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Nebraska (2013)

One billion would have been better. But I guess for Nebraska, eh, a million ain’t so shabby.

After many years of boozing, whoring around and sitting on his lazy rump, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) finally gets the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to claim a million dollars. The way in which Woody finds out about this offer is through the mail, which obviously means it’s a scam put on by some of these magazines, in hopes that they’ll get more and more subscriptions. Everybody around Woody sees this, but he doesn’t, so therefore, some go along with it. That “some”, ends up being his youngest son David (Will Forte), a guy who is stuck in a rut of his own as well. Together, the two embark on a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska where Woody hopes that the money will be, even though David knows this not to be true. On the way to their destination, however, they meet up with old family, friends and acquaintances, telling them all about the path they have set in front of them, and for what reasons. Some see this as a joke and know it’s crazy-talk, but some actually take this story to heart, and get a little bit threatening, feeling as if they’re owed a bit of that cash-flow just as much as Woody is.

Alexander Payne has made a career out of these types of movies: Smart, slow, but realistic character-studies about people whom you feel are actual, real-life human-beings. They also mostly have to do with a road-trip occurring at some point or another, which is exactly what this flick is dedicated to, but they never quite play-out with the same old wacky goofs or hijinx you usually see from road-trip movies. Instead, you see real people, talking about real things and going their daily-lives, as if they really were “the real thing” .

First time the two have shared a smile together in 45 years. More romantic, than depressing if you think about it.

First time the two have shared a smile together in 45 years. More romantic, than depressing if you think about it.

So yup, in case you couldn’t understand by now, Payne usually excels in these types of movies, and this movie only proves that statement as fact, although it surely wouldn’t be the clear-cut example I’d use in a prestigious argument, if and whenever I found myself in one.

The idea of whether or not this whole “winning one million dollars” stipulation is really a scam, or something that Woody actually received, doesn’t quite matter, as it’s used as a stepping-stool for showing what America’s past-time was like, and still is to this day. Some may be surprised by this, but I actually do have friends and family living out in some of the rural areas shown in this movie, which not only gave me a closer-connection to it, but also made me feel like all of the raw, rather saddening vibes this movie was giving off, were deserved. This is a snap-shot of America that we don’t usually see depicted in the movies, and even if we do, it’s usually dollied-up to make it look like a Southern bumpkin town that’s full of all sorts of fun and happenin’ events.

But not in this movie it ain’t! Instead, what we do get a glimpse at is an area of our nation that’s worn-out, tired, broken-down, sad and just waiting to be blown off the world, much like most of the people that inhabit the cities are. They’re on their last limbs and looking down the barrel already, and yet, they still continue to live their lives, as happily and as winningly as they can. That’s what I noticed when I visited my relatives all of those years ago, and that’s the same exact feeling I got from this movie; they didn’t care where they lived or what it was that surrounded them, they were just happy to be alive and doing the things that they do. Even if those “things” simply meant going outside, finding a chair, sitting in it and watching the cars go by, then so be it. They’re just living, man. And so should you!

Anyway, Payne’s raw emotions of what the center-core of America is really like, rang true with me. However, there’s one glaring difference between this movie and all of his others, which became more and more evident as it went along: He’s only the director here, whereas the writing duties are given to Bob Nelson this time around. To be honest, I kind of feel like a d-bag for having a problem with this aspect, considering that most of the movie does in fact feel like an Alexander Payne movie, but there was still something missing for me that could have gotten it over that hump into where I’d be fully taken in by the material, no matter how dry it was.

See, the whole movie plays out with this soft, rather mundane tone that evokes plenty of emotions of what the people out in the Midwest most likely feel on a day-to-day basis. That part of the movie worked well and showed Payne’s talents in full-fledged form; however, when things began to get a bit too theatrical and sentimental, something didn’t feel right. Because on one hand, you have this movie that’s playing out is if its real life, where conversations don’t really start and they don’t really end neither; and then on the other, you have this one movie that seems like it wants to be a heartfelt tale about an estranged son and his daddy reconnecting after all of these years of not really seeing one another, or even “getting” each other when they did see the other. So basically, you have these two different movies, that sort of want to say the same thing, but can’t. They’re directions are driving them out in different ways, but somehow, are meant to be reconnected in the end by the fact that we all want to see a happy ending, even if it is a realistic one. To me, this didn’t quite mix as well, and probably would have been better if Payne took over writing-credits in the first place.

