilities soon come into question as he starts to uncover corruption and conspiracy amongst them.  Aided by NYPD Internal Affairs officer Mo Tilden (Robert DeNiro), Freddy has to restore order to Cop Land.

The only way Stallone knows how.

Mangold put together a phenomenal cast for this film that works really well as an ensemble, supporting Stallone in the leading role.  Throughout the film these characters felt really close to one another, and as an audience member it is easy to connect with their group and believe they are all neighbors and coworkers.  In addition to Stallone and DeNiro, who are outsiders to the ensemble due to their characters’ role; Harvey Keitel,  Ray Liotta, Peter Berg, Michael Rapaport, Frank Vincent , Robert Patrick , Noah Emmerich, John Spencer, and Janeane Garofalo round out the cast.

This is a surprising turn for Stallone, who plays a much more subdued and humble character than he’s typically known for.  He does well in the role but his physical stature at times did not feel it suited the role, ironic because he actually gained forty pounds for the part.  Still, it may be Stallone’s best performance to date; it’s a shame he hasn’t done more roles with this much depth over the course of his career

Then again, who needs depth...

Cop Land is a movie that can be enjoyed through repeat viewings, because it is technically sound but also very entertaining.  While still at the beginning of his directorial and writing career, it is clear that Mangold took notes from his predecessors (Martin Scorcese in particular) and adapted those notes well into his own work.  While not a masterpiece, Cop Land is a great film that is definitely worth a viewing on Netflix.

Click here to add Cop Land to your instant queue.

Weekend Film Recommendation: Exit Through the Gift Shop

8 Jul

This is the second documentary that I’ve done for the WFR (Hoop Dreams was the first), and this one stuck with me a little more than usual. While many documentaries tell heart-wrenching stories, or try to prove a political point, Exit Through the Gift Shop examines the question “what is art?”. While the documentary doesn’t blatantly ask that, the twists and turns of the story end up there, and show someone who truly missed the point about what “street art” is all about.

The film’s “protagonist” is Thierry Guetta, a man who films almost every moment of his life. Through his relative, he is introduced to the underground world of street art and he becomes obsessed. In his adventures, he meets Shepard Fairey, who you may know was the man who did the “Hope” posters for the Obama campaign. Guerry follows Fairey around, even to other countries, as Fairey puts up his artwork on various city buildings and landmarks. Guerry’s travels lead him to the most famous street artist, Banksy, who is known for his controversial works of art and the fact that he never allows his face to be filmed or photographed. Banksy and Guerry begin a friend/mentor relationship and Banksy becomes intrigued by , and turns the camera on his life. From there, the viewer begins to see the distinction between art and imitation, and leads to a powerful conclusion.

The documentary is entertaining throughout, as the viewer gets to see a world few get to see and meet the compelling people involved. It’s also an interesting look at the faddish art scene in L.A. as well, and how the masses get swept to whatever is trendy, even if they don’t completely understand. This atypical documentary received high marks on RottenTomatoes (98%) and was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary category. It’s only 86 minutes long, so if you have some time to kill this weekend, check it out.

To add Exit Through the Gift Shop to your Netflix Instant Queue, click here.

Weekend Film Recommendation: Chasing Amy (1997)

1 Jul

Jay and Silent Bob might be the most popular and recognizable of Kevin Smith’s characters, but they started out as just supporting characters to others like Randal and Dante (Clerks), Brodie and TS Quint (Mallrats), and my personal favorites Holden and Banky from his third major film Chasing Amy.  In Chasing Amy, Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee) are comic book artists. Everything’s going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she’s a lesbian (IMDB).

Similar to my own experience with Amber Heard

I’ve frequently chastised romantic comedies on this site, and technically Chasing Amy falls into that category.  However, what separates this film from the other more formulaic attempts out there is the development of each of the three main characters and the reality of their relationship(s).  The complexity of the situation and the complexity of the characters involved in the situation cause for a much deeper connection by the audience than in other rom-coms, even Mallrats – another Kevin Smith film.

Though it's hard to get much deeper than this

The themes of the film may turn some off to the film, especially the discussions on sexual identity, but again this is what separates Chasing Amy from others in the genre.  It’s a film for adults with adult sensibilities.  And it is also funny as hell.  While Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams play it straight for most of the film (no pun intended), the supporting cast delivers the comedy and keeps the fare light enough to make this a very pleasant watch.

Weekend Film Recommendation: Raging Bull (1980)

17 Jun

Netflix Instant is getting more confusing to use, but at least their collection is growing steadily. This week, I bring you another one of my 20 favorite films of all time, Raging Bull. I kind of feel like there should be a colon after that title, and that it should read: Raging Bull: A Martin Scorcese Masterpiece. If Spike Lee gets to call his films “A Spike Lee Joint”, I think that Scorcese has earned the honor of being able to add “A Martin Scorcese Masterpiece” after just about any film he does.

Raging Bull was a Best Picture Nominee, but lost out to Ordinary People, which is a good film, but failed to have the staying power of Bull. The film follows the story of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta, whose success in the ring is balanced out with a personal life that is in shambles due to his inability to control his violent outbursts. Robert DeNiro won a Best Actor award for his dynamic and brutal portrayal of the complex boxer. LaMotta is a despicable person, but his charisma, anchored in DeNiro’s performance, compels the viewer to follow his downward spiral.

Scorcese chose to shoot the film in black and white, which really enhances the gritty feel of the film and simultaneously creates some beautiful imagery. The opening credits are stunning and really contrast the fall from grace contained in the opening monologue (which can also be found in My 100 Favorite Movie Quotes). It also mirrors how LaMotta might see the world, black and white (even if his interpretation of them are drastically different from everyone else’s), but he only thinks in extremes and can never seem to find a comfortable middle ground.

This film also launched the career of Joe Pesci, and set the stage for many other Pesci-DeNiro pairings in other Scorcese films. For a while, those two actors seemed inseparable, feeding off the energy of the other, and it also earned Pesci a Best Supporting Actor Nomination.

I cannot praise this film enough, everything about it is perfect and it is one of those films that sticks with you long after you are finished watching. While the film is just over two hours long, the time flies by as you get lost in LaMotta’s bouts in and out of the ring. This should’ve been another chance for the Academy to give Scorcese an Oscar for Best Director, but instead he was passed over. However, to make up for it a little bit, he did earn the #24 spot on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years….100 Movies, his second of three films to make the list (Taxi Driver and Goodfellas are the other two).

Trailer:

To add Raging Bull to your Netflix Instant Queue, click here.