Gothika (2003)

Gothika

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Halle Berry’s crazy.

Imagine you wake up in a psychiatric ward with a ton of people telling you that your whole life is a sham…but you know it’s not…but who really is going to listen to you? You’re in a psych ward, for heaven’s sake! You know this sub-genre very well – it’s used a lot in television for psychological thrilling episodes…and as typical as it has come to be, I love it. It’s always a fun time, and there seems to always be a great mystery involved. Gothika is a film that takes this general idea to the film level…and again…it does a pretty decent job at it.

Halle Berry is our leading lady this time, playing a chick named Miranda Grey – a doctor at a psychiatric hospital that more or less specializes in explaining why people are absolutely nuts. She’s logical and rational, but after a strange incident on a bridge, she wakes up in her own hospital with everyone telling her that she’s crazy when she knows she’s not. Just as much as every crazy person knows they aren’t crazy either…so she isn’t in the best place. In order to claim her sanity she must figure out what actually happened – and in order to find that out…she must escape.

In some ways, this is a pretty typical movie. I’m not arguing with that, it seems that way, but it is still pretty fun. I’ll admit that I wish the whole explanation of the film was something a little more creative, but I accepted what I got as ‘good enough’. Halle Berry plays a convincing crazy lady – especially with how they portrayed the line between sane and crazy…and how peoples judgments of others actions can sometimes be mistaken. Imagine if you were in the same precarious situation claiming sanity in the middle of a loony bin. People wouldn’t jump to your defense, now would they? Sure, the whole concept behind the film is a bit far-fetched in the scheme of things, but it’s honest enough to make you think.

If I wrote the film, there were a lot of different directions that I probably would have gone. Movies like this don’t seem to realize how much direction you can actually take. It’s a psychological thriller…meant to mess with your head. Your head is a powerful tool capable of coming up with crazy situations – which I wish this film sort of delved a little closer to. It’s a loony bin where people are drugged up to no end…let’s seriously get nuts up in this joint. No? Oh, okay.

What RT has to say: Berry’s acting talents can’t save Gothika from its preposterous plot and bad dialogue. – was the plot preposterous? In a way, yeah…but what are you expecting going in? You already know she is randomly thrown into a loony bin and why, and you figure there is some kind of element of paranormal activity going on by the trailers alone – why are you complaining about plot? As for the dialogue? I can’t disagree more. They did a great job mirroring the “dialogue” and thoughts of crazy people as the same dialogue for a sane person…which they kind of had to do to suggest that not all crazy people are indeed crazy after all.

The Good:

I’ve always liked psychological thrillers. They make you think, which this film definitely does. I liked it more along the lines on how it provided commentary on what truly makes a man “crazy” – and how that may not apply as universally as we originally thought. Maybe people sound crazy but are in actuality being truthful.

The Bad:

You’ve seen this type of idea done, sometimes better, in episodes of television. The time constraints of a typical hour-long tv show seem to fit the concept a little better than a full-length film – which they didn’t completely take advantage of their creative prowess with.

Love Actually (2003)

Love-Actually

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Fun, but meh.

So. Movies with ensemble casts. They have their positives and negatives, of course, but I have a huge dislike towards the way they choose to direct everything. You have an amazing assortment of well-known actors, but who cares? It’s nice to see them, but have you even seen Movie 43? Cast means nothing. In fact…the more people you have in a cast means the higher obligation to split the focus onto everyone…which lessens the plot to basically nothing. Love Actually is more or less praised as a romantic comedy. I’ve heard it more than once…it’s a good movie, but I feared watching it because it’s clearly an ensemble flick. Did it surprise me…yes. But at the same time, no.

I wish I could sit here and tell you about the amazing plot, but let’s get down to brass tax. It’s about love. Different kinds of love. Different kinds of people and their journey to find and lock in that love, whatever it may be. Romantic love, familial love, friendly love, forbidden love. It’s all there, and it more or less operates as an anthology flick that is sort of woven together to create one full story.

I won’t lie, the messages here are downright brilliant. Love in film is rarely looked at in such an honest light. It’s beautiful sometimes, but sometimes it is a horrible, awful thing. It may be over-the-top and predictable at moments, but you’ll notice that it isn’t the things that happen in the film, but how they are presented by the characters that matter. There’s no scootching around this one, it’s a character film. There were a lot of different characters, and they were all very, very different in their own regards. Each actor (I won’t go through the list) did a surprisingly good job in their role. It’s hard to create universally phenomenal chemistry between a large cast like this, but they did it very well.

