Groundhog Day

     Groundhog Day – “If you gotta shoot, aim high.  I don’t wanna hit the groundhog.”  As Feb 2nd is just around the corner, it reminds me of one of the best romantic comedies made.  It’s brilliant, clever, touching, romantic, and most of all…also funny.  The best part is that it is not too cheesy with the sappy, romance stuff.  It’s more realistic in that he makes monumental mistakes over and over and over again.  The comedy is perfectly intigrated into the story and keeps you entertained as Phil (Bill Murray) learns about himself and others around him.  This is a movie you’ll watch over and over again….pun intended.  Rated 96% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this is a guaranteed winner.  In 2006, the movie was accepted into the US Nation Film Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Plot – A self-centered & sour weatherman, Phil (Bill Murray), the producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), and goofy cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) head to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebration.  Phil is tired of this ritual and just wants to get out, but a blizzard shuts down the roads and they’re forced to stay.  But, Phil wakes up the next day and…well, it’s Groundhog Day again.  He’s confused and originally freaked, but as the day keeps repeating, he starts taking advantage of the situation.  First he starts by hedonistically abusing town members and tries to get closer to Rita, but this continually fails.  Growing more despondent and bitter, he tries to end it by killing the dreaded groundhog and including himself in various ways.  But, he wakes up the next day as good as new.  He talks to Rita who challenges him to improve himself.  He begins improving himself by learning the people, helping them, and then by improving himself as a person.  He finally is able to romance Rita for 1 kiss and convinces her to stay the evening to see what happens…..

Commentary – How the story is portrayed is the brilliance of the film.  It’s realistic in how one might react in that circumstance and that Phil doesn’t magically become some “good person” just because he is tormented.  He doesn’t get to win easily or suddenly become brilliant.  As Phil describes in the movie, you can plan the perfect day, but “it just takes an awful lot of work.”  And, the best part of the film is that the viewer is never let in on what caused it, what stops it, or how long this situation continues for Phil.  To do so would have destroyed the film by having people focus on what caused the situation rather than the story of Phil’s development into a “good person”.  NOT telling you is the brilliance in the film.  But, that doesn’t mean some hints are not in the film.

Trivia – An early draft of the script provided a reason for Phil’s situation.  An ex-lover places a voodoo spell on him to teach him a lesson.  Bill Murray was actually bitten by the groundhog twice during filming….probably felt some tension for what Phil’s character was trying to do to him.  Harold Ramis (director) originally considered Tom Hanks for the lead role, but felt that Hanks was too “nice” for the character.

** Just click the images to check out “Groundhog Day” at Amazon.com. **


Taken

     Taken – “I believe you.  But, that won’t save you.”  This action thriller from 2008 is straight, aggressive, and to the point.  You get so involved in each scene that you don’t even notice that an hour and a half has gone by.  I thought this movie was about 30 minutes long until I checked the clock.  Liam Neeson does an excellent job switching from father to CIA operative and the steps he uses to find his daughter are logical and flowing.  Granted some “convenient” occurances aid in his success, but at least the “unbelievable” is kept to a minimum.  The truly enjoyable part of this film is watching a father saving his daughter and exacting revenge on the bad guys as most people wished happened in real life.  It’s swift, painful, and brutal which is what any father would want if it were his daughter.  Critics didn’t care for the film rating it 58% at Rotten Tomatoes, but the fans liked it at 83% and gave it 4 stars at Amazon.com.

Plot – Bryan (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA operative trying to rebuild a relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).  His ex-wife and wealthy new husband seem to upstage his attempts, even at her birthday.  The next day, Bryan is to meet Kim for lunch and his ex-wife shows up.  They surprise him with his daughter’s plan to go to France/Europe with her 19 year old friend Amanda, which he is against.  After being badgered, he relents giving his daughter an international cell phone to contact him.  Upon arriving, they get to the apartment meeting a handsome stranger.  While getting situated, Bryan calls Kim because she hasn’t called him.  While talking, she notices men entering and kidnapping Amanda.  Bryan gives her instructions to help aid him as she’s being taken.  Bryan arrives in France and surveys the scene for clues.  Then, he meets an old friend from the French Intelligence, who is now a desk bureaucrat, and gets a tip where to start, but warns him to keep it quiet.  He gets to a brothel at a construction site and discovers a prostitute with a major clue that leads him to the kidnappers.  Posing as French agent, he invades the “conversion house” for kidnapped girls and takes one of the kidnappers into a room for brutal torture to get information.  He gains the information needed to discover who is trafficking the girls.  Getting into the mansion, he finds where the slave auction going on and finds his daughter, but is captured.  Able to escape, he finds out who bought her and traces him down……

