Category Archives: Movie Reviews

The Expendables

This weekend, H and I went to go see the Expendables.  I was excited.  I was really excited.  I was excited because I love Dolph Lundgren.  Maybe it is because we have equally Swedish last names.  Maybe it is because I fell in love with his 1987 portrayal of HeMan, Master of the Universe.  Whatever the reason, I have loved and do love Dolph Lundgren.

I knew Dolph would be in this movie, so we went at my bidding.  To my delight, it was completely adorable.  Perhaps that is not the thing to call a manly man, explosion filled, action movie, but it was.  It was adorable.  The characters were somewhat simple, but that worked out because these men were just appreciating being on the screen.  Their joviality and delight seeped into the marrow of the movie (if movies had bones.  Work with the imagery, here.)  There were explosions, a girl who had to be saved and Sylvester Stallone’s really bad facelift, all to enjoy.  There were also some good belly laugh moments.  Who doesn’t like an action movie that makes you laugh?

I talked to my brother about it afterward.  He ALSO loved the Expendables.  Adam and I don’t often  have the same taste in entertainment, so the fact that my manly man brother and my not manly man self both enjoyed it thoroughly, speaks to the charm and appeal of this movie.  It has been #1 two weeks in a row now.  This is impressive considering that people thought Scott Pilgrim would kick its butt.  (It didn’t.)

There was one part of the movie that made me nervous.  They help this girl to make her world a better place.  They end up saving her from extremely negative circumstances.  Then at the end, she and Sly are standing together and looked like they might kiss.  This woman was maybe 25, tops.  Sly is not at an age where kissing the girl at the end of the movie is permissible.  Instead she hugged him and he went father figure-y.  I will not lie and say I wasn’t worried.  I was worried.  However, there was no creepy kiss at the end.

I will try not to give too much of the plot away, but I need to talk about Dolph’s role a bit more. Dolph started out as a good guy, became a bad guy, (NOOO!!!!!) and then, when all appeared to be lost, he rebounded and became a good guy all over again.  Apparently, he was the second choice for the role.  Jean Claude Van Damme turned down the role.  There is a portion where Jet Li and Dolph’s character fight where ultimately, Dolph loses.  Jean Claude Van Damme could not accept losing to Jet Li, so he turned down the part.  Adam explained this to me because I didn’t understand.  Apparently, Jean Claude Van Damme never loses the last fight.  He always wins the last fight, beating the opponent who has formerly beat him, by training.  If Jean Claude Van Damme gets big enough, fast enough, and tough enough, he can overcome any opponent.  His vanity didn’t allow him to play the part.

I’m fine with this dose of egoism and machismo because it left the stage open for Dolph to come in.  I am hoping for an Expendables 2, so Dolph can be part of the winning good guy team all throughout.  Overall, H, my brother, and I all give it 2 thumbs up for six total thumbs up.  That is a serious amount of thumbs.  Now go see a movie.

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Pushing Daisies

I know I don’t have a television review blog tag, but I have to talk about one anyway.  I have been watching Pushing Daisies after my Netflix enthusiastically recommended it to me.  It is a weird little show.  The male protagonist has the ability to bring things back to life and then kill them again all with a touch.  He accidentally does this to his dog, his mother, and a myriad of insects as a child.  He becomes a pie maker and even does it to fruit.  He falls in love with a girl named Charlotte (Chuck) as a boy and then revives her after a murder on a cruise ship.  Shenanigans then ensue with Olive (Kristen Chenowith) who loves Ned, Charlotte’s shut in crazy aunts, and a PI who Ned works with to solve murders.

There is a narrator all throughout the story.  It’s a bit like Big Fish in its big stories and fantasy components, but I don’t know if it is as good as big fish.  Nor do I know if such a fantastical narrator and cast dynamic can work long term.  Weird show.  Weird, weird show.  It was on for 2 seasons before it was canceled and won arts emmies, for the striking visuals.

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Holiday (1938)

The Holiday was a cute little movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It even won the academy award for art direction in 1939.  It is based around the Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, George Cukor trio, that was made famous by the Philadelphia Story later on.

The premise of this film is that Grant playing a man named Johnny Case falls in love with Hepburn’s younger sister, Julia.  Johnny comes from a working class family, but on his first vacation ever he meets Julia Seton, played by Doris Nolan.  She comes from an incredibly wealthy family and when she takes him home to meet the family, he meets Linda Seton, her oddball older sister.  Even though Julia and Johnny have only known one another for a short time frame, they plan an engagement and wedding.

In a plot twist, Johnny is on the verge of a major business success that will allow him to take the extended holiday that he has always wanted.  He believes that if he is going to vacation and play he should do it when he is young, instead of when he is too old to appreciate it.  There is much tumult over the engagement and several high society people are very snooty to both Linda and Johnny in this process.  After a fight, Johnny and Linda dance alone together.  At this point it becomes clear that they are meant for one another and are madly madly in love.

