Last Holiday (2006)

Last HolidayThere is a feel good movie that I have never tired of watching, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. It stars Queen Latifa and a slew of other people that I know from one place or another and it is not afraid to be bold. That movie is Last Holiday. While it is a remake, this is one of those times where I simply approve of the new one over the old one.

Last Holiday 4Georgia Byrd is a shy, introverted woman who works in retail at a store that looks to be a cross between a Walmart and Mall of America. She lives her days in a routine, working, going to church for choir practice, going to a market, walking home, and making a delicious meal for the kid next door which she won’t eat. Georgia has a crush on one of the men who works in her store, Sean Williams (LL Cool J.) and when he finally decides to talk to her, Georgia bumps her head and is given a CAT scan at the behest of the store doctor, Dr. Gupta (Ranjit Chowdhry) and this is where our plot truly starts to pick up.

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Georgia’s scans reveal a fatal brain tumor that has snuck its way in despite her feeling no different. Faced with only a few weeks of life left, Georgia decides to quit her job, liquidate her funds, and do anything and everything that she has been too afraid to do in her life. So she flies to a beautiful hotel to take the vacation she had always dreamed about but had never taken the time to go on. Things begin to take a drastic turn for Georgia Byrd, and she powers through them with ease and grace.

Last Holiday 1At Grand Hotel Pupp, Georgia is faced with the kind of people that most will never be able to interact with while also causing a whirlwind of chaos as she does what she feels to try and enjoy the last days of her life. Having spent her whole life quiet, Georgia now knows that there is no time to waste being quiet and it is this new attitude that draws the attention of Senator Dillings (Giancarlo Esposito), Congressman Stewart (Michael Nouri), Ms. Burns (Alicia Witt), Chef Didier (Gerard Depardieu), and the ire of Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton). Georgia, however, never lets anything faze her for long and continues to go about enjoying her vacation as she makes new, interesting friends and performs thrilling feats.

Last Holiday 2Last Holiday is a feel good movie in my opinion, and it has a theme that is too important to pass up; never waste a moment being something you aren’t. Georgia, when she learns she is going to die, refuses to people please any longer as she had spent her whole life doing that. She decided to enjoy her life, do what she wanted, say what she wanted, and never once regretted a decision that she made. Life is too short and even if Georgia’s diagnosis was wrong and she did get to live, she never, ever let that lesson go for the rest of her life.

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Horrible Bosses

Horrible BossesWhile most people might agree that murder is pushing it a little too far, clearly you’ve never had a boss that is demanding, controlling, abusive, and just flat out evil. Luckily, Charlie Day, Jason Bateman, and Jason Sudeikis have, and you can learn from their trials and tribulations on what you what you can do, what you shouldn’t do, and what you must do when dealing with a psychotic boss.

The three aforementioned actors play Dale, Nick, and Kurt respectively and their bosses are the “man-eater” Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), the “psycho” David Harken (Kevin Spacey), and the “tool” Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell). Each of the titular bosses are in fact horrible, but in the case of Harken, he’s downright murderous. At first our heroes try to simply go about their daily lives while dealing with these monsters, but it doesn’t take long for their patience to be pushed to the breaking point. Clearly the obvious solution is to quit, but these bosses have prepared for that and blacklisting them from every organization in their field is at the top of the list.

HB-CCTR-080 (L-r) JASON SUDEIKIS as Kurt, CHARLIE DAY as Dale and JASON BATEMAN as Nick in New Line Cinema’s comedy “HORRIBLE BOSSES,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

So what’s a beleaguered employee to do? Get drunk, talk about how awful your boss is, and ingeniously decide to switch bosses and kill them off. It’s unfortunate for them that their plan is anything but foolproof and along the way they manage to make so many glaring errors that I was surprised they made it to the credits in more or less one piece.

Horrible Bosses 1This film is a comedy and while its humor is crass at points, I did find myself enjoying the plot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously during the comedic moments but it gets down to business and is suddenly sober when it needs to be. The sign of a good comedy is the ability for its stars to be believably funny. While Jennifer Aniston is notable for her many romantic comedy roles and her decade-long stint on Friends, she hasn’t had much luck in the arena of branching out. This film, however, highlights why Jennifer Aniston is absolutely hilarious in anything she does, she can act, she’s genuinely funny, and much like watching Betty White do things an “old lady” shouldn’t do, watching Jennifer Aniston in this made my day.

