Breakfast at Tiffany’s (12/16/12)

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In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a young New York socialite resistant to love ends up falling for a man in her apartment building.

After eating a pastry and drinking coffee while window shopping outside Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) heads home to her New York City apartment. She tries avoiding her date from the night before, and buzzes her neighbor, Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney) to let her in. The next morning, Holly is awakened by her own doorbell ringing and a new tenant is trying to move in. She invites him in and learns his name is Paul Varjak (George Peppard).Soon, Holly tells Paul she needs to visit Sing Sing prison and deliver a coded message as a “weather report” to a famous mobster. As Paul learns more about the true Holly Golightly, he falls for her despite her adherence to keeping up appearances of her lifestyle.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s fans be warned, I was not at all charmed by this film. Within minutes of the film starting, Mickey Rooney’s horrifyingly racist portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi almost made me turn the film off but I pressed on thinking it was just a sign of the times. Then I discovered the film was not supposed to be a comedy and Mr. Yunioshi seems to be injected, superfluously I might add, to add some “humor” to the movie. Disgusting. But my distaste for the film didn’t end there.

I also kind of hated Holly Golightly as well. I don’t understand why so many girls see her as a role model. She is lying about who she is, she is only interested in money, she doesn’t seem to actually believe in love, she is superficial, it’s hinted that she’s a call girl, she is mentally unstable, etc. Maybe she is “real” and just trying to find herself but that wasn’t my impression of her. I had never seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s but have seen Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly emblazoned on all sorts of memorabilia and while watching the film I kept asking myself  “why?”.

Now that I’m (maybe) done bashing Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I will praise the film’s sense of style. I’m a huge fan of the TV show Mad Men and while I was kind of hating Holly Golightly I did like her manner of dress.

I really don’t know why I was so put off by Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Perhaps it is just one of those movies so many people talk about that you just assume greatness. Now I know how all those folks feel that don’t like Citizen Kane. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was recently just admitted to the National Film Registry and I kind of cringed when I read that news. Maybe if they recut the film without Mr. Yunioshi it would leave a better taste in my mouth.

I give it 2 the only scene I really liked was the opening title sequence out of 5.

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The Queen of Versailles (12/15/12)

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The Queen of Versailles follows the lives of one of the richest families in the US as their fortune falls from under them during the economic downturn.

David Siegel is the owner of the largest time-share business in the United States. He has become insanely wealthy from his business ventures and along with his former beauty queen wife, Jackie, the two plan on building the largest single house in the country at over 90,000 sq. feet, nicknamed Versailles. Before the sprawling mansion can be completed, the real estate bubble bursts and the Siegel family, along with their 8 kids and many dogs, are hit hard financially. This documentary follows the Siegels during their rise and fall.

The Queen of Versailles is an interesting documentary because while the economic hardships that befall the Siegels add a different layer to the film, it seems the original intent was simply to show how a family this wealthy lives. If you’ve ever wondered “what kind of people could afford to build a 90,000 sq. foot mansion?” The Queen of Versailles has your answer.

Most of the film centers around Jackie, who I believe is 48 but acts like she is still in her late teens. Her kids run rampant, as do her dogs, and outside of David, the family has no regard for their money as if it comes from a faucet. Oddly, Jackie came from very humble beginnings but has lost herself in the lifestyle of being so incredibly rich. When the business begins to falter, the family is unable to cut back – mind you, they are still incredibly wealthy – and live even a remotely modest life.

In the same way that reality television is so fascinating, The Queen of Versailles is a train wreck. It’s a great little documentary that has deservedly gained lots of press and is surely a contender come awards season. The Siegels are easy to hate but also incredibly humanized at times. There are certain scenes with the family that could take place in a small shack somewhere, but instead take place in a huge mansion in Florida. I was glued to the screen during The Queen of Versailles and I almost want a trashy reality television series to come out of it, because I’d watch that too.

I give it 4 shots of Versailles, USA out of 5.

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Captain Slickpants (12/15/12)

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A strange guy obsesses over asking out a waitress at his favorite restaurant and believes he finds his chance when she loses her wallet in Captain Slickpants.

We see Gregg (Ben Dietels), living alone in his deceased grandmother’s house, doing unique aerobic exercises and lighting off Roman candles in the yard. He opens his computer to see his best friend Steven’s (Ryan Lintner) video blog talking about how Gregg is going to finally ask out Vanessa (Danielle Dietels), a waitress at Gregg’s normal hangout that he has been obsessing over. After missing his chance and finding out that Vanessa is quitting at the restaurant, Gregg thinks all hope is lost until he finds Vanessa’s wallet in the parking lot and takes it as a sign that he has one last chance to ask her out.

You most likely have not heard of Captain Slickpants, I hadn’t either until I was contacted by Ben Dietels, who aside from starring in the film, also wrote and directed it. You can find more info about Captain Slickpants at the BPO Films website.