Like with most of Payne’s movies too, the people he chooses for his casts may not be the most famous, notable names in the world, but they’re still inspired choices nonetheless, and nothing could ever be further from the truth than here with whom we have here. It makes sense that Payne would mostly cast little-to-unknown names and faces in this movie, because it goes almost hand-in-hand with a premise that’s as simple as you could get, with a look that’s not really trying to reinvent-the-wheel or anything. It’s just trying to tell a honest, easy-going story, with characters that deserve one. Especially a character like Woody Grant, played to utter-perfection by an Oscar-hopeful Bruce Dern.

A man at his crossroads. No, literally.

A man at his crossroads. No, literally.

Most may know the name (father of Laura), but some won’t be able to match the face at all. And that’s fine, because it actually works a lot more in Dern’s favor since he’s able to sink his teeth into Woody, the type old-corker that you see in these movies and is usually played-up for laughs, but instead, gives us a raw look at a man that’s been through mostly thick and thin with his life, and is about sick and tired of it. However, he never lets you know that he’s a sad, old fella. You can tell just by looking into his eyes, or listen to the tone in his speech, whenever it is that he actually does in fact say something. Woody’s just your normal senior-citizen who wants to make some more meaning out of his life, and feels like these million dollars may just be the main resource to help him fulfill that dream, regardless of it’s real or not. Dern’s great here and shows us why he deserves bigger, and far better roles than what he’s been given through his long career. Most likely, this will be the role to ensure that.

Same goes for June Squibb, the hard-spoken wife of Woody, Kate, who may also be looking at a nomination by the end of the year as well. Squibb is so great here because she’s nasty, mean, lean and not afraid to speak her mind. She can be a bit of an old, haggy bitch when she gets on Woody’s case for doing something, but when she backs him up when all of these other people seem to try and schmooze him out of getting a cut of the money, you feel a certain ounce of sympathy for her, as you know that she loves her husband, but most importantly, she loves her family and won’t stop at anything to protect them. You love her when she’s making you laugh by letting everybody know how she feels at any given moment, and you love her even more when she shows that there’s an actual feeling of emotion she has for her fam-squad, which brought a bit of a tear to my eye.

As for Will Forte, the one who clearly doesn’t have the most experience when it comes to subtle, dramatic-acting, the guy ends up doing pretty damn well. Granted, he isn’t really stretching himself far beyond his limits, but the guy still shows us that he can be funny, even while he is being earnest, proving that the guy does have some real comedic-timing. Same can be said for Bob Odenkirk, who plays his brother, Ross. Then again though, I feel like most of you already know that by now.

Consensus: In his whole list of lovely gems, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska may not be the best, but it’s still an honest, funny and well-acted look inside the lives of people who don’t really do much with their lives, and yet, are still very interesting to watch and just hang around with.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Whose line is next?"

“Whose line is next?”

Photo’s Credit to:


Citizen Ruth (1996)

CitizenRuthNever would have happened if the people involved weren’t silly, and just wrapped their willies. Or, I guess just “willy”.

Poor old Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern). Not only is she homeless, addicted to huffing paint on a regular-basis, and not able to see her kids, but now she’s pregnant with her fourth child. And trust us, four is enough for her, and lord, even she knows it. That’s why she plans on having an abortion as soon as possible, that is, until the “Baby Savers” get ahold of her and try to make her keep it, all in the good lord’s name who don’t really seem to care about her or the baby, they just want the publicity that somebody is listening to their ways and not thinking otherwise. But Ruth knows that she wants to get rid of the baby, so she then gets taken in by the pro-choice group that actually had a spy (Swoosie Kurtz) in the pro-life group. At first, things with the pro-choice group seem all fine and dandy, with Ruth getting all sorts of lovely treatment in hopes that she’ll get rid of the baby and stick to their side, however, things change around once the pro-life group offers her $15,000 to keep the baby and let it live. And then, the whole deal gets changed around again once pro-choicers offer her the same amount, if not more to get rid of it. What’s poor old little Ruth to do when she has all of this money being waved around in her face, and a baby still in her stomach? My oh my, questions, questions, questions.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen just about all of his movies that Alexander Payne sure does love to poke fun at people. But already in the year 2013, we know this. Back in 1996, nobody had a clue what this guy was capable of doing, or even what his name was. All that they knew was that there was a movie out, that dealt with abortion, starred Laura Dern and that was basically it.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I'm not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I’m not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

