Year 2, Day 274
Movie #318~1,034: Hostel (2005)
I got a lot of money for you. And that makes you my bitch.
Plot: Three backpackers head to a Slovak city that promises to meet their hedonistic expectations, with no idea of the hell that awaits them.
Review: If you’re in the mood for a sex comedy mixed with torture porn, I have got the movie for you. Hostel starts off with three friends backpacking their way through Europe, drinking, smoking, and having meaningless sex but the story soon devolves into a graphically violent mess.
I don’t mind blood and gore in horror movies if it comes along with a good amount of suspense. Unfortunately, Eli Roth, the film’s writer and director, chose to use gore as a way to simply gross out the audience. However, I wouldn’t say that this movie has aged all that well; I remember seeing it when it first came out and I had much more of a visceral reaction to the action. Watching it today, I was more annoyed by the gratuitous nudity and over the top violence just for the sake of it.
Yes, the premise is terrifying and with all the news about human trafficking, it may even be plausible. And there is a pretty decent message regarding capitalism and the power of money, not to mention an interesting look at the human psyche and how cruel people can be. But these themes are really lost in the shuffle as Hostel really becomes a film about torture, first and foremost and that’s where it really falls apart for me.
Top 6 Movies of September 2014
(In alphabetical order, not including rewatches)
Year 2, Day 273
Movie #317~1,033: One True Thing (1998)
It’s so much easier to choose to love the things that you have and you have so much. Instead of always yearning for what you’re missing or what it is you’re imagining you’re missing. It’s so much more peaceful.
Plot: A career woman reassesses her parents’ marriage after she is forced to care for her cancer-stricken mother.
Review: Another day, another tear jerker about a mother with cancer. And like Stepmom, it is easy to pigeon-hole One True Thing as a sappy chick flick but it is really so much more. It is a story about family and death and unconditional love. This is much more than the story of Meryl Streep dying of cancer. It is a wonderfully crafted character study, a look inside one family’s love for each other despite the dysfunction and mistrust they have to contend with.
The film opens with Renee Zellweger being questioned by the authorities after the death of her mother. In flashbacks (and sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks), we see how she arrived at that point. I could have done without these transitions; the switching back and forth from past to present took me out of the moment at times. But I still found pacing of the plot to be above average and worthy of such amazing acting performances, especially by Streep (no surprise there) and Zellweger.
What makes this movie so entertaining to watch is that it has so many emotional aspects to it. We have the mother/daughter relationship drama, as well as father/daughter, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, and woman/career. You can sympathize and care about all of the members of the Gulden family (even William Hurt’s self-centered portrayal of the family’s patriarch). It is heartfelt without being overly sentimental and emotional without being schmaltzy - a real underrated and understated gem.
Year 2, Day 272
Movie #316~1,032: Stepmom (1998)
Plot: A terminally-ill mother has to reconcile with the new woman in her ex-husband’s life, a woman who will become her children’s stepmother.
Look down the road to her wedding. I’m in a room alone with her, fixing her veil, fluffing her dress, telling her no woman has ever looked so beautiful. And my biggest fear is she’ll be thinking, “I wish my mom were here.” ~ And mine is, she won’t.
Review: It was time for my semi-annul viewing of one of my favorite ‘guaranteed cry’ movies. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this movie (enough to quote it nearly word for word at least) and it still makes me tear up (and outright sob at some parts). It’s not the most unique story but it is told so convincingly with realistic dialogue and wonderful acting performances that the heart and charm will stick with you long after you watch it.
One of the reasons why I love this movie so much is that there is no real good or bad person. Isabelle (Julia Roberts) is presented as the career driven, hapless stepmom-to-be and Jackie (Susan Sarandon) is the quintessential Martha Stewart-esque mother but they both have enough flaws and strengths to balance out their cliche characters. Sometimes we are on Isabelle’s side and sometimes we agree with Jackie. It is easy to empathize with the kids, who feel like they have to choose between their loyalty to their mother and the desire of their father to get along with his fiancee. You don’t have to be a child of divorce to connect with the characters and the maternal love will move anyone who had a close relationship with their own mother.
Some people may call Stepmom cheesy or sappy but I can’t help but love it. It is one of those rare movies that will make me both laugh out loud and sob openly. It is emotional and entertaining and while it isn’t entirely hard-hitting with a fairly predictable outcome, I still count it as one of my favorite movies.
Year 2, Day 270
Movie #315~1,031: Far From Heaven (2002)
I’ve learned my lesson about mixing in other worlds. I’ve seen the sparks fly. All kinds.
Plot: In 1950s Connecticut, a housewife faces a marital crisis and mounting racial tensions in the outside world.
