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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 2012

Tuesday

July 31: Total Recall

"When a man goes for virtual vacation memories of the planet Mars, an unexpected and harrowing series of events forces him to go to the planet for real, or does he?"
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven, Rated: R, 113 minutes

I decided to get ready for Friday's release of the Total Recall remake by watching the original 1990 classic and, in my opinion, Arnold Schwarzenegger's best movie. Paul Verhoeven is a director who has been all over the place, giving us Robocop, Starship Troopers, and even Showgirls. The man has a particularly odd set of skills that allow him to make the most over-the-top action movies (sans Showgirls) with a style that's completely original to him. They're messy as f**k, with ridiculous amounts of blood and gore, full of campy dialogue and even campier stories, but dammit, it works. And it works wonderfully. 

This screencap alone warrants a viewing of the film. 

Total Recall follows the story of Douglas Quaid (Ah-nuld), a regular kind of guy (with huge muscles) that has recurring dreams of missions to mars he knows he's never taken apart of. Trying to find meaning in them, Quaid heads to Total Recall, a company that hooks you up to a machine and sends you on dream vacations and lets you live out all of your wildest fantasies. When Quaid's vacation goes wrong and the machine he's hooked up to malfunctions, he vividly remembers working for a refugee group on Mars, fighting Cohaagan, a rich, greedy "warlord" on the Red Planet, but has plenty of questions that need answering. He decides to head to Mars in an attempt to discover who he really is, but making the trip is much harder than he expected, as he's chased by government officials and Cohaagan's henchmen. Along the way, Quaid meets quite the cast of characters, most as alien as the planet he needs to visit. Total Recall blends this vibrant cast with a fairly original story and so much blood and gore you can't help but love the damn thing. 

I have no idea what the f**k is going on, but I love it so much!

The best part of the film is the special effects. Verhoeven has a reputation for going over-the-top with his violence, yes, but he uses "live" and practical effects to achieve almost everything on screen. It's in this fact that Total Recall shines and becomes more than a 90s action movie that you can just sweep under the rug. Each fight is memorable, with each kill being more crazier than the last. When you have campy dialogue and THE campiest actor alive, you'd just assume that the film will suck. But, these great special effects elevate Total Recall into greatness.

Hehe...

I would highly recommend watching Total Recall. From what I've gathered of the remake, you do not necessarily need to see the original to understand what is going on. However, remake aside, I would recommend Total Recall as a film on its own. I'm not as disappointed with the fact that it's being remade as much as most films, as the story has great potential, but I am weary of the CGI heavy Friday release as the practical effects of the original are what made it so great. Either way, watch Arnold kick ass and spill a lot of blood and keep an eye out for the famous three-breasted lady (who's supposedly in the remake as well). 

The Good:
incredible special effects that remind you practical is superior to computer generated
The Bad:
the slightest hesitance towards the remake, wondering why something so unique needs to be remade
The Ugly:
even with the great aspects of the film, the dialogue is very, very bad (while it adds to its "charm", some lines are still way too laughable)

Overall: 7.6/10

Trailer:

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Monday

July 30: American Reunion

"Jim, Michelle, Stifler, and their friends reunite in East Great Falls, Michigan for their high school reunion."
Directed by: Hayden Schlossberg & Jon Hurwitz, Rated: R, 113 minutes

It's really hard mentioning good, raunchy comedies without mentioning the American Pie franchise. Sure, the series is far from perfect and has many things we'd like to forget (all of the direct-to-DVD "spin-offs"), but at it's core the franchise has a terrific group of characters that we've grown to care about. American Reunion is a great ending for these characters, and while it's nice to see what the whole gang is up to, it's even nicer seeing their stories come full circle and have a more solid ending then American Wedding. It's an almost given that when you see a bunch of people growing up on screen in front of you, some part of you has to care, at least in the slightest. We saw Jim (Jason Biggs) "make a woman" out of an apple pie, and "lose his cool" a little too early in American Pie, feeling completely embarrassed with him. In American Pie 2 we saw Jim super glue "himself to himself", as well as witnessing Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Stiffler (Sean William Scott), and Jim get rather close after coming out of a closet together. Throughout the first two films, we also were able to see Jim and Michelle's (Alyson Hannigan) young love blossoming into a fest of awkwardness filled to the brim with heart, which culminated in American Wedding, where the two made everything official. While the this trilogy proved to be quite the R-rated fest of sexual frustration (and release), it also showed us a great friendship between five boy and the women in their lives that made them men. We also got Jim's Dad (Eugene Levy). 