And over 17 years later, that’s all people still know of it as and quite frankly, rightfully so.

While I can’t get on Payne’s case too much considering that this was his first movie, I will say that he does go for the gull when it comes approaching the topic on-hand. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, the abortion debate will always be one up for much discussion and controversy, and it’s how funny Payne turned that on its side in a satirical way, highlighting both sides to the best of his ability. Of course it’s easy to poke fun at the heavy-duty Christians that pray to the lord, hail him as the almighty and banish all those who decide to kill their babies to hell, but it never seemed so easy to poke the same type of fun at the liberals on the other side of the coin, which is what really shocked me here. Rather than showing which side he’s on more, he sort of just lets them both speak for themselves, with them both seeming greedy and ill-tempered, yet well-intentioned, as if what they are doing is what they truly believe in as the right way to go about things in your daily-life. Their only problem is that they don’t know how to go about it in a nicer way.

That said, the movie definitely doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know about the subject of abortion, the people that get them, perform them or support them as an action. Mainly, the movie just gives us a story about a girl who gets caught in the middle of this whole media-frenzy where she and her baby are the center of attention, and the topic of abortion is lingering over it. While I do, once again, give Payne credit for spinning this in a way to where it plays both sides view-points in a sympathetic, fair manner, the movie itself just never got over that hurdle for me to where I was totally, and utterly involved.

Plenty of food-for-thought if you think about how far we’ve come as a society in discussing the topic of abortion, but that’s all it is: A thinking piece. Sure, we have characters, character-development, a witty script and even some heartfelt insights to the way humans interact, think and get their points across, but they all just feel like filler for the real attraction of this whole movie: Abortion. I know it sounds terrible to use that as a selling-point for a movie, but it seems like that’s what the creators behind this movie did, which doesn’t matter it any better. It just makes it a smart decision in order to get your movie seen and noticed by dozens of people, which is why I have to give more credit to Payne.

Good job on the advertising, bud. Not-so good job on the final-product itself. Oh well. You picked yourself back up in the years to come, so all is forgiven.

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that's done me!

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that’s done me!

But where this flick really feels like a total disappointment is in the way that it wastes a very talented cast, giving them material that feels like a bunch of ham-handed speeches that do have a point, but are shown to us in the wrong format. For instance, you have great character actors like Kurtwood Smith, Swoozie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place and even M.C. Gainey showing up, looking like they’re going to bring some of their miraculous personalities to the script, but in reality, all they do is become victims of Payne’s preaches. They all do what they can to make the material worth more than just a series of thought-provoking lines, speeches and discussion-starters, but overall, they just succumb to the problems and are left with nothing else to do.

And then of course we have Laura Dern as Ruth, and as talented as this gal may be, she too can’t help but become a victim to the weak-material, if not even worse due to how annoying her character can be at times. I get that Ruth is supposed to be a despicable piece of a white girl trailer-trash, however, there could have been more substance to her than what we got. Once again, Dern’s performance is another case where we have a terribly talented actress, given this piece of material that has reaching for the stars, but ends up coming down empty-handed with nothing to show. Well, except for maybe a spot on her resume that shows she’s got those indie-chops.

Consensus: Payne never chooses a side to stick with in Citizen Ruth, and is the smartest decision he makes throughout the whole entire movie, which brings up a lot of smart, thought-provoking points about the abortion debate, but ends up being just that, no substance added or involved.

5 /10 = Rental!!

Like I always say, "Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has his 'stache."

Like I always say, “Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has the ‘stache.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Election (1999)

Exactly why I never ran for high school president. Well, that and because it’s just lame to begin with.