Commentary – Being that the movie is so straight-forward, I tried not to reveal too much of the critical scenes.  The movie taps into a deep fear of any parent that someone would take their child and the naivety of cruelty in the world.  Reality is that we can not do what Bryan does and, therefore, the emotional grab is the unnerving.  The movie has excellent action and suspense, but lacks the “twist” at the end.  But, as mentioned before, you’ll be so sucked into the story that you’ll never even notice.  This is a thrill ride movie and the excitement is not in the ending, but in the journey.  So, don’t worry about trying to figure it out and stay focused on what you’re watching.  You won’t even have time for a bathroom break because you don’t want to miss anything.

Trivia – The martial arts style used by Neeson in the film is called Nagasu Do…a hybrid styling borrowing Judo, Aikido, and Ju Jitsu.  Liam Neeson was trained by former Special Air Service soldier, Mick Gould, for handling weapons and combative scenes.  The curved knife used in the final fight scene is a karambit.  It’s an Indonesian/Malasian weapon with a fingerhole in the handle making it very difficult to disarm.

** Just click the images to check out “Taken” at Amazon.com **


Frailty

     Frailty –Are we gonna go get us a demon, Dad?”  A creepy, slow horror film from 2002, but it always stuck with me as an excellent movie.  In this modern day of religious fanaticism, this film can touch you regardless of your beliefs.  Get a view from their side and what they believe.  Bill Paxton stars & directs this thought provoking and twisted tale.  It’s the pacing of the film and the tension of the characters that keeps you engaged and unable to look away.  Rated 74% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4 stars at Amazon.com, this film is a tense evening in the making.  Some horror buffs, rate it as high as the 11th best horror film.  I don’t give it that level of praise, but you will stay on the edge of your seat.

Plot – A man (Matthew McConaughey) goes to the FBI office and wishes to speak to Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) regarding the God’s Hand Killer case.  He introduces himself as Fenton and says that his brother Adam is the killer.  Skeptical, Doyle demands proof and Fenton says he can show him where the bodies are and that he’s coming forward because his brother committed suicide.  Doyle wants to see where the bodies are as proof.  On the way, Fenton tells the story through flashback of how his father had a vision that an angel told him he had to kill “demons” that are among us.  The final war between “Good” & “Evil” is happening now and that this is “God’s work”.  The angel tells him that will reveal who the demons are.  Fenton doesn’t believe, but Adam does.  Through divine knowledge, he is given the tools to slay the demons…an axe named “Otis” and work gloves.  His father gets the first victim and forces the boys to watch.  When he lays his hands on them, he can see their sins.  Fenton still doesn’t believe and his father works him severely building a celler to get him to believe, but he resists.  After killing a couple more demons, Fenton runs to the sherriff who brings him home and reveals his unbelief.  The sherriff inspects the shed and his father kills the sherriff to protect their mission.  He imprisons Fenton in the celler until he has seen God and now believes.  Now, he’s ready.  Getting another demon, Fenton is given the chance, but he kills another demon instead.  Back to the present, Fenton & Doyle arrive at the cementary where the victims lay, but there’s one more “demon” on the list…

Commentary – This is an excellent film that makes you think and that is why is resonates with me as a great film.  It’s not a shock film and the gore is kept to a minimum.  The “vision” scene could have been done better, but the remainder is very well done.  The angles and lights of the filming add to its creepiness and mood.  Matthew McConaughey keeps it low key and the chemistry with Powers Boothe maintains the tension throughout the film.  And, the story is well told and reveals important parts over time.  The scare is in the demons that you’re dealing with and you don’t know who is or who is not.  The twist at the end will leave you wondering…..maybe you’ll even look at your wife or husband a little differently.