I honestly can say that Jims' Dad may be one of the best characters in a comedy in the history of movies. And it's all because of the pitch-perfect Eugene Levy

American Reunion takes place 13 years after the events of American Pie, the same number of years that have passed since its release in 1999. The gang, all dispersed around the country, come together again in East Great Falls for a high school reunion. Jim is still married to Michelle and even have a kid together. Oz (Chris Klein) is a sportscasting, reality-TV star who's married to a nymphomaniac, Kevin's (Thomas Ian Nicholas) a "housewife", in love with his actual wife but far from happy, and Finch appears to be his usual, cultured-world touring connoisseur of nice things. Then of course, there is Stifler, the horn-dog, foul-mouthed, forever frat boy who hasn't changed a bit. As all of the guys come together for the reunion, they're remembered of their pasts as well as the reality of where their lives are now. While there's nothing profound in their reflections, the gang clearly know they aren't as young or as hormone-filled as they used to be. They're just guys struggling with guy problems, going day to day in lives that aren't all too exhilarating but have very little they can honestly complain about. Even then, the comedy is solid, even if some of the jokes are recycled from the previous films. However, none of it feels too forced, as enough time has passed since the earlier films that American Reunion feels more like a nice ribbon on the package that wraps everything together. 


The best part of American Reunion is simple. Seeing all of these actors (and I mean EVERYONE), back in the roles they last played in 2003, is so much fun you can't help but sit back and enjoy what's going on. It's a nostalgic reminder of the past that honestly feels like a reunion, not a remake or a reboot or any other attempt at juicing the franchise for one more dollar. Sure, the film lacks and solid plot, but it's genuinely nice to see what everyone has been up to and it's even better seeing them together again. Even if you're not a fan, you can't deny the effect the franchise has had on movies (energizing a post 1980s series of raunchy teen comedies) and you also can't deny that some of these characters are pretty damn likable. Even Stifler, who you'd hate to have as a friend in real life, is so over-the-top ridiculous you can't help but laugh your ass off. He's a real life cartoon character that's thrown in the mix of and keeps everything interesting. 

Some people never change (and quite frankly, don't need to). 

I would highly recommend American Reunion. Yes, some of the jokes may fly completely over your head if you hadn't seen the previous films, but it's still really funny on its own. I usually shy away from comedies, as most of the time they really, really suck, but I have always had a fondness for the American Pie movies. Sure, it's probably because they were the first taste I had of a R-rated, sex driven film, but looking back I see that it was more than just the promise of seeing naked women. The films have heart and it's what makes you care about the characters in the first place. A bunch of raunchy jokes and situations right after another would mean very little without a great cast and seeing everyone return to the roles that made them famous does a lot for the film. 

The Good:
just enough jokes referencing the older films to bring everything back together in a rather fitting way
The Better:
the crude and rude Stifler, showing us that you don't necessarily have to change and that having a fun time is as easy as taking a shot or chugging a beer, as long as you got your friends with you (or Jim's Dad)
The Best:
seeing everyone back for a real reunion and still having as much fun (if not even more fun) than you did 13 years ago

Overall: 7.5/10

Trailer:

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Sunday

July 29: Signs

"A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come."
Directed by: M. Night Schamsadmalmlamalmlman Rated: PG-13, 106 minutes

Signs is the best movie to use when explaining the career of M. Night Shouldertocryon. He's a terrific visual director, capturing suspense brilliantly, but cannot direct actors worth a damn. The dude is a horrible script-writer as well, only hindering his ability to direct people as it's hard to get good performances through disgusting scripts. Wooden characters and cheesy dialogue destroy an incredibly creepy film, and a cop-out ending just makes matters worse. I consider Signs the rather quick downfall of Schmayancalendarman, as it's nowhere near the quality of his first two major films, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable

"I see a dead career."

