Friday, February 7, 2014

Stay Cool (2009)

Number Rolled: 68
Movie Name/Year: Stay Cool (2009)
Genre: Independent
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Michael Polish
Writer: Mark Polish
Actors: Winona Ryder, Mark Polish, Sean Astin, Hilary Duff, Josh Holloway, Jon Cryer, Chevy Chase, Jessica St. Clair, Frances Conroy, Marc Blucas, Dee Wallace, Joanna Cassidy, Michael Gross, Ken Johnson, Jessica Schatz, Scott Michael Campbell

Henry McCarthy has been called back to his home town in order to give a commencement speech to the high school graduating class. As a best-selling author, he has enough clout to warrant the honor. When he gets back home, he finds a lot of his old teenage issues creeping up on him; bullying, unrequited love and the ire of a great many people.

If I were to judge “Stay Cool” by the cover, I would write it off as just another romantic comedy that wishes it was from the 90’s. Even just the existence of some of the starring actors in the movie would lead me to the same conclusion. I’m glad I don’t judge movies like that, though, because I thought this film was adorable.

I will grant that there were some very over-the-top characters and that it went out of its way to follow a recipe the majority of the time, but I don’t think it was really a bad thing in this case. When the Polish brothers decided to go with a PG-13 rating, I think they made a very good choice. Yes, in the R-rated version there would have been more sex and drugs to draw in viewers, but it would have compromised the quality of the film. At the current rating it forced the audience to focus on the story, which was highly relatable. At first, I didn’t enjoy it but it got better and better as the movie went on. The ending was fantastic and semi-unexpected. It wasn’t an absolutely original idea, but it was good none-the-less.

Sean Astin’s character, Big Girl, was exaggerated, ridiculous and a little hard to believe… however, I’ve had friends that look and act almost exactly like that. If those people weren’t in my life, I would likely find the part to be highly stereotypical and almost offensive. The other characters did pretty well in their parts, which is a big deal for me to say because the only movie I’ve ever enjoyed Winona Ryder in was Girl, Interrupted. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a few of her films but it was almost always in spite of her.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 3.5/5
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 17%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 26%

Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

Movie Trailer: 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Love Actually (2003)

Number Rolled: 45
Movie Name/Year: Love Actually (2003)
Genre: Romance
Length: 134 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Actors: Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Kris Marshall, Heike Makatsch, Martin Freeman, Joanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Nina Sosanya, Martine McCutcheon, Laura Linney, Abdul Salis, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Alan Rickman, Rodrigo Santoro, Lucia Moniz, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Elisha Cuthbert, January Jones, Olivia Olson, Claudia Schiffer, Shannon Elizabeth, Denise Richards

Normally I start a blog with a basic synopsis of how the movie begins. “Love Actually” doesn’t have a single clear beginning. In fact, the film has ten different beginnings. Although it isn’t technically an anthology, “Love Actually” takes ten different stories and ties them together in the end. Not unlike some movies that followed it like: “New York, I Love You” or “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

Since this movie came out I’ve heard nothing but good things. Critics and audience members both seemed to love it, but I resisted. I don’t mind the occasional romance story, but I tend to like it more with the added plotline involving magic, explosions, assassins, horror, or just generally dragons of some sort – literal or figurative. The way this film was portrayed to me had me believing it was serious and heavily on the realistic side. In other words, I completely got the wrong idea. It’s actually more of a romantic comedy and, though it does have some basis in reality, it’s not stuck on a serious note. Evidence of it has been removed from the film for the most part, but one of the characters is even supposed to be an angel; an actual heaven-born angel. That piece of trivia makes all the difference to me.

When I was a young child, I was really sick and not able to do too much. My mother would bring home videos from a store where they sold the tapes 10 for $10. I fell in love with the stories that helped me escape reality. It’s probably why I don’t tend to go for heavy dramas or serious romances.

I digress. “Love Actually” was a lot more simple and relatable than I was led to believe. However, there was a lot of fluff and a lot of characters. If you just glance over the credits I listed above, you’ll see a LOT of BIG, familiar names. That’s because there were a lot of main characters. In fact, I’m still having trouble remembering what name goes to what character. I can’t tell you whether or not that’ll be a problem for you, but I can tell you I couldn’t put a name to a face but I still enjoyed the stories and the way they twisted together.

Richard Curtis pulled off a huge success for his first step into directing and, I hate the term, he raised the bar for himself. I haven’t seen his other two directions, but my expectations will be very high when I do.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 3.8/5
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 63%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 73%

Trust-the-Dice Score4/5

P.S. Netflix gave me the following movies in the “more like this” section of screen for “Love Actually”: “New York, I Love You,” “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” “Mona Lisa Smile,” “Bachelorette,” “The Rebound,” “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “She’s All That,” “The Kids Are All Right.” Personally, I think their database is a little screwed because I’ve seen 6/8 of those movies and the only one that actually belongs in that “more like this” category is “New York, I Love You.”

Movie Trailer: 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Empire State (2012)

Number Rolled: 39
Movie Name/Year: Empire State (2012)
Genre: Drama
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: R
Director: Dito Montiel
Writer: Adam Mazer
Actors: Liam Hemsworth, Michael Angarano, Dwayne Johnson, Paul Ben-Victor, Greg Vrotsos, Michael Rispoli, Emma Roberts, Nikki Reed, Wayne Pere, Shenae Grimes, Chris Dimantopoulos

Chris is a police officer hopeful who’s trying to deal with a relatively low-caste life in the early 80’s. Before he can see his dreams realizes, however, his father is fired and he loses his chance to join the police agency, leading him trying to find a job as a security guard. Shortly after working for the new company, he learns that security involving millions of dollars is incredibly lax and is faced with great temptation.

This movie was based on a true story, which leads me to the conclusion that not all true stories are interesting enough to make it into the entertainment industry. The movie was dull. When it comes down to it, I have no problem with biographies or documentaries, I just don’t want to go for what I think is fiction and find myself faced with a word-by-word reenactment.

Despite the overly realistic and boring plot, the script itself also kind of sucked. All the actors were fine, great even, but they were too damn good for the movie. No amount of guilty glances from Hemsworth, strung-out twitching from Angarano or toned down thoughtfulness from Johnson could do anything for the terribly written script.

I can pick any one of the actors involved in this movie and find a better film of theirs to watch.

Netflix’s Prediction for Me – 3/5
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 22%

Trust-the-Dice Score2/5

Movie Trailer: