Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains some language
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has become a classic, the epitome of 1980’s teen comedies. For one day, during school, Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) manages to live out nearly every high school kid’s fantasies. To carry out his schemes he must go through nearly as much planning as the Allied POW’s in The Great Escape [review here], and while the payoff might not be as dramatic in this film, it will speak volumes more to each generation of high schoolers.
Ferris is aware. He is aware of how the world works, how his parents work, how the school system works. And he’s aware that he’s in a film, or at least pretends it’s a video journal, as he breaks the fourth wall at key points to describe what’s about to happen and how. His first step is to trick his parents, who seem to genuinely care but are naive, into thinking he’s just sick enough to stay home but not sick enough to go to the doctor.
Rated R by the MPAA – contains strong language, domestic violence, sexual content, sexual violence
Tyler Perry’s first foray into straight drama is an interesting mix. I’m not familiar with “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” Ntozake Shange’s seminal choreo-poem often considered a cultural marker. I do know many African American communities were up in arms when it was announced Perry would be adapting it, and Oprah and other influential people were brought in to consult. The play, an assortment of poetry expressing the lives of seven African American women, is fluid and impressionistic, I’m told. It lacks the hard details necessary for a successful translation into film, but this very characteristic made it so powerful on stage.
Perry has worked many of the themes from the poem into a screenplay, adding characters and settings in an attempt to make it real. His version has nine women whose lives are all interconnected, like a facile version of Magnolia [review here].
Rated R by the MPAA – contains boxing violence, strong language, some sexual content
The Fighter is a passion project, on a number of levels. Mark Wahlberg stuck with it for years, training on the sets of his other films until financing and a director could be finalized. Darren Aronofsky, granted an executive producer credit, was attached to direct before moving on to complete Black Swan [review here]. David O. Russell stepped in, and managed to make Wahlberg’s passion project into a worthy film. And, even if it is simple in its approach and execution, it is rousing, moving, and engaging.
Wahlberg plays Mickey Ward, a boxer with a host of problems. His recent bouts have been used as stepping stones for other up and coming boxers, and he’s still waiting for his chance. His brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), and mother, Alice (Melissa Leo), have been his trainer and manager respectively. They’ve been responsible for all his success, and all his failure.
Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence, most of it zombie-related
Fido is a pleasant zombie film, one of the most peaceful ones in recent memory. There is little frantic scurrying around to escape zombie teeth and no one freaks out when their first shot hits a zombie in the chest instead of the head. This is because Fido exists in an alternate history, one where the zombie apocalypse has come and gone. The humans have won, and zombies are now slaves.
The setting feels like mid-1950’s suburbia. A visionary scientist has crafted a collar that allows zombies to exist and serve humans; their appetites dulled, they are still receptive to a small amount of corrective training. This has led to the existence of a lower class, the zombies. They are for sale, and the more affluent citizens sometimes have several of them in the house. They serve as butlers, maids, “friends,” and crossing guards.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains violence, mature themes, very brief nudity, and a little sexual content
Darren Aronofsky is one of this generation’s most interesting contemporary directors, one whose most outrageous and daring projects are interesting even when they don’t entirely succeed. Starting with Pi in 1998 he made a name for himself, following that up with the best film of the past 10 years, Requiem for a Dream [writeup here]. It took six more years for The Fountain to see the light of day, thanks to a variety of production issues, but only two years after that he gave the world The Wrestler, itself a fantastic movie.
The Fountain is not Aronofsky’s best-received film, with some saying that it was a failure, but an interesting one. I don’t believe it is a failure at all, just a film with more outstanding flaws than one might expect from Aronofsky. Some may say it’s pretentious and hollow, and this criticism, while more to the point, is also not entirely accurate.
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains war violence, language, some sexual content, mature themes, drug use
Forrest Gump is an unquestionable crowd-pleaser of a film, captivating audiences and garnering a huge amount of Oscar love. There has been some backlash in the years since its release, especially considering that it beat out cult favorites like The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction [review here] for the Best Picture Oscar.
A second look (and the first in many years) at Forrest Gump convinced me that the film is actually quite good, if a little silly and quirky in its ideas and story. It is enjoyable and fun, though an overly sentimental ending somewhat tarnishes the previous two hours. Tom Hanks is convincing and lovable as Forrest Gump, the boy with inadequate legs and a lower-than-average IQ. His momma (Sally Field) believes in him, going so far as to sleep with a school principal so that Forrest can go to normal public school.
The Fall (2006): United States/India/South Africa – directed by Tarsem Singh
Rated R by the MPAA – contains some violence and some mature themes, and a little language
The Fall is one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve ever seen, crafted over the course of several years, spanning many countries and a multitude of locations. It is like a painting, in a way, reveling in the artist’s imagination. There is a story, too, a sweet and sad tale of a couple of people suffering from maladies both physical and emotional.
Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is a young girl, perhaps six or eight, who has been injured in a fall. She picks oranges in a grove near Los Angeles, right about 1920. Her arm may be broken, but not her spirit. She meets a young man, Roy (Lee Pace, before he became the face of “Pushing Daisies”), who is an actor in the fledgling motion picture industry. He has been injured in a fall involving a horse and a train and no longer has the ability to move his legs. To make matters worse his heart has also been broken by a frightened girlfriend.
Rated R by the MPAA – contains sexual content, male nudity, some violent content, language
A Fish Called Wanda has one of the most intelligent scripts of any comedy. Perhaps this is why I do not generally like comedies; the good ones are so few and far between. The story is a collaboration by Charles Crichton, who also directed, and John Cleese. Cleese, the former Monty Python member, misses no opportunity to scathingly satirize proper English living, but he does so gently and warmly, even playing the epitome of British wussiness himself.
Cleese plays Archie Leach, a prim and proper barrister. He is assigned the case of Georges Thomason (Tom Georgeson), an intelligent thief. Georges has recruited a crack team of burglars to steal a large amount of diamonds, but is turned in by his girlfriend/accomplice, Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis).
Rated PG-13 by the MPAA – contains violence and mature themes
The novel The Four Feathers, by A.E.W. Mason, has been filmed many times. This 2002 update has the advantage of a large budget, name actors, and a classic story, but it never takes fully utilizes its potential. The story remains epic, dealing with matters of honor and glory, and the production looks epic, but the construction is often confused and disjointed.
The story begins toward the end of the 19th century. Harry Feversham (Heath Ledger) is in the army; one of those wealthy and privileged enough to serve. He has a lovely fiancee, Ethne Eustace (a decidedly un-British Kate Hudson), and some good friends that include Jack Durrance (American Beauty’s Wes Bentley). When he learns that his unit will be sent to war in North Africa, however, he falters. He is not a warrior, and would rather engage in simpler pursuits. His decision to resign his commission carries great weight.
Not rated by the MPAA – contains some strong violence and language, and a little sexual content
Herman Yau’s The First 7th Night is billed as his latest horror film. And, while it has a couple components that would be right at home in a horror movie, it turns out to be more of a psychological mystery. It also contains elements of Rashômon, a ghost story, and a crime drama thrown in for good measure.
The film opens with a cab driver, miserably living in his taxi. His name is Map King (Ka Tung Lam, from Infernal Affairs and Ip Man) and his only redeeming feature is that he knows the geography of the entire country. So, when a fellow cab driver calls him saying there’s a customer who needs to get to the Sun and Moon village urgently, it is expected he will take him there. It soon becomes clear, however, that Map King has promised never to go there again. With a promise of triple fair and a bonus of $3000 he decides to make an exception.