Signs follows Mel Gibson's Rev. Graham Hess, the patriarch to a farming family, and his struggling to accept the fact there may be more than just us out there, while coping with the death of his wife. Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), Graham's brother, also lives with him and his two kids, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin). It's worth noting that both of his kids are pretty f**ked up in their own ways, as Morgan is a conspiracy theorist and Bo can't finish a damn glass of water (which is just too convenient later on). After crop circles appear on the Hess farm, strange things begin happening and the media becomes obsessed with the idea that we may have "visitors". I don't think it's giving much away when I say that there is indeed, aliens, and they creepily invade around the world. The scariest parts of the movie are the "amateur" home videos that are shown on the news, featuring the aliens and their arrival. As I stated, Shimoleon can craft some incredibly suspenseful scenes and builds up to scares very well, but besides that, Signs absolutely sucks. 

'Nuff said. 

There's really not a lot more to say about Signs that I haven't already said. It's an easy film to critique because it simply doesn't have a lot going for it. The scares are solid, and the buildups are intense, but everything else, from the dialogue to the acting, ruins the film as a whole. Mel Gibson seems to phone in his performance, and with his headlining news and personal life issues, Signs has not aged as well as one would think. Gibson is far from the character he plays and thinking the man can be a "family man" whose faith is tested leaves a sour taste. The two child actors are great in their roles, but their characters are such mini caricatures that they come across more laughable than anything else. Skip Signs if you haven't already seen it. If you have, I'm sorry. 

The Good:
suspenseful scenes that genuinely scare
The Bad:
those same scenes ruined the moment after with some shitty dialogue and/or piss poor acting
The Ugly:
M. Night Shockakahn thinking he has the ability to tell a story, when in fact that's his biggest weakness

Overall: 3.6/10

Trailer:

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The Liebster Award



The Liebster is an award that's passed from blogger to blogger as a recognition of quality work. I received mine from Eric at The Movie Waffler. To accept the award however there are rules which must be followed however:

1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.
5. Go to their page and tell them.
6. NO TAG BACKS

11 things about Me
  1. I was born and raised in Portland, OR and cannot wait to get back. 
  2. I currently reside in Colorado Springs, CO, but have also lived in Fresno, CA; Allentown, PA; Carmel, IN and Stevens Point, WI. 
  3. My favorite musician is Ryan Adams. 
  4. My "my team" when it comes to sports is the Portland Trail Blazers. 
  5. I love, love food and go out to eat way too much. 
  6. I like cats more than dogs, even though I am incredibly allergic to them (I like both though). 
  7. I only started reading and enjoying it recently, even though I'm 23 years old. 
  8. I hate heights and was once terrified of ladders (I got over the ladders, not the heights). 
  9. I can't eat ice cream in the dark and have no idea why. 
  10. I absolutely hate stupid people. 
  11. My name is Nick. 
Questions from The Movie Waffler