Horrible Bosses 4Kevin Spacey, as well, once again showed off his capability of playing cutthroat and ruthlessly manipulative characters as if this were a precursor for House of Cards or something. He’s the epitome of evil and he does so with such finesse that you might actually fear what he’d do to the protagonists if he ever managed to get his hands around them.

Horrible Bosses 3Colin Farrell, playing what amounts to a cameo really, is still funny in what little screen time he has. While drug use is never funny, his cocaine-fueled logic is hysterical. It kind of makes me wish they had used him as much as the other two.

The other important cast members are Lindsay Sloane (Big Red from Bring it On and one of Sabrina Sellman’s revolving door of friends in Sabrina the Teenage Witch) is Dale’s fiancé and Jamie Foxx plays the ridiculous crime expert who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They each fill a niche but that’s about it on their characters.

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The movie is funny, engaging, and it might just keep you on the edge of your seat.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

I Know What You Did Last SummerThere are very few films that followed in Scream’s footsteps and managed to do so successfully. I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer are a duology (because we’re ignoring I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) that follows Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her friends as they are stalked by a killer that is based on the urban legend of The Hook Killer (although it has no relation to Urban Legends, another interesting slasher film that followed in Scream’s wake).

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In the quiet seaside town, Julie and her boyfriend Ray Bronson (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and their best friend Barry Cox (Ryan Phillippe) are supporting their best friend Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as she wins a local beauty pageant. Partying together late that night they, drunkenly, drive along the coast towards a more private beach party and continue drinking as they enjoy a few of their last days together before college separates them forever. Unfortunately on the way home that night they manage to hit someone and, rather than do the intelligent thing as Julie suggests and call the police, they’re bullied by Barry into thinking of their futures and dumping the body in the lake. Of course a friend-non-friend named Max (Johnny Galecki) almost catches them but for the most part the disposal of the body goes off without a hitch… aside from the fact that the guy is still alive.

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A year goes by and as Independence Day rolls around once more, Julie is convinced to go back home and she finds that some things have changed since their secret hit and run. Thus starts one of the most frightening killers that I believe has ever graced the silver screen. Rather than outright kill any of the four teens, the killer stalks them over the course of the weekend, letting them know that he can get to them at any time he pleases. This is an enhanced version of Scream, itself proving that there is no place that you are safe whether it be your own home, a police station, or a party surrounded by your friends. The killer in this film, in the course of a few days, manages to break into Helen’s home and eviscerate her hair while her entire family is there, run Barry over with a car outside of his gym, and throw a dead body into the trunk of Julie’s car and have it gone by the time she and her friends return (this last one is a little more ludicrous than the other two but it’s still fairly impressive).

I Know What You Did Last Summer 2By the time he actually gets around to killing people, the man with the hook is brutally efficient with his weapon of choice, managing to dispatch Barry, a trained police officer, Helen’s older sister Elsa (Bridgette Wilson), and Helen herself in the course of an hour at the most. By the time Julie and Ray figure out anything is wrong, suspicions are running high and Julie believes Ray to be the killer, landing her in hot water when the person she trusts is the actual killer.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer 2I Still Know What You Did Last Summer does what other horror films (bar Scream) fail to do as most of them never bring back the same cast twice. It shows the damage that can be done to someone who has suffered the brutal loss of their friends, subsequently stumbling onto their corpses, and being forced to kill the man attacking you in self-defense. It picks up around one year later and follows Julie as she tries to pick up the pieces of her life. Her friend and roommate Karla Wilson (Brandy Norwood) is doing everything in her power to keep Julie from crumbling and, upon winning a trip to Jamaica, decides that the two of them, Karla’s boyfriend Tyrell Martin (Mekhi Phifer), and another new friend Will Benson (Matthew Settle) should take the trip and enjoy a few days away from life.

I Still Know 2Of course things go wrong, what with the first clue and all being that the answer given to win the trips was glaringly wrong and the second being the fact that they’re trip falls around the time that the island is plagued with horrific weather, but sometimes you just need to believe in the good of the world. Needless to say, things go rather poorly for them.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer 1I Still Know What You Did Last Summer understood what a sequel was supposed to be. Enhance the good, eliminate the bad, and try and keep things new and original but also tying back to the mythos established. The killer is no less effective in this film, with a larger body count to boot, and his methods of terrorizing Julie seem designed to convince those around her that she’s just not quite sane and are so believable that, if this weren’t a movie, you might be inclined to believe it as well.