However, and this is a big however, movies like this have one unstoppable flaw. That is…focus. These people are huge in Hollywood, so each of them basically need equal focus, so the whole film feels like eight short films struggling to be interwoven in the end. They are connected sure, but it’s not like it really makes any difference. Love brings people together yeah, and there is the whole six degrees of separation rule, but in the end  I don’t think for a second that it feels like a movie. It feels like an anthology. A collection. A montage. I had fun with it, though. I think this is one of the strongest films like it, but it’s definitely not my thing.

The Good:

I hate movies like this. I’ll be honest. The same applies to how they decided to split the focus up in Love Actually. However, that being said…I think the performances were worthwhile and surprisingly diverse. Their chemistry with one another is truly what makes this film special. I also believe that the films overall look at love is something that should be seen.

The Bad:

…I mean… It’s an ensemble movie. There is no real plot. It’s also a romantic comedy, so it’s incredibly predictable as well. Personally, it’s not my cup of tea, but I think they did a well-enough job with it.

The Random:

Is it just me, or was their vision of America really ignorant? Billy Bob sporting his usual douchey attitude as President of the United States, and the first girls a foreigner runs into in America are skanky tramps that want a foursome…

Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003)

Dumb-and-Dumberer

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Butchering a Classic.

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

When I picked movies for ‘The 250’, my concern wasn’t for finding good movies, but rather movies a lot of people have heard of that I haven’t yet reviewed. It could be good, bad, famous, or infamous. There’s actually a number of movies on there that I don’t want to review, but feel it’s important to get my voice out there as perhaps…a warning. Back in 2003, the prequel to Jim Carrey’s classic hit, Dumb & Dumber, was released. I can personally remember how much I was looking forward to it. I couldn’t express how disappointed I was when I first saw it, but now… I can.

To increase the funding for their high school, Principle Collins (Eugene Levy) and his secret girlfriend, Ms. Heller must create a special needs class – and to do that, they enlist the help of idiot friends Harry Dunn and Lloyd Christmas – who gather other weird students for the fradulent class. Together, they experience the hijinks of life while thinking there’s hidden treasure somewhere in the school, all the while fighting over the prettiest girl in school.

I’ll first start off by explaining why I was interested in this movie before I saw it. First and foremost, it is another edition to one of my favorite comedies of all time. I always knew that the Farrelly brothers had no part in this film, but I didn’t really care, because it was all about the characters. The posters and promotion done for this film were actually pretty good. They use the right shots from the right scenes that made these two really seem like Lloyd and Harry. I remember distinctively a poster that made Eric Christian Olsen look identical to Jim Carrey. Needless to say…I couldn’t wait.

One of the Farrelly actually said something very smart in regards to a prequel to the franchise. When asked to make one, he immediately said not a chance, because the magic of Dumb and Dumber wasn’t only the characters, but the very fact that they were in their 40’s and still acting stupid. That every sixteen year old is already stupid, so you just don’t get that dynamic. This was before the movie ever came out, and he was right on target. 16 year olds are stupid, so they had to do the next best thing, which was make everyone in the movie stupid, including the adults. Well that’s just great, because now the movie stops being special, doesn’t it? Harry and Lloyd are just random students in a world full of stupid people. They are really watered down when in all actuality – they should be the sole focus of the film while everyone else is normal. Their very interaction with each other and the world around them is supposed to be what the movie is. That’s what these people didn’t get.

Not only that, but Dumb & Dumber is an adventure movie with a clear end goal. They are trying to get to this point to deliver this package. This prequel had no sense of adventure, or heck, even a plot. The most it had was about the Principle and his girlfriend trying to get extra money for the school, and even that is reaching. I can’t say it enough, the people making this film failed on almost every angle.

I did understand what they were going for, though. While they didn’t focus very much on storytelling, they did try very hard to get those Harry and Lloyd characters right. Same goes for how hard the actors tried to get it right as well. Like I said, their look…isn’t bad, and there’s honestly some fleeting moments where you think – yeah, these are definitely the same guys I remember way back when. At the same time, the rest of the movie just tries too hard. You’ll notice when it tries to copycat the same scenes and lines of the original movie. It’s like it knew it would be horrible, so it had to grasp at straws to convince you that these really are the characters you know and love. Sorry. That doesn’t fly with me, instead it’s really cheap. Even so, there are scenes with the guys that don’t add up at all – especially with the fantasy scene.

The Good:

Hey, I gotta give them a D for effort as far as trying to get the spirit of the characters back in the game. You would probably agree that they did an okay job casting actors that actually look and sound a bit like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. Some of their interactions may also trigger some nostalgia.

The Bad:

The entire movie just butchers everything that was good about the classic. Heck, I have this theory that the whole reason they are making Dumb and Dumber To is to erase this movie from existence; to not have the franchise end on that massacre. Don’t watch this.

Old School (2003)

Old-School

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
I wasn’t impressed.