Which city and country do you live in? 
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
If I should watch one movie I may not have seen what should it be?
I don't quite understand the question but I'm assuming it's you, Eric (The Movie Waffler) that's asking me the question. If that's the case, I suggest you watch either Audition or Martyrs, too incredibly disturbing and memorable foreign horror films. 
What's the best comment that's been left on your site?
From Hannah (Hannah and Her Movies) in relation to my The Great Recasting Blogathon- The Princess Bride post
"This is, hands down, my favorite of all the recasting blogs I've read. Pretty much every one you mentioned made me go, "YES! THAT IS A GREAT CHOICE!" I particularly like Rex Harrison as Rugen and Rainn Wilson as Vizzini."
And the worst?
Pretty much all of the substantial comments have been good but I have had a handful of spam/hate comments where anonymous members state something along the lines of "you suck!" with much more expletives. 
Of all the posts you've written, which are you proudest of?
That's a tough question. I know nothing I wrote early on would be at any quality to be proud of but my review of The Artist (see here) and the previously mentioned The Princess Bride post are two of my favorites. 
What inspired you to be a blogger?
I've always loved watching and discussing movies but never had the best outlet to do so. Not bashing any real life friends, but I did not have a lot of people I talk to in depth about the movies I watched, so I decided to bring my opinions to the internet, like everyone else...
Do you write in your native language?
Yes. I speak American and write American.
How often do you visit the cinema?
I don't visit the movie theater as much as I would like. I'd say about 2-3 times a month, when in reality I'd love to go at least once a week, if not more. The price of everything at the theater is just too damn high!
If someone is sitting near you in the cinema and keeps talking do you call them out or ignore them?
I call them out or if they're really rambunctious, I talk to a theater manager. I pay good money to see a movie I really want to see and if you continue to interrupt me, I'll do something about it.
When it comes to new movie releases have we ever had it so bad?
Not quite understanding this question either but I'm assuming you're talking about the consistent amount of trash that rolls into theaters. While the number seems incredibly high lately, there is still a hell of a lot of amazing movies that hide in the mix.
Is 3D here to stay?
I really hope not. It's a headache in long increments, bloats box office numbers, and is more of a way for studios to make money than it is a way to increase the movie going experience. 

11 Bloggers I feel deserve this award

11 Questions for those bloggers
  1. What's your own favorite recurring feature you have on your blog?
  2. What's a guilty pleasure movie you can't help but love but don't want anyone knowing about?
  3. If you could live in any fictional cinematic world, what would it be and why? 
  4. Who is your all-time favorite movie character?
  5. What's one thing you want to change about your blog but have been unable to?
  6. What's your favorite curse word?
  7. What's the best widget you have on your blog?
  8. Where is one place you'd love to visit and why?
  9. If you could go back in time, strictly in your own life, what's one thing you'd change? 
  10. Who is your favorite superhero?
  11. What is the meaning of life? Explain in detail. 


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The Trailer Park

This is my second edition of Trailer Park. However, I think that this time around I'm not going to go into any depth discussing the trailers as much as I will let the trailers speak for themselves, as a few of these are very powerful on their own. Enjoy.

Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee, Nov 21, 2012
This trailer looks gorgeous and the source material is incredible. With Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) at the helm, this film screams Oscar. 

Man of Steel directed by Zach Snyder, June 13, 2013
I was unsure about this trailer at first, but the more I watch it, the more I can't wait to see Man of Steel. Very gritty, very visceral, and although it's been pointed out on other sites, the trailer is reminiscent of The Tree of Life (which has the best trailer of all time). 


The Master directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, Sept 21, 2012
Oscars. Oscars everywhere. Made by the man who gave us There Will Be Blood, featuring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a "cult" leader and Joaquin Phoenix in a glorious return to acting has this film on my "Must Watch the Second It's Released" list. 

Cloud Atlas directed by Tom Twyker and the Wachowski's, Oct 26, 2012
Cloud Atlas was on my radar the moment I read the cast list. However, after watching the trailer I cannot begin to explain how badly I want to see this movie. This is why I love movies. 

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Saturday

July 28: Wild Wild West

"The two best hired guns in the West must save President Grant from the clutches of a 19th century inventor-villain."
Directed by: Barry Sonnefeld, Rated: PG-13, 106 minutes

I always knew but never fully realized how bad a movie Wild Wild West is. I had always enjoyed it as a stupid, yet fun flick when I was younger, never having the mental capacity to understand how awful it is. I also never realized how racist the film is, incorporating a different slave joke every five minutes or so and even throwing in a handful of jokes aimed at handicapped people. There's just so much going wrong in the film that you can't help but sit back and kind of enjoy it. Hell, Wild Wild West stars two extremely likable men- Will Smith and Kevin Kline, features a gloriously over-the-top Kenneth Branagh, and also features a handful of steam punk gadgets and vehicles. How bad could it be?

