[May 22] “Cocktail” (1988)
Tom Cruise plays Brian Flanagan, a money-obsessed young ex-soldier who dreams of making it in the corporate world, but can’t without a college degree. He gets a part-time job as a bartender to pay for college, but it turns out that he’s really good at it. But when he meets a girl he really likes, he has to figure out what his priorities really are. I’m not really sure if this was a good movie, but it was definitely fun. Tom Cruise is charming as always, and Bryan Brown (who I don’t remember seeing in anything) really steals the scenes he’s in as the mentor/friend Doug Coughlin. The overall storyline is pretty predictable, but the characters seem three-dimensional, and I notably liked the dialogue. The last few minutes of the movie frustrated me, though, it seems like they wanted a dramatic climax, although the rest of the movie had a pretty relaxed tone, so it ended up being pretty jarring and seemed out of character.
[May 23] “Bad Boys II” (2003)
The sequel to Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as constantly bickering narcotics cops Mike and Marcus, this time investigating the source behind a bunch of Ecstasy that’s making its way to Miami. Things get complicated because Mike is secretly dating Marcus’ sister Syd, who also happens to be an undercover DEA agent investigating the same drug kingpin. I didn’t like this one as much as Bad Boys, it really ramped up the action, which means there wasn’t as much character development, and the comedy seemed more basic. Michael Bay being Michael Bay, the action scenes are pretty cool, and there are a lot of explosions. Jordi Mollà really hams it up as the villain Johnny Tapia, and that’s both bad and good. Also, the relationship between Mike and Marcus didn’t seem as interesting as it was in the first movie, they seemed simultaneously colder to each other but also more familiar, and there wasn’t much tension despite it being implied.
[May 24] “Cloverfield” (2008)
Cloverfield is a found footage film that follows a bunch of twenty-something New Yorkers during a huge monster’s rampage throughout the city. I don’t usually like monster/thriller type movies that much (unless they’re amazing like Alien and Aliens), but Cloverfield was incredibly well made. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a found footage film before, I thought it would be gimmicky, but it works really well – the actors don’t seem like they’re acting, they seem like real people that just happened to be filmed, down to some pretty awkward moments. The first act of the movie is set during a surprise farewell party, and has sort of a romantic drama tone, and it was so compelling that I was actually disappointed when the monster showed up. My disappointment didn’t last long, though. I also thought the glimpses of the tape that was being recorded over was a cool touch, it helped give background to the main characters without taking us out of the story.
[May 25] “Clerks” (1994)
Clerks follows convenience store clerk Dante and his friend and next door video store clerk Randal through a day at work. This was director Kevin Smith’s first movie, and it’s extremely low budget and filmed in black and white, but I can see why it made him famous. I’m not really sure how to describe this movie; it kind of reminded me of Friday in that it’s just two guys hanging out, and stuff happens occasionally. It’s not slow though, it’s entertaining and well paced. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the rude/crass characters, although I’m pretty sure that was just me getting used to the tone of the movie. I had seen the scene where Dante and Randal discuss the morality of the rebels blowing up the second Death Star (in Return of the Jedi) when it was still in construction before, I think it’s pretty famous. I wonder if making Finn a toilet installer in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a homage to that. I also think it’s cool that many of Kevin Smith’s movies are set in the same universe, I’m looking forward to seeing more.
[May 26] “Heavy Metal” (1981)
Heavy Metal is an animated science fiction anthology film made for adults, based on serials from the science fiction/fantasy comics magazine of the same name. I’m not familiar with the magazine, but apparently it’s well known for dark and erotic themes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything animated that was explicitly meant for adults, and I found it pretty weird. Each of the stories in the anthology was animated by a different team, and so they all look somewhat different. The framing story featuring the evil Loc-Nar is pretty tenuous, but it’s good to have something to tie everything together. The quality of the stories varied, my favorite was probably the classic good vs. evil story Taarna. One of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy movies, The Fifth Element, was clearly inspired by Heavy Metal, definitely by the Harry Canyon story (New York cabbie, pretty redhead needing help gets into his car, etc.) and the Great Evil seemed similar to the Loc-Nar. Both Den and Harry Canyon have some pretty pulpy sexual content, which was interesting. I didn’t like Captain Stern and B-17 as much. I found the movie as a whole very weird, but I’m glad to have seen it.
[May 27] “The Bourne Identity” (2002)
After all the non-standard movies of the past few days, I really wanted to watch a normal movie, so we ended up watching The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who discovers that he has the skills of an super-assassin, and that people are out to kill him for reasons unknown. I’ve seen this movie before, but it was a long time ago, and I didn’t remember much. It’s a really good movie though, and not just because I have a weakness for action/spy movies. It does a great job at building tension, and it also isn’t dominated by the action scenes, there are a lot of nice character moments. I liked Franka Potente as Marie, she does a good job of being scared of Bourne but also being intrigued and attracted to him. I believe this was Matt Damon’s first action role, I read that he spent a lot of effort building his muscles and he did a lot of his own stunts, which is pretty cool because his character does a lot of dangerous things. I’m looking forward to seeing the other two movies in the trilogy.
[May 28] “21 Grams” (2003)
21 Grams follows three people all connected by a tragic accident – Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a suburban housewife with two young daughters, Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-convict who has pulled his life together through his newfound Christian faith, and Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a man dying of heart failure and dealing with a rocky marriage. This is the second movie in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Death” themed trilogy. I reviewed the third movie, Babel, last week, and just like Babel, this movie is pretty depressing too. The most notable thing about 21 Grams is that it’s told through a series of scenes from the main characters’ lives, all in seemingly random order. We don’t follow a character or a chronology for any more than a couple of minutes. That makes for a confusing experience to start with, but events become clear as the movie progresses, and it coalesces into one cohesive story. All the actors do a really good job, I was especially sympathetic to Benicio Del Toro’s tortured character. Recommended, but just be aware that it will make you really sad.