I talk a lot about books and writing on here. But I never talk about movies. I like them and often watch them so why not write about them? Here are some of my favorites.
One Week starring Buster Keaton
My sister turned me on to the works of Buster Keaton years ago and I’m glad she did. Besides being a cutie-pie, he was also quite hilarious (and a genius in the industry). Of the Keaton movies I’ve watched, my favorite by far is One Week. In it, Keaton and his bride get a DYI house kit that is only supposed to take a week to build. They get to work on it, but unbeknownst to the newlyweds, a jealous man changes up some of the instructions for the house. What results is hilarious and over-the-top absurd that you will bust a gut.
Without a Clue starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley
I know there’s been a rush of Sherlock Holmes movies and TV shows (and even spin-offs in book series), but this one is my favorite. Far from any other Holmes movie, this one has a unique twist: Watson is the brains behind the operation and Holmes is merely a front man. When Watson gets fed up with Holmes taking all the credit, he kicks him to the curb and starts investigating on his own. However, everyone thinks that Holmes is the real genius of the duo and won’t let Watson get anywhere close to crime scenes and clues. Watson begs Holmes to come back for one final case.
There is such subtle humor (as well as the obvious) that I watched the movie several times before noticing the little things. The dialogue is also sharp and riddled with humor. To truly appreciate the movie, I suggest watching it no less than three times.
Noises Off… starring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Christopher Reeve, Marilu Henner, John Ritter, and Nicollette Sheridan
Besides having a wonderful cast, the movie has a unique plot. What goes on backstage while you’re watching the performance up front? Originally a play,* this three act movie goes from riduculous to “I can’t believe they just did that!” There’s the star who is drunk off his ass all the time, the guy who gets nosebleeds if anything violent happens, and (of course) the dumb blonde who’s in her undies a good chunk of the time.
The first act is the night before opening night when the cast is going through a final dress rehearsal. This sets the audience up for what is supposed to happen of the play that is being put on. Getting this kind of information is important as the jokes for the second and, especially, third acts rely on the audience’s knowledge of the play. During the second act, hardly a word is spoken by the actors on screen because they’re all backstage while the play is being performed. They can’t talk or they’ll be heard so a lot of the communication that goes on is all in pantomime. Then there’s the third act, where it’s no-holds-bar as the actors are on an all-out war with each other (for reasons you find out in the first two acts).
Noises Off… is funny and witty and fascinating to watch on screen and on stage.
Prestige starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, and Scarlett Johansson
(I know, I’m starting to see the Michael Caine pattern, too. But can I help it if he is such a brilliant actor that he’s in everything that’s good?)
This is another movie that gets better with each viewing. The first time through will leave you reeling with all its twists and turns. The second time through you can see how it all fits together. A third time through is best if you’re a Christian Bale fan (guilty as charged!)
This is a movie about two rival magicians, Alfred (Bale) and Robert (Jackman). With each performance, they show each other up. When Alfred performs a trick that transports him instantly from one spot to another, Robert will stop at nothing to figure out how it is done. He even travels a great distance to meet with Nikola Tesla (a real-life inventor known for his work with electricity) whose latest invention may be of use in Robert’s show.
There’s not much more I can say without giving away the twists. Just go watch it already!
The Muppets starring Jason Segal and Amy Adams
It’s been awhile since a good Muppet movie has been made, at least in my opinion. Muppets from Space was just okay; I felt it lacked the hilarity that the Muppets are known for. The three best movies were from the 80s: Muppets Take Manhattan, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppet Movie. Until last year, nothing else came close to these three movies (except maybe The Muppet Christmas Carol – also starring Michael Caine). But then Jason Segal saved the day.
One of the co-writers of the script, Segal stars as Gary, a human who has a Muppet for a brother. When Gary, his long-term girlfriend Mary, and his brother Walter head off to Hollywood, they discover that the Muppets aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be. The gang has disbanded and Gary, Mary, and Walter take it upon themselves to get them back together and save the Muppet studio from being taken over by an evil oil tycoon.
The movie not only has the surprise and subtle humor that the other Muppet movies had, but is also filled with songs that reflect the style of Muppet songs past. I felt, after watching the movie, that it was a wonderful tribute to the Muppets’ history. This is a movie, I feel, will live on with the other great Muppet movies. Jim Henson would be proud.
Clue starring Tim Curry, Christopher Llyod, Martin Mull, and Michael McKean
This is yet another movie that I think gets better with each viewing. I remember seeing this in the theaters in 1985. The movie has three endings (two false and one real) so when we went to see it, we had to pick a theater at random.Depending on which theater you went to determine which ending you saw. I can’t remember which ending we saw in the theater, but the great thing about DVDs is that you can view all the endings (or have the DVD randomly pick one for you).
Yes, this movie is based on the board game. Who knew that a movie based on a game could be done well (certainly not the people who made Battleship**)? It’s a dark and stormy night and a group of strangers gather in a mansion for a dinner party. They soon learn that each are being blackmailed by the same man. The mysterious and unknown host of the party has gathered everyone together to murder the blackmailer. Each guest is given a weapon (rope, revolver, lead pipe, etc.). The lights are turned off and when they’re turned back on, the blackmailer is dead. But no one fesses up to the crime so the group figures that another person is in the house. They split up and search the mansion room by room and by the time the night’s through, the pile of bodies has started to grow.
The character names are, of course, the same as the ones for the board game, but during introductions you learn more about each one. Miss Scarlet, for instance, runs a brothel and Professor Plum is a psychiatrist who has affairs with his female patients. Each has a motive and opportunity for murder, but who really did it? With the three different endings, the writers had to make sure that each would work on its own. For example, two different people are missing from one scene because they are supposed to be murdering someone else in another room. Yet at the end of the movie, only one of these people is guilty, and who is guilty depends on which ending you’re viewing. Either way, though, both guilty parties had to be taken from the scene so that either ending was congruent. (It’s a little confusing, I know, but if you watch it enough times, you’ll see it.)
Stardust starring Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Charlie Cox
This is one of the few movies I saw before I read the book. The book was decent, but the movie is just spectacular and beautiful, I really shouldn’t compare the two.
Tristan (Cox) lives in the small village of Wall. When he sees a shooting star fall to Earth, he vows to go find it and bring it back to his love, Victoria. What he doesn’t know is that on the other side of the wall, for which the village is named, is a magical world called Stormhold. He also doesn’t know that the star that has fallen is the beautiful Yvaine (Danes). She’s stubborn and unwilling to go with Tristan until he binds her and forces her to journey with him.
Meanwhile, the king of Stormhold has passed on. Of his seven sons, only three remain. The one to find his ruby first will be the new king of Stormhold. The race is on to find the ruby, which, unbeknownst to them, is in Yvaine’s possession.
There is also the witch Lamia (Pfeiffer) who seeks the fallen star. She and her sisters have lived hundreds of years and, boy, does it show. Consuming a star’s heart will let them live longer, look younger, and use more magic. Will Tristan get Yvaine to his Victoria before the other two find and kill them?
The movie is all adventure, some comedy, and a love story all rolled into one.
Of course, there are other movies that I love, but this is a good start. More will come later, although I don’t know exactly when.
*I’ve seen the play performed. Absolutely brilliant. I would also recommend seeing that version.
**Okay, I’ve never seen the movie Battleship, but the previews just looked absolutely stupid.