Election tells the story of Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), a popular high school history and civics teacher in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, and one of his students, Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), around the time of the school’s student body elections. When Tracy obtains a nomination for class president in the school election, McAllister believes she does not deserve the title, and tries his best to stop her from winning.

High school elections are probably the dumbest things I ever had to go through throughout my 4 years of high school because it’s the same old shit every single year. People promise to change the school, they promise to listen to what you, the student has to say, they promise to talk with the principal about certain changes to the school that will never, ever happen, and when that’s all said and done, it’s onto the next year, and the year after that, then after that, and then so on and so forth. As you can tell, I hate high school elections and this film reminded me exactly why.

Co-writer/director Alexander Payne takes what we usually expect from “teen comedies” and gives us something a hell of a lot smarter and dark than anybody would expect. Payne starts this flick off as if it was a normal, every day type of high school comedy with all of the goody-goodies, the hard-working teachers, the goofy jocks, and of course, the lesbian girl that nobody really likes or wants to be around. But when the actual elections come around in the film, that’s when things really start to get interesting and very mean-spirited, but in a good way.

At its core, this film is a biting satire about how teachers don’t really like the students and how students don’t really like the teachers. It’s pretty much one of those unsaid understandings that are always around in high school. Of course, there are those teachers that everybody loves and feel like they can go up to and talk about anything with, but mostly, the teachers themselves aren’t as fond of you as you aren’t of them. I’ve learned this throughout all of my 4 years of high school and have realized that the quicker I understand this, the better and that’s when things for me in my high school life started clicking. Then again, a lot of teachers started to dislike for my “deauchy” attitude towards them but it’s mainly because I just knew that there couldn’t be a friendship between me and them. Sounds strange, I know, but that’s how I have lived for so long and that’s how I may always live.

But enough about me, more about this flick that we got here. Payne’s writing for this film is awesome because not only is it funny in the way it satirizes high school as we know it, but also shows us a funny glimpse at how life should not be based on just high school. Sure, sometimes we’re stupid, sometimes we’re mean, sometimes we make dumb decisions that regret the next morning, and sometimes we deserved to be laughed at. But when it’s all said and done, it’s high school and in the end, we’ll be OK. Maybe that’s not the smartest message out there in today’s world, and I can probably bet you that there are about 10 other flicks just like this with the same theme, but Payne’s message hit well and felt like a well-deserved pay-off after all of the time he dedicated to these characters and all of their immoral acts.

My only complaint with this film would probably have to be that I never really laughed all that much, even as much as it wanted me to. Yeah, the satire bites and there is a lot here that’s very honest, if a little too honest, but I still never caught myself with a gut-busting laugh and I think that’s just because it’s too dark to laugh at some of the stuff here. Some character’s lives go into some pretty sad places and even though the film seems to be pointing the finger at them and showing us that “their misery = humor”, I still couldn’t find a way to laugh. I don’t know, maybe I love human beings too much to laugh at their misfortunes but not much here made me laugh like I expected to with a guy like Alexander Payne.

Casting Matthew Broderick in the lead role of Mr. McAllister is an obvious riff on his days as the iconic hookey player, Ferris Bueller, but Broderick brings more to this role and makes it more than just a one-joke character. Mr. McAllister is one of those teachers that thinks he can change every student who ever needs him and loves to be involved with his school in anyway that he can. However, Tracy Flick is a girl he can just not like (mainly because his buddy boned her) and because of this problem he has, his life spirals out of control and you can’t help but just feel bad for the guy. There are plenty of great scenes that actually made me laugh just because Broderick has that great comedic timing that has done him so well, even all of these years later, but there’s a certain amount of honesty to his character that makes you feel for him, even when he betrays his morals (or is it ethics?). Actually, that same honesty could probably be said about another character here as well: Tracy Flick.