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

You know, I hear all the time about how bad of an actor Will Ferrell is, and how typecast he tends to be. That in his glory days, he actually made decent movies, but nowadays it’s nothing special. I could be mistaken, but I believe Old School is one of the movies people actually like of his. Now, I’m not entirely sure if it’s just because it’s one of his older movies, or if it’s because it’s not about sports, but you guys – the movie isn’t that great. In fact, out of all of his films I’ve actually seen in my lifetime…which is a lot…this is near the bottom of the list.

The story itself revolves around three middle-aged guys that are…going through a midlife crisis…or something. Each one has some unnecessary drama going on in their life, and to escape it, they decide to open up a fraternity for pretty much anyone, including all ages and people that don’t actually go to the school. When the dean of Harrison University finds out about this joke, he becomes the antagonist of the film, doing everything in his power to shut them down.

Okay, I have to say that the concept alone is pretty fresh, but it’s nothing that I would ever really ask for, because even though the concept is fresh, the presentation has been done way too many times. What’s the presentation? It’s the whole…man child element, which you have both Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn to double that element. Of course Luke Wilson tries his best to ground it from being too over-the-top, but for whatever reason, it still just blends in with every other manchild film. I guess I can see the appeal to those that actually like it, but I’m having real trouble seeing what’s actually special about it.

The plot is really lacking. It had a protagonist and antagonist, which was good, but the plot part of the movie doesn’t really even kick in until the tail end of the film. The rest is just filled with things they think is funny, in which…I honestly didn’t. There was one scene, maybe two in which I lightly chuckled, but the rest I didn’t find that impressive. I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one. I appreciate a good concept, don’t get me wrong, but that alone doesn’t save a film.

Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, and Vince Vaughn are funny dudes. I will probably watch them in anything, but funny enough, it’s the movie that everyone actually likes that I don’t care for. I’m pretty sure that has to do with having kind of unlikeable characters. Luke Wilson…I feel your character, but Will Ferrell is a recently married guy that acts like an idiot and immediately loses his wife in the name of immaturity while Vince Vaughn despises being married with a child. It’s not that appealing if you ask me. I think that they were going for self-aware comedy, but it just wasn’t funny.

In the end…that’s all I have to say about that.

The Good:

Old School has a genuinely interesting enough concept to watch, led by three funny guys Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson, and Vince Vaughn.

The Bad:

The plot is lacking, the execution of the concept is poor, the jokes aren’t that good, the characters aren’t likeable…there just isn’t a whole lot that the film actually has going for it. Man child films may not have gotten as old as they have now, so when it came out it may have still worked…as for nowadays…nahhh.

Memorable Quote:

Frank: All we are is dust in the wind…

American Wedding (2003)

AmericanPie3

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
The Stifler Show

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

Cowabunga, my little cowpolks. I apologize in advance for my strange behavior, for I have not slept a wink in quite a while. I thought while I’m up I might as well review the next installment of the American Pie franchise, American Wedding. We all remember when the third film came out whether or not we actually saw it, because it was the original end to the original series – before it turned into a debacle of movies no one really wanted to see. Of course that changed when American Reunion came out 9 years later, but this was when we all had to say farewell to our weird perverted family. Was it a particularly sad goodbye? Not really, but I’m still surprised to see the series has spirit left in it.

American Wedding isn’t really hard to guess the plot. It’s in the title. There’s only two real couples in the franchise that would tie the knot, Oz and Heather, or Jim and Michelle. Seeing how Jim is the main character of the whole thing, it’s a fair guess to say it’s his wedding in question – and you’d be right. The film opens up with a proposal, and what follows is wedding preparation with plenty of awkward and disgusting hilarity that ensues.

My 3-Word Review says: The Stifler Show – and for good reason. While you may think that this is a movie about a wedding, and it is, for some reason most of the focus heavily landed on Seann William Scott in his performance as Steve Stifler. It took me a second to try to find out why, and I think the reason is actually as clear as day. Without him, the movie simply wouldn’t be funny. Not because none of the other characters are funny, but because everyone else is growing up. Maturing. Stifler’s entire role in the franchise seems to be to drag these people back to his own depths of deviation. The same applied to earlier films, but when everyone else was younger, they were also all pretty much equally as stupid – making them an all-around funnier and more believable movie.

Plus, Stifler’s version of humor isn’t awkward like Jimbo’s. It’s more revolting and shocking than anything else. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but it doesn’t exactly feel like the other movies either. Don’t get me wrong, some of the jokes were so wrong and so out there that they really work. There are truly some hysterical moments in this film. At the same time, there’s just too much Stifler. To the point where his performance is more robotic and less believable. We just needed more moments with the other cast members.