Review: This movie was a wonderful homage to the dramas of old Hollywood. From the opening titles to the scene transitions, the filmmakers paid close attentions to the little details. If it weren’t for the familiar famous faces gracing the screen, I would have sworn I was watching a movie filmed in the 1950’s (minus the man on man kissing scene, of course).
Visually, this was one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The setting of autumn in Connecticut allows for gorgeous red, yellow, and orange cinematography and the costuming is straight out of the 1950’s with colorful circle skirts and well fitted suits. It is a stunning looking movie that matches the impeccable cinematography with a moving script and convincing acting performances.
The audience is immersed in the characters’ lives in such a way that at times it becomes uncomfortable. From the judgement Julianne Moore faces because of her friendship with a black man (played by Dennis Haysbert, aka the All State Insurance guy) to Dennis Quaid’s inner turmoil as a gay man forced to live an unfulfilling life, the story is full of people who wouldn’t be looked at twice in today’s world but in the 1950’s, they were anomalies, people who dare to buck the status quo and be different. This makes Far From Heaven a smart character study as well as a glossy, stunning masterpiece and a must-see for anyone who is a fan of 1950’s melodramas.
Year 2, Day 264
Movie #314~1,030: The Trouble With Harry (1955)
You’re not supposed to bury bodies whenever you find them. It makes people suspicious.
Plot: The trouble with Harry is that he’s dead, and everyone seems to have a different idea of what needs to be done with his body.
Review: People expecting the typical ‘Hitchcock’ fare will probably be disappointed with this film. There isn’t the usual thrilling suspense but in its place there is some wonderful comedic writing and gorgeous ‘New England in the autumn’ cinematography. The Trouble With Harry doesn’t have much of a story - a man dies and a group of people each think they’re to blame and each think they know the best way to dispose of his body - but it is the smart dialogue and off handed manner in which death is treated that makes the film as entertaining as it is.
I don’t know how 1955 audiences viewed this movie given Hitchcock’s cinematic reputation but I’d say it was a couple of decades ahead of its time. If you don’t “get it”, it’s a rather dull movie but if you can appreciate the dry humor and satire, it will definitely live up to the Hitchcock standards we have come to expect. Overall, I thought it was a fun and surprising film that really showcases Hitchcock’s unique sense of humor.
Year 2, Day 262
Movie #313~1,029: Ordinary People (1980)
Don’t admire people too much. They might disappoint you.
Plot: The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.
Review: Don’t watch this movie if you’re in the mood for an uplifting, feel good flick to kick off your weekend. Because while Ordinary People is spectacularly written and acted, it’s a bit of a downer. It is an inside look at how a dysfunctional family is coping after the death of one of the sons. (Spoiler alert: they are not coping well.)
The all-star cast does a great job with the meaningful script, from Mary Tyler Moore as the cold, distant mother to Donald Sutherland as the well-meaning father desperate for peace to Timothy Hutton as the suicidal surviving brother. None of them are particularly likeable (albeit sympathetic) so it takes a lot for the actors to effectively bring them to life and each actor does their character justice.
The movie is very talky with only hints of action via flashbacks and I could see why some people could be bored with the slow story development. But I found it to be an satisfyingly emotional movie that never seemed trite or predictable. It is a realistic look at how people grieve differently and how sometimes your family aren’t the ones that know you the best.
Because my favorite season is just around the corner, I decided to celebrate by watching Autumn Themed Movies. They may not all take place entirely during the fall but they have an autumnal atmosphere. All I need is some pumpkin bread, apple cider, and candy corn and I’m set!
Year 2, Day 253
Movie #312~1,028: The Suicide Shop (2013)
You can give death to yourself but death is not free.
Plot: A family-run shop that sells everything you need to take your own life finds it hard to focus on business after a new baby — one who makes everyone around him happy — is born into the family.
Review: This certainly is a unique film. An animated musical about a family who makes their living helping people kill themselves is definitely original. The humor is dry and politically incorrect, the imagery is dark and gloomy, and the overall tone (for the most part) is depressing. This is not everyone’s cup of tea but there is no denying that The Suicide Shop is a bold, daring movie.
From the gorgeous French dialogue to the unique animation style, this film is unlike I’ve ever seen and I think that’s a big part of why I enjoyed it so much. I could have done without the cliche ending that doesn’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the film but I was entertained for the entire runtime (which was the perfect length at a brief 75 minutes). More sensitive viewers (or people with past issues with suicidal ideations) might be offended by the graphic imagery and the seemingly callous way the topic is handled but if you can go in with an open mind and don’t take the tongue-in-cheek delivery so seriously, The Suicide Shop is a great choice if you’re looking for a different kind of movie.