Reese Witherspoon is absolute dyno-mite as Tracy Flick, everybody’s favorite (or not favorite) perky, goody goody two shoes that wants to do every single activity and be the face of the high school, just so she can have that it can make her look good for college. Flick seems a bit like an innocent character at first, but after awhile, we soon start to realize that she is anything but and once she starts to find out that she’s going to have to fight for her presidency, that’s when her character starts to get lean, mean, and crude, unlike any other character Reese has ever played before. Since Reese has devoted most of her time to lame, chick flick roles, it’s nice to get a reminder of just how awesome of an actress she can be and how powerful her skills no matter who the character is. Tracy Flick is definitely one of her more iconic roles and it’s one that reminded me of plenty of other girls I knew in high school that just bothered me to death. Yep, I’m still at that stage where I look back at all of the bad things in high school but that will probably change within the next year or so.

Chris Klein is pretty good as the dumb jock, Paul Metzler, who gets conned into running against Tracy for president. The problem with this character is that this guy is so goofy, so dumb, that it almost doesn’t seem like this guy is even a human character that we can root for, even if he is the nicest character out of everybody else here. Even as much as I liked Jessica Campbell as his little sister, Tammy, the film never gives her enough screen-time and the rest of the flick, she is sort of just forgotten about until a last-minute montage showing all of the characters and what they’ve been up to as of late.

Consensus: Election may not be as funny as it would like to think of itself as being, but the satire is biting and very honest with it’s three-dimensional characters that do bad things, but you still care for, mainly because of the great performances from the cast, mainly Reese Witherspoon in a role you have never seen her in before. That is, unless you have already seen this flick.


The Descendants (2011)

Who would ever want to cheat on Clooney?

Matt King (George Clooney), the trustee of his family’s ancestral land in Hawaii, tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a serious boating accident and falls into a coma.Under pressure from different factions to sell the land, he belatedly learns a disturbing secret about his wife.

Director and writer Alexander Payne hasn’t been around since 2004 with ‘Sideways’ and it took him awhile to see what he was going to choose next. Thankfully it was this one.

This film reminded me of Payne’s earlier film, ‘About Schmidt‘ because it had some very funny times where I laughed that were also under-lined with real heart-wrenching moments as well. The humor here is a lot more dry and sarcastic, rather than being straight-up in-your-face about it, but either way worked because it had me laughing just about every time without ever feeling forced.

Where the film really works is where it gets emotional and shows real heart in how it handles each and every situation this film goes through. Moments and situations that you think are going to go one way, end up happening a completely different way then you imagined and the way Payne makes us feel something not only for these characters, but this story as well is where the film really worked.

Life is very unpredictable and it can sometimes be very messy, but for this Matt King guy, it seems like his life is really at a loss. However, the plot itself doesn’t feel like a major let-down and instead of hammering us over the head with constant mushy moments that would seem forced in many other films, it goes for the subtle realism that comes in anybody’s life and Payne always reminds us that it’s not just how we act about ourselves, but also with each other. It’s better to be there for one another, rather than not being there at all and I think that’s what this film really did a good job with trying to convey.

My main problem with this film is that I feel like the whole angle where Matt is stuck in this huge-ass sale of his ancestor’s land was just annoying, and kind of got in the way of the actual dilemma at hand. With this sub-plot, the film was trying to show us how Matt is in a more conflicting moment in his life and how he has all of this pressure on his back of basically getting rid of his whole family history, which to me seemed way to obvious and unneeded considering Matt is already finding himself with his family. I think without this sub-plot the film would have been a lot more easier to feel emotion for but instead it just adds on another idea that was not needed.

I also had a problem with the pacing because I really did feel as if it was a little bit too much of a languid pace for me. There were moments where this film really seemed like it was picking up some steam, and then there were times where it just dragged on to show us something about this character that I didn’t feel was needed and more of Payne just giving us moments of silence rather than characters actually talking.

George Clooney gives a great performance as Matt King, and it’s almost to a point where it’s too hard to tell a good Clooney performance from a bad Clooney performance. Here as King, he down-plays his natural charisma but he still has moments where he show that charm that makes him so damn likable in the first place, which makes the comedy work even more when he’s being a tad goofy. There are also many emotional scenes where Clooney is supposed to show his grief and pain through his facial expressions and I think it really works well and I think Clooney was a very good choice for this role.