Well f**k. 

Wild Wild West tells the story of Jim West (Will Smith), a Civil-War hero who's good with a gun and Artemeus Gordon (Kevin Kline), a U.S marshall who has more gadgets than courage and also happens to be a master of disguise. When President Ulysses S. Grant finds that the United States is being threatened by the evil Dr. Arliss Loveless (Branagh), he recruits the two to work together and find a way of stopping him. As the two of them investigate into Loveless' plan, they discover that he has much darker plans for the country than originally thought. Of course, as any big bloated movie, the men can't do everything on their own, and reluctantly enlist the help of Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek), a whore dancer who knows how to get close to Loveless. The movie is actually based off an old TV show of the same name, and while I never watched it, I can only imagine the characters and stories were much more developed and entertaining than the film. 

Definitely, yes. 

After re-watching the film, I wonder how successful something like it would be today. The steam punk aspect of the film is certainly a draw, especially with an increase of it's popularity more recently. Looking back, I actually think that the failure of Wild Wild West is one of the biggest reasons more films these days don't have a steam punk style to them, as no one wants to remind the public of this bomb. Regardless, some of the gadgets are incredibly fun and inventive, and a part of me really wanted to see more of what Gordon has in store. The film also features a crap ton of mechanical spiders, including a giant beast of a thing in the finale. It's even more interesting knowing Kevin Smith's story behind the thing.  

Yes, that's a giant spider. 

Wild Wild West sucks. I really, really tried hard to find a way to enjoy it like my younger, naive self was able to do, but I couldn't. One of the only aspects I can recommend watching for is Branagh's performance as Loveless. An actor of that caliber has to be aware of the shit he is in and I think he just went running away with the role, having as much fun as possible, fully aware of how bad the movie would be. Even then, I'd be weary of suggesting the film and would probably lean more towards suggesting you skip it. It's a mess of epic proportions that tries way too hard to be some badass adventure with fun gadgets but ends up being a piss-poor "comedy" with even worse special effects and terrible dialogue. Will Smith is clearly present solely for his star power and when one of the world's most bankable and likable actors can't save the film, you know you're in trouble. Skip it if you haven't seen it, avoid re-watching it if you have. 

The Good:
a vaguely creative idea that could have been so much better 
The Bad:
a piss poor execution with crappy CGI and an even worse script that just reeks of stupid
The Ugly:
wondering how the hell I ever watched and enjoyed this movie as a kid

Overall: 2.7/10

Trailer:

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The Great Recasting Blogathon


The lovely ladies over at Frankly, My Dear and In the Mood came up with a grand idea for a blogathon. Take "modern" films and recast them with actors and actresses from the classic era of Hollywood. For the blogathon I decided on The Princess Bride; which, by all means, has a near impossible cast to rearrange. But, seeing as I am always up for a challenge, I decided to not only recast the film with pre-1965 actors, but again with actors that are still working today. God forbid they ever remake The Princess Bride, but it's always fun imagining different people in different roles. Enjoy.