Which brings me to the cast. As much as I love the cast in these films, I didn’t so much for this film because there were more than a few faces missing this time around. Primarily speaking Oz, Heather, Vicky, Nadia, Jessica, and even Sherman. All gone in this film. Don’t get me wrong, it was still ensemble with plenty of favorite faces, but without the same dynamics it doesn’t quite work as well as it used to, which is a shame. What it did have, on the other hand, was a plot – unlike American Pie 2. The second film was a little bit of a disaster as far as plots go. A lazily strung-together mess of stories.

The Good:

We’re back to solid plots, which is a good thing, and the humor in this film – while way over-the-top, is honestly pretty effective.

The Bad:

Way too much Stifler. It’s like he overtook the entire movie when it really should have focused more on Jim and Michelle and their wedding. Too much of anything is a bad thing.

Memorable Quote:

Stifler: Are you saying I’m impolite?

Jim: “Impolite” would be an improvement.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Kill-Bill-1

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A woman scorned!

I have both Kill Bill films under my un-reviewed list of 250 films. Yeah, I’ve seen it before, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only actually seen it once…and honestly that’s a crying shame. As far as Quentin Tarantino goes, he makes these movies that I’m always unsure if I actually want to watch or not, and somehow, they’re always really good, but in the weirdest way possible. That makes him a genius filmmaker. I remember the first time I saw Quentin as the weird little dude who showed up in an episode or two of Alias, actually, and I had no idea he would go on to make things like this. Out of all of his films that I’ve actually watched, I’m not sure Kill Bill is his best movie all around, but it’s probably my personal favorite for so many reasons, both volumes, really. So let’s get into Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Uma Thurman stars in this film as the woman without a name. We’re just going to call her “The Bride”, because everyone else does. Way back when, for some reason or another – The Bride got married, which resulted in a massacre – nine dead. She was pregnant at the time, and was shot in the head by the infamous Bill himself. When she woke from the coma four years later, she was on full-vengeance mode. She wrote out a list of the people behind the attack on her life and basically just started killing them off one by one…anime graphic novel style. Or in short – basic Japanese vengeance plot.

This is one of the simplest, cliché plots that you can find out there, but with Tarantino flair, it becomes unique and original. That’s something I’m starting to realize with Tarantino. He keeps using these film techniques that I’m not a huge fan of and making them really, really cool. I will say that Pulp Fiction had more of these things, though, because the general rule of thumb is that I love very action-oriented martial arts films. Not only that, but adding that style of anime graphic novel stuff is just…iconic. Everyone knows what Kill Bill is.

I remember the first time, well only other time I saw this film, I liked everything but the gore. Well, not because it’s gory, but because the gore was just so darn fake, and obviously so. It hadn’t occurred to me at that point that…that was the point. It’s a beautiful film, and the gore is an addition to the art of the entire flick. While watching, I couldn’t help but think that the choreography may not technically be the best in martial arts, but it ranks highly on how awesome it honestly looks. How it is all stitched together is not something you’ll easily forget. If you have seen it once, you remember how it opens, and you remember all of the fights in almost completely vivid detail. It’s just really memorable. Tarantino also has an amazing sense of humor not commonly seen in any other comedy. His is dark, yes, but I usually have a hard time connecting with dark humor, and Tarantino just has that ability to click with his audience in that way. He’s basically a God at film.

Thing is, his work is never universally accepted. He’s got a bold style and doesn’t care who hates him for that. Almost every film of his has that ability to just have one person in the audience who just sits back and says, “Wow. Really? Was that necessary?” and while they sometimes make a valid point, I still have to join the others and say… “Yes. Yes it was very much necessary.” “Why?” “Because it was awesome. Sit down and shut up.”

The Good:

The style of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 is very colorful in its visuals and characters. The transitions and cuts between acts are very well done, and there’s very little to actually complain about. This is a very simple and solid plot that just swims in epicness and beauty. In my opinion, Tarantino outdid himself with this one.

The Bad:

If you sit down and really think about how complex the story is, you might be a little disappointed to see that the story itself could be written out within a good paragraph. While there is depth to how the film was made, there’s not so much depth with the characters or story. Then again, it was only supposed to be a simple, classic vengeance story to begin with…but some people like a challenge when they watch movies. Something that makes them really think. I don’t think Kill Bill has many of those moments, because the film’s title…is the entire plot of both movies. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Memorable Quote:

Because Tarantino recently spoke about the possibility of Kill Bill: Vol. 3, and what it is about – I provide you with a little teaser:

The Bride: It was not my intention to do this in front of you. For that I’m sorry. But you can take my word for it, your mother had it comin’. When you grow up, if you still feel raw about it, I’ll be waiting.