Rather than trusting her instincts and the fact that a storm has now made leaving impossible for several days, Julie decides to try and enjoy what remains of her vacation with Karla, Tyrell, and Ben. And with the bar flowing with alcohol from Nancy (Jennifer Esposito) I don’t blame them for wanting to ignore the as-of-yet unknown killer and enjoy themselves for once.

I Still Know 1Around the same time (mostly before) Ray is thinking of proposing to Julie and at the last minute decides to fly out and join her and the others in Jamaica. Unfortunately as his friend Dave (John Hawkes) finds out, the killer is still out there and is looking for some intense revenge.

I Know What You Did Last Summer 3Featuring a star studded cast across both films who actually give their all for their roles, this duology is an integral piece of the horror film’s slasher genre. Take a moment to look back on them and enjoy the creepiness that a quality, well-executed slasher film can deliver.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner 1I saw The Maze Runner in theaters without knowing much, if anything, about the movie or the book that it was based on. This can be a common occurrence if you haven’t caught onto the YA trilogy craze as this isn’t the first time I’ve stumbled upon a series without knowing anything about it (Twilight, The Hunger Games, Vampire Academy, and Divergent… basically all of them).

The Maze Runner 3The Maze Runner starts with a young man, played by Dylan O’Brien, who doesn’t know his name in the beginning, as he is raised up into a large courtyard that is almost entirely enclosed. As one of several dozen young men who are in a similar situation Thomas (O’Brien) starts to figure out that this simple, idyllic encampment is anything but. Beyond the strange metal doors is a maze (really a labyrinth since it changes its layout constantly but I suppose The Labyrinth Runner isn’t as succinct) with creatures that are callously efficient at killing people who aren’t named Thomas.

The Maze Runner, 2014This group is led by Alby (Aml Ameen) and includes notable members such as Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) Alby’s second in command, Gally (Will Poulter) an enforcer, Chuck (Blake Cooper) their fat friend, and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) a runner. Each of so-called Gladers have a specialized role within this rudimentary society as they try to survive it and find a way out of this nightmarish scenario.

It’s basically The Hunger Games without a legitimate competition and supposedly Divergent with the end of world as a plot point. It tries, and whether or not it succeeds is entirely up for debate, to take the YA dystopic trilogy and put a new spin on it. Unfortunately there are only so many ways you can do the same concept over and over again until they are all interchangeable. Is this a good thing? Only the next fad will give us any sort of insight.

The Maze Runner 2Eventually the men are joined by a single woman, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), who remembers more than anyone else but still not much else. Things start to pick up before she shows up as Thomas proves his importance to the plot by surviving, and helping Minho as well, a Griever. He can run really well, but because we need a convenient way to inflict conflict there will always be someone who incites it by being disagreeable for no readily understandable reason.

The same tropes populate this genre, so you’d be hard pressed to find anything that is overly unique about one series. But it’s okay because it actually is an interesting film series.

Once the Gladers (their name not mine) finally decide to get proactive, things start to move rather quickly and characters (nameless or otherwise) are killed left and right to continue the illusion that our main characters are in any apparent danger in the first of a planned trilogy. Although with their luck they’ll decide to extend the third book into two movies just to spite us.

Matilda

MatildaMatilda is a powerful story about never giving up and fighting for what you believe in. That our title character is a young girl with burgeoning telekinetic powers is what makes it all the more interesting.

Matilda (Mara Wilson) is as young girl who just doesn’t fit in with her family. In short, she’s intelligent and calm whereas her parents and brother are less than knowledgeable and seem to be quite impulsive. As she grows up, Matilda has a penchant for reading, to the point where she takes a wheelbarrow to the library so that she can read piles of books and learn more about the world she finds herself in. Her family often mistreats her and thinks that she is the stupid one and as she starts to grow more bold she punishes them for their crimes, which include belittling her and flat out lying to the people they sell cars to.

Matilda parentsHer pranks are harmless, but they highlight an edge to Matilda that she is not one to be messed with. Her father Harry Wormwood (Danny DeVito) thinks she is stupid, her mother Zinnia (Rhea Pearlman) thinks she isn’t a priority, and her brother Michael (Brian Levinson) thinks she is nothing more than a nuisance. Clearly they don’t respect her and, aside from the pranks, Matilda does her best to hide her feelings from her family as she moves through her life.