As with ‘Up in the Air’, Clooney is given another young-actress to accompany him throughout the whole film and almost up-stage him here with Shailene Woodley in a great role as the rebellious daughter, Alexandra. She is mean, angry, and a little bothered by her dad but still has enough love and sympathy for him where she can ease up and realize that their whole family is going through a hard time. Nick Krause plays her boyfriend, Sid, who reminds me of a younger Keanu Reeves but in a good way; Beau Bridges is funny and really cool as cousin Hugh; Robert Forster plays the King’s father-in-law and boy did he get old, but he’s still good; and Judy Greer is awesome here as King’s wife’s boyfriend’s wife. I know that was a pretty long one but hey, I tried to make sense.

Speaking of King’s wife’s boyfriend, he is played a face that nobody has seen in quite a long time, a guy by the name of Matthew Lillard. Yes, Shaggy from Scooby-Doo is a person that some chick would rather bone than George Clooney. I think this casting was awesome because Lillard is actually very good and shows a lot of range as a dramatic actor and it’s just such a surprise to see how old this guy looks now as well. His character is also fleshed-out very well as is every other character in this film and I think that’s why this film really works in the end, because nobody is a caricature. They are all real people and all have real feelings, even if they may be a little bit messed up.

Consensus: The Descendants has problems with it’s languid pacing but is very sweet, emotional, and rich in character development where it shows how people deal with grief and the unpredictability of life. Not my favorite film of the year but a very good one that I’m glad to see that Alexander Payne wrote and directed.


Sideways (2004)

Even though I’m not a wine drinker (under-age, holla!) I must say that I really did wanna have some by the end of this.

Pinot noir lover Miles (Paul Giamatti) convinces his soon-to-be-married friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to enjoy his last days of bachelorhood in style. But the pair end up choosing women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen) over wine.

What we have here is something that writer/director Alexander Payne is great at: creating human characters, and putting in them in funny but realistic situations. Not the man’s best, but still great stuff.

Payne writes this film really well because he puts a lot of humor into his plot and characters. There’s a lot to be said here about a guy that can use wine-tasting as a romantic dramedy premise, and not make it seem goofy at all. It’s about how these two best-friends, that are totally opposite and were college freshman roommates, are going through a mid-life crises, and honestly don’t have any idea what to do with themselves. There’s a lot of great one-liners, and great scenes as well, but the real heart of the film is the fact that it all has a purpose. You can’t give up on life, or love for that matter, no matter how much it gets you down. If that means having a whole bunch of pinot noir to drink your all your pains away, then so be it, but just understand that life isn’t such a sad place after all.

My only problem with this film is not so much the film itself, it’s just that I don’t quite think I know that much about what this film was targeting for. I’m only 18 and haven’t really had my mid-life crisis just yet, or not that I know of, and I can’t really say that this film spoke louder than words to me, like it did to many others. Once again, I thought that the writing was great, but once again, not really for me since I’m still quite a youngling.

The best element to this whole film is  that it is a character study and I loved characters, and the actors that portray them. Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as Miles, the neurotic social misfit that he always plays so well. He’s dark, depressing, and always gloomy about something, but he isn’t an annoyance, and Giamatti plays him so well he because he makes him likable and all the same believable. When this guy is talking to you about wine, you believe it, and you feel like you know that this guy knows what he’s talking about and it’s just all so natural. At times, he may seem like kind of a deuche, but if you look at it like this, he’s the only one that has any bit of sense here, the only problem is that he just doesn’t know how to put a smile on. I must say that I thought that Jack the character was kind of a dick, but Thomas Haden Church plays him so well, that I almost forget about all the terrible stuff he does. He’s a liar, cheater, and asshole, but at the same time he’s the perfect example of The Man. He is just that dude that is so hunky, and such a tool, that by the end of the night he always ends up going home with a chick, no matter what promises he made, or what he even said for that matter. Haden Church brings out some of the best lines here, and really does do a great job with showing how such a dickhead of a character, can be likable if you have enough charm and wit. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh are great as the two supporting ladies, and their scenes with these two dudes feel realistic, and believable even though they are kind of hotter than both. Not that I’m judging or anything……..

Consensus: This is aimed at a certain audience, but you can’t resist Sideways’ the terrific performances from the cast, especially the funny, insightful, and often touching screenplay that will either having you crave some merlot, taking a trip to California, or just going through life with a smile.