Julia and Dad try to pressure Johnny into joining the family business after his success and while he initially revolts, they get him to acquiesce.  Johnny’s revolt is then reinforced by their younger brother, Ned who has given up trying to do anything with his life, and been driven to drink by the intense business demands of his father.  There are a few plot points along that way that I have skipped, but both Johnny and Linda are able to extricate themselves from the intense demands of Linda’s family and escape.  He leaves to go to France with his parental figures who have met Linda and love her dearly.  From there, Linda asks Julia if she ever really loved him.  When Julia says that she didn’t and she’s relieved, Linda flies out of the house and manages to get on the boat to France.

Happy Endings for all!

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New Neighbors

This picture is important for two reasons.  The first reason is that I loved the Berenstain Bears growing up.  For a long time, my parents had every single Berenstain Bears book there was.  We could read about the new baby, about why it is important to have friends and that bullies should be stood up to and punished by the proper authorities.  It doesn’t even matter in the Berenstain Bears that everyone has an awkward bear haircut (bearcut) and they all wear hats indoors.  The Berenstain Bear universe is a kinder gentler one that will share its platitudes for generations to come.

The other reason this is important is because we have new neighbors.  (Don’t worry, we weren’t looking at them like Papa Bear.  He’s judging the new neighbors, which we didn’t do.)  We live in an apartment complex that seems to have quite high turnover.  This means we have lots of new folks coming and going all the time.   H and I don’t tend to engage with our neighbors very often, but then something special and magical occurred.

On Friday, shortly after my family arrived, we were going to go on a little walk with my sister.  She was feeling cramped from being in the car all day, so we went for a little walk.  We were walking out and our new neighbors had locked themselves out of their apartment with their screen door.  I explained how we fixed our screen door to no avail.  New neighbor man even broke the handle on the screen door trying to open it.  Don’t worry, it’s been replaced.  We then asked them if they wanted to come into our apartment to use our internet to call the proper authorities to get them into their apartment.  This is the part where  I became enamoured of them.

They came into the apartment.  She complimented the setup of our living room and kitchen.  He popped over to H’s bookshelf to peer at the books and asked H about his favorite author.  If my sister hadn’t been with us, I would have probably asked to make sweet neighborly love to them by inviting them over to hang out with us or something.  My sister was at our apartment though, so we lost that opportunity.  Now we don’t know how to proceed with making our new neighbor best friends.

We’ve thought of a few things.  Option A: Go bring them new neighbor cookies.  This means I have to bake, which is difficult in our tiny oven.  Option B: Write them a note telling them we’d like to have them over.  H thinks this one is creepy.  I just don’t know what to do about the whole situation!  I want them to be our new neighbor best friends forever, but how can we do that if we never talk to them?  Le sigh.

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There’s No Business Like Show Business

There’s No Business Like Show Business is the movie that showcased the song of the same name.  It is from 1954 and surprisingly, has very little misogynistic content.  It regales the tale of the Donahues, a family of Vaudeville performers.

It begins with the story of the mother and father’s Vaudeville act.  They have three children, but are forced to give up the act during the depression.  She does radio work and the father has an act centered around women.  Dad is a little bit of a jerk who objectifies lots of women throughout the movie.

After the depression they are able to take up the act again, but this time as a family of five.  This only works for a little while because the children are growing up and want to have their own identities.

The oldest child is a son named Steve.  He becomes a priest much to the distress of his family.  They even give him a musical number where he evangelizes.  Then he performs a marriage, but really falls off the screen.

The daughter is the familial glue.  She is the one who tries to keep everything together throughout everything.  She is peppy, perky, and full of faith.  So she knows that everything will be okay.  She marries an unimportant man and is pregnant at the end of the movie, ending up with a pretty perfect little life.

The youngest son has the most remarkable story of the children.  He falls in love with Marilyn Monroe (Vicki Parker) and when she puts her career before him, at least for part of the movie, he gets drunk, leaves the act, and disappears.  There is then a morose part of the movie where everyone is depressed.  Eventually he comes home and there is a great reprise where they all sing together.

Marilyn Monroe is really a secondary character in this movie, which does not happen very often.  She is an aspiring show business gal and meets Tim the night she gets her big break.  She then has a musical number called “Heat Wave.”  I have no idea how it got past the censor boards.  She is dancing around in a skimpy bottom with a big skirt attached, talking about how she is hot and makes the temperature rise.  This is emphasized by the fact that she has male dancers with her.  I am sure that it was quite a number back in the day.

The most remarkable character in the movie is Molly, the mother played by Ethel Mermen.  She narrates, she sings, she dances, she is the show business person in the whole movie.  She also holds it together for the post part while her family is falling apart.  Molly forgives Vicki for breaking Tim’s heart and it’s all okay, because the night she forgives Vicki, Tim comes home.  He was just in the navy the whole time.  This is probably one of Ethel Merman’s stronger performances that I have seen.  She is charming, graceful and incredibly worth watching.