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It is around this time that she starts to discover her abilities and is enrolled in a preparatory school run by the tyrannical principal Agatha Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) . You might be wondering how someone who, could quite nicely be titled a terrorist, could continue teaching our youth. The answer is simple, she punishes the parents as much as she does the students. However, in this dank, depressing school of woe and agony is a shining beacon in Jennifer Honey (Embeth Davidtz) who is as sweet and light as her name would imply. Matilda also befriends a young girl named Lavender (Kiami Davael), who is also tired of the mistreatment from Trunchbull. As if things couldn’t get any worse for her, her family is also under investigation by two federal agents, Bob (Paul Reubens) and Bill (Tracy Walter).

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Over time Matilda starts to open up to Miss Honey, whom she trusts and grows to learn more about including that Miss Honey is Agatha’s stepdaughter, and has been banished from her family’s home. Matilda, wanting to do right by the only person who has ever taken an interest in her, goes out of her way to get things from Miss Honey’s old home to try and lighten her day.

Matilda is a cute and enjoyable movie. It has fantasy elements along with real issues that should never be ignored, from child abuse, to poorly run educational facilities. But even in the darkest moments of the film, there is always a shining light because of Mara Wilson.

Cursed

CursedThere are three versions of Cursed. One that is awesome, one that should never have been released, and one that was never released. You might be wondering how I know anything about the last one, and while details are scarce I can tell you right here and now that what details we have on it prove that it was the best of the trio. Unfortunately, the two versions which were released had their own issues. Almost all of these issues stemmed from the fact that the original version was probably fine and overzealous people decided it probably would have failed. The other issue, though, is picking out which parts are new and which ones are leftover from the original version. Here’s a brief explanation of the overall interesting process that is the film Cursed.

Cursed 1Cursed is about two siblings (in the unreleased version it’s about three friends, two of whom are played by Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci in every version but are brother and sister in the two versions released) who find themselves attacked by a strange beast shortly after they watch it maul a poor, defenseless young woman. It turns out that they were attacked by a werewolf. Of course Ricci’s character, Ellie, is in denial about everything because she believes in things that are grounded in realism. Eisenberg’s character, Jimmy, totally believes in it and he gets a sort of Peter Parker-esque origin story. A bully who hates him, a pretty girl dating the bully who now likes him because she isn’t a shallow twit, and best friends who disappear when the plot is convenient.

The major difference between the two versions released are the rating, which left the gore on the cutting room floor. Mind you, this is a horror film. The major difference between those two and the unreleased version is the supporting cast and the plot! Reshoots were ordered because executives didn’t believe that it would do well at the box office (it’s always the executives who ruin good films and directors who ruin bad films, you know). Unfortunately for us, reshoots weren’t done until well over a year after the film was supposed to be released. These reshoots excised characters entirely, Skeet Ulrich played Ellie’s original love interest and was the third friend, Heather Langenkamp, Scott Foley (Of Scandal fame), Robert Foster, and Corey Feldman were all cut from the film.

Cursed 3Other actors, such as Michael Rosenbaum (who was, at the time, well known from being on Smallville and thus it’s strange how he isn’t credited anywhere in the film or on websites), Judy Greer, Milo Ventimiglia (who would become famous shortly thereafter on Heroes), Shannon Elizabeth, and Mya were all added in during reshoots. Where Joshua Jackson fits into all of this is strange and weird and we’ll never really know. The tone of the film was irreparably changed by this major upheaval and people noticed because it was rather glaring.

Cursed 2When you have a film, any film, don’t cut down to appease to a certain audience because you’ll invariably alienate that audience because they’re not stupid. An R-rated film should be released as an R-rated film and not cut down to PG-13 to reach “a wider audience.” It’s a stupid reason to cut a film and it resulted in Cursed failing spectacularly even though it’s a fun movie in and of itself.

Men in Black

Who doesn’t love a good movie about aliens living among us? The media would have you believe that they’re all out to kill us or enslave us, but Men in Black has an important message to all of you. Aliens are among us and they can be friendly just as often as they can be murderous A-holes.