Trivia – Bill Paxton uses the same beer can throughout the film because it was the only one they could find that looked like it came from the 70’s.  Director’s James Cameron, Sam Raimi, and Stephen King all praised the film.  Finally, with the film set in Texas, it was only natural that 3 Texans, Paxton, McConaughey, and Boothe, would be the primary stars.

*** Just click the images to check out “Frailty” at Amazon.com ***


Bridesmaids

     Bridesmaids – “It’s the first time I’ve seen you look ugly, and that makes me happy!”  This movie was different as the girls get down and dirty.  I had heard the raves about it and how they ‘show the boys how to do it’.  Well, this movie isn’t for children.  The comedy is harsh and the language is brutal, but there is some real funny stuff here.  In no way should it be considered intellectual.  It’s basically a 2 hour cat fight.  There were times I was laughing hard at the jokes.  At other times, I could tell there was “girl humor” that I wasn’t quite getting.  “Guy humor” and “girl humor” is just different and I think women would get the jokes and probably enjoy them.  As a guy, it just didn’t register; however, there’s plenty of jokes the guys will get.  There were some slow parts and it gradually trails into the standard “chick flick” ending.  But, this is still a movie worth watching.  This movie was rated 90% at Rotten Tomatoes and 3.5 stars at Amazon with most complaints being their own “expectations” after hearing the hype.

Plot – Annie (Kristen Wiig) is asked to be maid of honor by Lillian (Mya Rudolph).  Lillian & Annie were childhood friends, but now she’s marrying into wealth and has new friends.  Annie, whose life is in the dumps, just can’t relate to these people.  At the engagement party, she meets the other bridesmaids…Rita, Becca, Megan, and Helen.  Helen (Rose Byrne) & Annie immediately form a rivalry that takes this film to some of its high points.  On the way home, Annie is pulled over by a cop, Officer Rhodes, for busted tail lights and they flirt.  Later, the girls meet for a luncheon and choosing the dresses, which is hilarious, and Annie suggests a bachelorette party at a childhood home, but Helen turns it into a Vegas romp.  On the plane, Annie fears flying and Helen gives her a pill to calm her.  But, it turns her insane and Annie’s out of control.  The plane lands to kick them off and it’s a bus ride home.  Lillian tells Annie she’s having Helen take over.  On the way home, she runs into officer Rhodes and they start an affair.  But, Annie bails when Rhodes comes on too strong.  So, she goes to the bridal shower and Helen has stolen Annie’s original ideas and she flips.  To make matters worse, on the way home, she has a wreck and Rhodes is the officer.  They fight and Annie’s life keeps getting worse.  Annie is visited by Megan (Melissa McCarthy) and given some “tough love”.  So, she starts trying to repair her life and takes some unusual steps.  On the wedding day, Helen shows up and tells Annie that Lillian is missing and they search for her reluctently dragging Rhodes in…Finally, Lillian’s found and many wounds are healed with hilarious and touching results.

Commentary – Watching the cat fight between Helen and Annie was excellent.  Some of the language is over done for shock factor, but there is plenty of good comedy through out the film.  The slow parts in the beginning are the set up to the pending war to come and women should enjoy a film with comedy from their point of view instead of the standard “guy humor” in films.  I do not say this is the funniest of all time, but it is a great movie to watch.  Do not expect “class” from these “ladies”.

Trivia – Melissa McCarthy (Megan) and Ben Falcone (Air Marshall Jon) are real life husband & wife.  Stars Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Nancy Carell, and Melanie Hutsell have all appeared on Saturday Night Live.  And finally, this is the highest grossing R-rated female comedy of all-time edging out Sex in the City.

** Just click the images to check out “Bridesmaids” at Amazon.com **


Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

May 2012 bring you much wealth, health, and happiness.  2012 is going to be a great year.

More great movies will be added soon…..