The dad is somewhat unremarkable.  He sings, objectifies women, tries to ensure his children fulfill classic family and sexual roles, and then goes to look for Tim because he’s gone.  He’s not a very good husband, poor Molly.

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The Pajama Game

Apparently Doris Day was a very big deal in 1957.  She was hailed as a triple thret.  She could dance.  She could sing.  She could act.  She could even show some leg.  She could work as a union rep for a pajama making company or at least that is the premise of the movie, the Pajama Game.  Her name in the movie is Katherine “Babe” Williams.  Everyone calls her Babe.  It is her nickname, which was appropriate in 1957.  No real person is named Babe.

A new guy comes in named Sid Sorokin played by John Raitt, who I had never seen before.  He sings well and even does a duet with himself via tape recorder.  That takes a great deal of skill.  Sorokin is in charge of the pajama factory being as efficient as possible.  He and Babe fall in love.  Their love is caught in the middle of a strike by the pajama factory workers.  He even fires her when she blows a circuit to support the Union.  I can support that kind of boldness in a woman, especially in 1957.  The production crew strikes over a 7.5 cent raise.  When Sid Sorokin gets into the books of the big boss man, he finds out that a 7.5 cent raise was approved six months ago.  Boss Man then tells everyone they have gotten their raise, but denies them backwages.  The workers don’t know they’ve been lied to and celebrate with a great big cheer.  The movie ends with Babe and Sid sharing a pair of pajamas in a fashion show, so her legs are revealed very saucily and his manly man chest is shown to the world.

There is also a secondary story between a character named Gladys and Vernon Hines who they call Hinesy.  Vernon is an abusive alchohol and Gladys is his girlfriend.  They are essentially a source of levity in this movie, even though he’s really an abusive idiot.  He used to be knife thrower and part of their storyline revolves around a fight with Gladys.  He is drunk and uses his throwing knives to try and hit Gladys and Sid (who he thinks are romantically involved.)  He is unbalanced and violent with his girlfriend.  It’s about as funny as it sounds.

The other point about this movie that I found so striking was its racist turn.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but in a factory setting, every single character was white.  In a low income factory neighborhood the likelihood of every single person employed there being an attractive white person is low.  Maybe it is just me, but nothing makes me want to watch a musical more than sweatshop labor, union abuse, alcoholism, racism, and knife weilding abusers.  Maybe I should stop watching old movies.  I fear I may become disillusioned.

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Weird Movie

Would you like to know what is a weird movie?  I will tell you what.  The Seven Year Itch is a weird, weird movie.  I put it in my netflix queue vaguely remembering it from long ago.  I watched it this morning while I puttered around my house.

Tom Ewell plays this man named Richard Sherman.  He sends his wife and son to Maine for the summer while he stay in New York City.  By a stroke of fate Marilyn Monroe is his new neighbor, subletting his neighbor’s apartment.  It takes him less than a day to go absolutely insane.

The whole movie is centered around a really fantastical and bizarre narrative all done by Ewell.  He fantasizes that he woos Marilyn Monroe, that his wife comes home and finds her in his apartment so she shoots him.  Then he fantasizes that his wife is on a romantic hay ride with this hunky blonde man who says very poetic things to her.  In his fantasies: He turns down his secretary who propositions him, turns down a nurse that propositions him, and does all sorts of other incredibly random things.

His imagination is so fantastical that he ends up trying to hit on Marilyn Monroe and even kisses her a few times.  Generally she seems fine with it, but is clueless throughout.  She just wants to stay in his apartment to take part in his air conditioning.  Otherwise she is completely oblivious to the fact that he is having elaborate bat shit crazy fantasies for the hour and forty minutes of this movie.  The title comes from the idea that a man will cheat on his wife after the seventh year of marriage, he gets a Seven Year Itch.

At the end of the movie he goes to Maine to be with his wife and son and brings his son’s kayak paddle with him.  That’s it.  He just goes down the street running with a kayak paddle on his way to Maine.  There’s no moral, no sense, no nothing.  I guess it’s good that Marilyn Monroe escapes with her skin intact and Ewell not wearing it as a suit, but it is just a bizarre movie.  It’s also the movie with the white blowy dress.  Ya know, this one.

I don’t understand how she was possibly standing on that grate in those shoes without falling in.  Also, how would the Subway possibly be kicking up cold air when it is 95 degrees and all the heat and smoke trapped down there?  I’m pretty sure it was just a ruse to look at her legs.  Overall, it perpetuates all sorts of random 1950s crap that I don’t care to go into, but even without all of that added in, it is just a weird, weird movie.

The only seven year itch I think it’s going to give me is the way I’ll be forever scratching my head thinking about how anyone ever came up with such a premise for a movie and thought, oh yes.  That seems like a wonderful plan.

It is based on a play, which translates in the narration that Ewell does, but it means that he dominates the movie and there is very little action outside of his apartment.  It was also in the midst of the censor issues in the mid 1950s, so I can see where it might deserve a benefit of the doubt, but it certainly hasn’t aged well.

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