Men in Black

Meet the Men in Black, Agent K who is played by Tommy Lee Jones and his partner Agent D played by Richard Hamilton as they go on a mission to intercept illegal aliens, literally. During the mission, Agent D decides that he is too old for this any longer and asks to be neuralyzed into retirement, basically your memories are wiped and replaced with new ones to cover up the discrepancies. Because you aren’t ready to know about aliens, you know… just in case one wanders into your home and murders you, it’s still important that you don’t know they exist.

Agent K is tasked with finding a new partner and inexplicably (later explicably) chooses James Edwards, his memories are altered and he becomes Agent J the newest edition to the M.I.B. who is going to bring some different techniques to the collective.

Apparently aliens have been departing Earth en masse and it’s up to our Agents to discover why this is. Of course, coincidences are next to nil and everything is connected here for convenient plot reasons. Their mission leads them to a farm where an alien space ship has crashed and it is here where things pick up. Some aliens are killing and replacing people and Agents K and J must stop their plan before it grows too out of hand.

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Men in Black was a successful film and it began a small franchise even though technically the movie was what made it a franchise, what with it being based off of a comic book and all. This is a comedy film to its core and it takes some serious concepts, illegal immigration (from a galaxy far, far away of course), the importance of secrecy, and the importance of team work and it plays them fast and loose for the most comedic value that it can get out of them all.

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The primary antagonist is played by Vincent D’Onofrio and it seems that D’Onofrio quite enjoys playing the villain as he so often does. Linda Fiorentino plays Laurel Weaver, who eventually joins up as Agent L despite never appearing in a sequel. And Zed, the head of the M.I.B., is played by Rip Torn. They round out the supporting cast and of course there’s the occasional alien here or there but the primary focus remains almost entirely on Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as they find their chemistry and work to stop this alien takeover.

Armageddon

ArmageddonMy family and I have a penchant for loving disaster films. Death and destruction cast out at a startlingly fast rate are an intense draw for us, probably more than it should be. The disaster movie has been around for a long time and in recent decades CGI has given way to even better looking movies. One of the most interesting disaster movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen it a lot, is Armageddon with Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler.

Armageddon is about an asteroid “the size of Texas” that is heading towards Earth and it is up to us to save the planet (after several cities have been struck by fragments of course… well someone has to die or it isn’t our problem…). The movie decides to cast logic aside, and if you listen to the BTS commentary you’ll hear some people wondering why they were ignored on certain aspects of the film. One glaring issue I had was when Bruce Willis’ character made it abundantly clear that the well trained astronauts would have a harder time learning to manipulate a large drill than the oil drillers would have in learning to operate… a SPACE CRAFT!

What.

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That doesn’t make any sense, and when the director was called out on it, he ignored reason and went along with it. Granted we do love our everyday Joes’ being able to save our planet but… them… I don’t even know anymore.

Of course this is a film, so we can’t go very far without a little romance thrown into the mix. Liv Tyler plays Willis’ character’s daughter (respectively their characters are Grace and Harry Stamper and their relationship is awkward at best). Harry, as a father of course, is overly protective of his twenty-plus year old daughter’s sexuality and as such absolutely hates A.J. Frost (played by Affleck). But you know those daughters, always dating what daddies hate because he isn’t paying enough, if any, attention to you.

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This particular love story presents us with one of the most interesting things in the film. Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck’s character are sharing an intimate moment together at one point and in the background is a song playing… a song being performed by Liv Tyler’s father Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Just let all of that sink in when you re-watch the film.

Because this is an ensemble film about saving the world, we are treated to a collection of quirky supporting characters. They are brought together by NASA guy Dan Truman who is played by Billy Bob Thorton and their team consists of several interesting characters. Will Patton is Charles “Chick” Chapple, Steve Buscemi is the crazy Rockhound, Michael Clarke Duncan is Bear, Ken Campbell is Max Lennert, Owen Wilson (yup that guy, in a bit role of course) is Oscar Choi, and the minor character of Fred Noonan played by Clark Brolly. Partway into the film they are joined by Peter Stormare’s Lev Andropov. They each have some sort of significance, unless they die before doing anything of note and a couple of them actually do. But this is a disaster film, who the hell expects the main characters to make it out of one of these films? Yes, sometimes a few members of the cast make it out alive before the credits roll, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that features the same characters from beginning to end without dying.

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Armageddon is a good, old fashioned, fun disaster flick and I think it’s time to dust it off and slip it back in.