The star of The Princess Bride is Westley, a farm-boy who falls in love with Buttercup, a beautiful woman sought after by the evil Prince Humperdinck. Seeing that Westley is no aristocrat or has virtually no means of providing for her, he sets out on a journey to find his riches and return home to ask for her hand in marriage. While away, Humperdinck breaks the news to Buttercup that Westley was murdered by the Dread Pirate Roberts. She resigns herself to the fact that her one true love is dead and reluctantly agrees to marry the prince. After a plot to stage her assassination is revealed to him, Westley, who is very much alive, seeks out Buttercup and her captors, as well as revenge against Humperdinck. Westley is both charming and handsome and damn good with a sword. He's a man of many secrets, but has just enough charisma to hide them. He's the perfect hero, with purest motivation- love. Not many men have the ability to play such a role, but Cary Elwes nails it. There really is no one else in the world who could do what he did with the role, but if there was an earlier version of the film, Errol Flynn could come close. The man gave a face to the iconic hero of Robin Hood, a clear inspiration for Westley, and has the swashbuckler attitude needed for the role. One of my only hesitations is that Flynn may be a little too cocky (instead of confident) as Westley. As for a modern day Westley, I would have to go with Ryan Gosling. He's the IT man of today (who can actually act) and he has the sex appeal, the charm, and the attitude for the role. 
Buttercup is a beautiful and fierce woman who not only knows what she wants, but is strong enough to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Originally played by the unknown Robin Wright, any version of the film should have an unknown as well. However, as that would take any fun out of this recasting, I feel that a pre-1965 Buttercup would have to be Grace Kelly, a real life princess and one of the most beautiful women to grace the screen. As for a modern day Buttercup, the role would have to go to the gorgeous (and spunky) Felicity Jones. Buttercup has to be a woman every man can fall in love with (albeit a little stubborn) and all three of these woman encompass those traits.
Prince Humperdinck is a complete asshole. He cares only about himself and can't even appreciate a good woman he has right in front of him. He's a man that wants to start a war so that he may one day claim a throne to an even larger kingdom and he'll do whatever it takes to make that happen. However, when faced with danger first-hand, Humperdinck is a coward. He's all bark and very little bite. Originally played by Chris Sarandon, the recasting would have to embody the machismo cowardice and overall douchebaggery Sarandon portrayed. Pre-1965 would be Laurence Olivier. Modern day would be Colin Firth. 
Now, as most adventure stories play out, our hero can't do everything on his own and is only as strong as his allies. At first a rival, Inigo Montoya proved to be a near equal match for Westley, as the two have the greatest sword fight in film history. However, after Westley spares his life after defeating him, Inigo, a man of honor, swears by his sword that he'll repay him. Inigo has his own quest as well, as he his after the "Six Fingered Man", the person behind the murder of his father. Inigo is a fan favorite and Manny Patinkin steals the show. Of anyone on this list, I think Inigo is the hardest to recast as I cannot see anyone but Patinkin saying the iconic line, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die!". If I had to choose a pre-1965 Inigo I would have to go with Tony Curtis. As a modern day Inigo, I would go with Sam Rockwell. 
Prince Humperdinck's right hand man is Count Rugen, an even bigger coward who just happens to have six fingers. He's not only the slimy sidekick to the villain, but he's also the target for Inigo's revenge. Christopher Guest plays him in the film to a rather weird and mysterious effect. Pre 1965- Rex Harrison, Modern day- Christoph Waltz.
Along with Inigo, Westley also allies himself with the giant, Fezzick. Originally the role was played by Andre the Giant, a man as unique as his build. Recasting this role is impossible, as there will never be a man as large or as lovable as Andre. Pre-1965- Richard Kiel, Modern day- Robert Maillet
Vizzini, the annoying "brains" behind the kidnapping of Buttercup is certainly memorable for his constant use of "Inconceivable!", even if he's not quite sure what the word means. Wallace Shawn originally played the Sicilian. Pre-1965- Orson Welles. Modern day- Rainn Wilson
Miracle Max 
Originally- Billy Crystal, Pre 1965- Peter Sellers, Modern day- Billy Crystal (the character's old, Crystal would still fit)
The Albino
Originally- Mel Smith, Pre 1965- Jackie Gleason, Modern day- James Corden
The Grandfather
Originally- Peter Falk, Pre 1965- Jimmy Stewart, Modern day- Bill Murray

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Friday

July 27: Stardust

"In a countryside town bordering on a magical land, a young man makes a promise to his beloved that he'll retrieve a fallen star by venturing into the magical realm."
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn, Rated: PG-13, 127 minutes

There's a lot to say about Stardust. It's a modern fairy tale told with the heart and creativity you think you could only find in films and stories of old. It's creative in a completely endearing way, blending the perfect amount of romance, action, suspense and comedy. It's a film of many genres with a fantastical sense of adventure. Stardust creates a world inhabited by a wide variety of characters, including witches and sky pirates, without ever getting too big for its own good. In it's simplicity, Stardust never makes you expect much out of it, so when it delivers, it's magical in epic proportions. Plus, the film features a ridiculously sexy Claire Danes as the "damsel in distress", a role in which I know plenty of us would like to play her prince counterpart. 