Paris, Je T’aime (2006)

I love Paris, and I do want to go there. I just hope there isn’t so much love there, as it is in here.

Paris comes to life in this whimsical patchwork of 18 five-minute shorts united by a common theme — love in the City of Lights — and helmed by an international cast of filmmakers, including Gus Van Sant, Olivier Assayas and Alexander Payne. Natalie Portman plays an American actress who captures the heart of a blind student; Juliette Binoche is visited by a ghostly Willem Dafoe; Bob Hoskins solicits a prostitute’s advice on pleasing his wife.

The one thing about this film, is that there all just a bunch of short films, wrapped into a 2 hour film. There are so many stars, so many great directors here, that you would think it would be too hard to put them all into one film, when it could have been better, I still enjoyed it for the most part.

Some of the short stories are better than others, and not all of them are exactly about love. There are some very dark concerning with the deals about racism, drugs, homosexuality, death, and many more, and its not just one big love-fest.

The problem with this film is that some of these short stories just didn’t make any sense at all, and didn’t seem like they belonged. There was one with Elijah Wood, and this other chick as vampires, and it played out as a horror story, but made no sense as to why it was in the film, and what it had to do with the subject of love. There was one more, directed by Wes Craven, with Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell, that had to do with death or something like that, and it seemed just so stupid and took me right out of the film.

I have to give it to three directors who did the best with their showcases: Coen Bros., Alexander Payne, and Tom Tykwer. The Coen Bros. add in their own little flavor of whimsy, and it works with its hilarity. Alexander Payne strong fully closes out the film with a sad, but joyful, ode to Paris. However, the best here was indeed Tykwer’s who added in a great love story with Natalie Portman, but with a twist. The things he does with the camera in that short is just magnificent, and captured the whole essence that the film was going for.

Consensus: Some stories are better than others, and some had no intention of being there, but Paris, Je T’aime, works because there is enough wonderful whimsy, and love added to this spectacle.


About Schmidt (2002)

Whoever knew Jack could be so damn depressing of an old man.

When insurance actuary Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) retires and his wife dies, he looks for life’s meaning on a road trip to his daughter’s (Hope Davis) upcoming wedding to a waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). But Schmidt can’t seem to get anything right. En route to the wedding, he shares his life through letters with a Tanzanian boy he’s sponsoring for 73 cents a day — and soon, Schmidt discovers renewed purpose.

I remember when I first saw this when I was very young with my grand father, and I didn’t quite understand it. But now that I have grown older I understand it all, and I’m so glad.

This film is mostly all about being old, and accepting your life that you have made for yourself. Sure, it doesn’t seem like such a different idea of themes but the way this film shows it makes it so fresh. Honestly, there are plenty of scenes where I almost caught myself just choking up. There is a great deal of comedy in this movie, but also a wonderful amount of tear-jerking drama as well. Though I’m not a retired old man, I still felt like I could connect to what Schmidt was saying, and it made me feel even more upset, but upset in a good way.

The direction from Alexander Payne is really good here cause he doesn’t label out how we should respond to the actions of Schmidt. Things happen and we are supposed to think about it rather than given this mood of how to think about it. The writing is also very realistic, in how it shows the satirical look at things, with a very dark sense of humor, which gives bigger laughs throughout the whole film.

The one real reason why this film works is because of all the characters that are involved. The film does get a bit slow at points which does take away some interest, but it works in favor. I felt so in love with this character and I knew him inside and out by the end of the film. Nicholson is just so perfect in this role and totally just amerces himself into this person, and although it is one of his most serious roles to date he still makes you laugh with some of his lines. Kathy Bates who plays the other mother-in-law, is so funny and witty, and she does something of how she can just turn her charm on and off without her character even acting like it happened.

The ending in this film is what seals the deal for me. I won’t give anything away but once you see it, it will make you think about your life, and what have you done for others to make a difference.

Consensus: About Schmidt is a bit slow, but features one of the best performances from Nicholson, great realistic writing, and some funny moments balanced with some serious tear-jerking scenes that will make you think all about life in general.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!!!