Stardust tells the story of Tristan (Boardwalk Empire's Charlie Cox), a young man with big dreams and an even larger ambition, who lives in a quiet little village named Wall. Legend has it that the wall from which the village gets its name from is, in fact, a portal to another world full of magic and adventure. The love of his life, Victoria (Sienna Miller), demands Tristan retrieve a fallen star in order to earn her hand in marriage. This is a quest the blinded by love Tristan immediately accepts but, once he crosses the wall and tracks down the star, he finds it to be a beautiful woman named Yvaine (Danes). Tristan finds the fact that she's a star to be quite odd, but decides to "kidnap" her and bring her back to Wall to earn the heart of Victoria. As the two make their journey back to Wall, they are under the watchful eye of three witches, led by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer, who only gets sexier with age), who seek to steal Yvaine for themselves, as her powers give magic and youth to the hags. The evil prince Septimus (the always-a-villain Marc Strong), also seeks the star as a way to rightfully claim his throne. Stardust is fun from start to finish, and the incredible cast only makes it better. 

She has her own kind of magic. 

As some of you may know, The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's the perfect film, in my opinion, and one of the most unique films I've seen. I never thought any other movie could come close to capturing the imagination and charm that makes The Princess Bride so good, but Stardust comes damn close. Yes, the film has a much fancier look to it, but it still manages to hold onto some of the camp and cheese that makes it special. The comedy is also first class. The source novel of the same name, was written by genius Neil Gaiman, a modern day fantasy genius. He has a reputation of blending an unusual sense of humor with grand-scale adventure and the film adaptation of Stardust does not fail to deliver. And, while Gaiman may have written the novel, the adaptation would not be as great as it is without the screenplay written by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn (who later went on to make Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class). 

Matthew Vaughn: The king of adapting stuff, or something.

I would highly recommend Stardust. If you haven't seen it already, you're missing out on quite an adventure. It's also worth mentioning that the two leads, Cox and Danes, have impeccable chemistry and seeing their own version of a fairy-tale play out is a joy to watch. Stardust also features great supporting roles from Ricky Gervais, Peter O'Toole, and an absolutely incredible Robert De Niro. I love Stardust and everything about it. My only complaint is that it's just one film, while I believe all the characters involved would find themselves in even grander adventures. 

The Good:
a unique and wonderful fairy tale that's instantly a classic
The Better:
Robert De Niro... just watch
The Best:
witnessing magic, first-hand, and aching to visit the world created and on display

Overall: 9.6/10

Trailer:

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Pick Six- Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Last week I discussed my six favorite Christian Bale movies (see here) in anticipation for the release of The Dark Knight Rises. Well, after now seeing the film and enjoying the hell out of it, I wanted to showcase one of the other stars of the film- Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This guy is a man I not only admire (and have enjoyed watching since Angels in the Outfield), but is someone anyone can respect. He's not just an incredible actor but also an extremely nice guy who works his ass off, be it a movie he's in or the work he does over at hitRECord.org. Either way, I aspire to be a guy like him and can't wait to see where he goes with his career. In the meantime, here are my six favorite movies of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And as I did the same with Christian Bale, Batman movies are excluded as they are just too obvious.


Directed by: Jordan Melamed, Rated: R, 100 minutes

Manic is one of the first films that showed us how damn fine an actor Gordon-Levitt can be. After his success with a rather popular romantic comedy (see below), he decided to take his career into a completely different direction and starred in Manic, a film telling the story of Lyle (Joe), an angry teenager struggling inside a juvenile mental institution. Manic is not a happy film, by all means, but presents an honest, tragic look at what too many young people experience, be it bullying, drug problems, or rage. Don Cheadle also lends his talents as Lyle's counselor, a role he was born to play. Manic is also the film that introduced Joe to Zooey Deschanel and we all know what a beautiful friendship that has become.

Directed by: Gil Junger, Rated: PG-13, 97 minutes

10 Things I Hate About You is such an underrated masterpiece. Yes, I am bestowing such a title on this 90s teen comedy. It's hilarious, incredibly smart, and has so much talent it really doesn't know what to do with it. It's one of those films I can watch over and over and usually do whenever it's on TV. Joe plays Cameron, an awkward teenager who just wants a date to the prom and will do whatever it takes to get one. 10 Things is actually a re-imagining of William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. And, as I am a sucker for "loose adaptations", I love looking for all the parallelisms. This film is also the big debut of Heath Ledger, who has to be Joe's older brother as the two are too damn identical to not be related (argue if you want, I will take this fact to my grave). 

Directed by: Jonathan Levine, Rated: R, 100 minutes

One of the first movies I actually reviewed was 50/50 (see here). In my opinion, it's Joe's best performance to date, combining the perfect amount of vulnerability and courage. Based on a true story and written by a guy who fought, and beat cancer (Will Eiser), 50/50 hits incredibly close to home. It's one of the most realistic looks at such a destructive disease and the heart-ache that goes through battling it. The movie also gives us one of Seth Rogen's first more serious roles, as he was friends with Eiser and went through the experience with him. Tough to watch at times, genuinely funny, and so honest it hurts, 50/50 proves that cancer is more than just "a thing" we all hate talking about and hope to never experience. 

Directed by: Christopher Nolan, Rated: PG-13, 148 minutes 

Inception is massive and one of Nolan's finest films. It's on a scale never seen before, driven by great performances, huge sets, and incredible special effects. The story is smart and original, and the fact it is Nolan's dream project (no pun intended) shows how much effort was put into the movie. However, the first thing I think of when it comes to Inception is the fight scene in the hotel hallway, where Arthur (Joe) fights off baddies to let the rest of his crew continue deeper in their dream heist. He really steals the show as the charismatic "point man" and without Inception, I highly doubt Joe would be in The Dark Knight Rises. Do you have your totem? 

Directed by: Gregg Araki, Rated: NC-17, 105 minutes

Holy hell is Mysterious Skin a hard movie to watch. It's graphic, disturbing, and all kinds of uncomfortable, yet there's something about it that's hard to ignore. Maybe it's because of the performances, maybe it's the beautiful cinematography, or maybe it's something you can't pinpoint because it's nothing like you've seen before. The film follows a young male prostitute (Joe) and his encounter with another young boy who is obsessed with aliens. It's really hard to go much further in detail about the film without giving it away, but it plays out in very interesting ways. Joe delivers a power-house performance as the over-confident, sex-crazed, Neil and had Mysterious Skin not been so graphic, I think he would have been up for an Oscar. He's that good.

Directed by: Scott Frank, Rated: R, 99 Minutes

The Lookout is a movie that I feel no one has seen. It flew completely under the radar upon its release in 2007, but it tells one hell of a story and features incredible acting by everyone involved. Joe plays Chris, a teenager who can't focus or remember things too well after an accident. Looking for work, Chris is hired on as a janitor at a bank and finds himself caught up in a planned heist. The Lookout is much more than your average heist flick and has a very smart script that twists and turns in unexpected ways. The best way to describe the film is a combination of Memento and Reservoir Dogs, with a little bit of the "cool factor" from Ocean's 11


Just Missed the Cut:
(500) Days of Summer- so good on so many different levels with one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, but I really did not like the ending
The Lookout- I almost chose this film instead of Mysterious Skin. It's original, smart, and has so many good actors in it. 
Treasure Planet- So much fun and as I mentioned earlier, I love "loose adaptations" 
Brick- this is a movie I am embarrassed to admit I have not seen. I do plan on watching it within the next week, so this list may change 


Joseph Gordon-Levitt Rundown:
I have reviewed:

Average Rating: 9.53/10

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