I’m always a bit weary about indie movies but I actually really enjoyed Captain Slickpants. It’s a simple story and is obviously made with love. I laughed a few times and was pretty impressed by the film considering it’s production seems to mainly consist of a few friends that enjoy making movies. It’s really what indie films should be. The only real complaint I have about Captain Slickpants is that the volume of the soundtrack is uneven, I had to adjust the volume on my TV two or three times because the music was too loud or the dialogue was too quiet.

Captain Slickpants is obviously not going to be for everyone. I thought there was a bit of a Napoleon Dynamite vibe to the film and the main character, Gregg, but others may not have that same feeling. I know indie comedies can be totally hit or miss with most folks, especially actual indie productions such as this, but I was left quite charmed by Captain Slickpants.

I give it 3 Captain Slickpants trailers out of 5.

If you think you might like a light quirky indie movie and want to give Captain Slickpants a shot, I can definitely pass on my copy of the film for viewing. Since it was sent to me for promotional purposes I wouldn’t feel right keeping it for myself and I’d like to help the filmmakers out. Email me at Andy@AndyWatchesMovies.com if you’re seriously interested.

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Assassination (12/15/12)

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A Secret Service agent must protect repeated attempts on the First Lady’s life in Assassination.

Jay “Killy” Killion (Charles Bronson), a Secret Service member coming back from sick leave is assigned to the newly inaugurated First Lady, Lara Royce Craig (Jill Ireland). Lara is condescending and unappreciative of Killy does not make things easy on him. Lara acts like a spoiled brat, constantly undermining him and insisting on the uselessness of his protection until several assassination attempts are made on her life and she begins to understand the Killion is the right man for the job of protecting her life.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I freaking love Charles Bronson. To me, there are no bad Charles Bronson movies, there are simply Charles Bronson movies. Still, I am not immune to recognizing the flaws in some of these films and Assassination is definitely not one I would recommend freely. Of course, we do have Charles Bronson being a total badass, but by this point in his career, he had better, more memorable roles as a badass.

Jill Ireland, Bronson’s wife in real life until her death, either annoys me or makes me swoon and unfortunately, her character in Assassination is meant to be irritating and she pulls it off almost too well. I wanted her character to actually get killed pretty early on in Assassination because Charles Bronson can be a badass with or without her in the movie. Still, I love that Bronson and Ireland worked together so often and there’s something to be said to see them both onscreen, regardless of how annoying she can be.

Assassination has everything one would expect from a Charles Bronson movie – guns, violence, and an awesome mustache. The fact that Bronson’s character is called “Killy” really shows that the screenwriters wanted little more from the film than Charles Bronson killing people, I think. While Assassination isn’t high up on my favorite Bronson films, it does the job.

I give it 3 videos of the best scene of Assassination out of 5.

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The Game (12/15/12)

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A wealthy, emotionally distant investment banker receives a strange gift from his brother for his 48th birthday – a life-changing invitation to The Game.

Haunted by flashbacks from his father’s 48th birthday, which ended in the man committing suicide by jumping off the roof, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a hugely wealthy investment banker, is nearing his own 48th birthday. Estranged from his ex-wife, Nicholas is emotionally cold to everyone around him, seeming to only care about the bottom line on his investments. One day, his carefree younger brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), visits Nicholas and gives him a certificate to a company called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS) to participate in “the game”, saying it will change his life. Doubtful, but curious, Nicholas goes to CRS and gets rejected from participating, but the game has really already begun, leaving Nicholas guessing what the game is really about.

Simply put, David Fincher is one of my favorite directors but for some reason The Game has eluded me. Now I’m not sure why I never sought out The Game, I’ve seen all of Fincher’s other work, but I’m so glad The Game has entered my life. I don’t tend to watch thrillers often because it’s like eating a rich dessert and I never want to grow tired of the good films. When a thriller is made well, it’s hard to top and The Game literally kept me guessing until the very end. The mystery and tension surrounding “the game” is so thick it practically oozes from the screen.

I have a feeling that there will be strong feelings about The Game’s ending and whether it’s satisfactory. At the time I watched the film, I was a bit deflated by it because I kept thinking “how is this going to end?!” but after having some time to think about the movie as a whole, I think the ending is pretty great, if not a bit too abrupt. This may be a case where the journey is the important thing, not the destination, but I liked the whole of The Game.

Criterion’s treatment of The Game is nothing short of stunning. Fincher had his hands in the production of this release and it shows. The film is dark and crisp and the soundtrack is amazing. Supplemental features are great too, with some excellent behind-the-scenes footage. This is definitely the version of The Game to see, especially when compared to the much lesser Netflix Instant source.

Fincher is known for his dark, moody, psychological movies ever since bringing us Seven and The Game, his follow-up to Seven, shows us what a talented director he is. The Game is the type of film that is so exhilarating to watch that you simply can’t take your eyes off the screen, trying to figure out what the game really is. I’m sure that finding out all the secrets the film holds is impossible on a first watch. While The Game may not be Fincher’s strongest film, it’s one of the better psychological thrillers I’ve ever seen.

I give it 5 Consumer Recreation Services out of 5.

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Beneath the Planet of the Apes (12/14/12)

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Immediately following the events of the first film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes literally goes deeper into the mystery of the planet of the apes after a new ship crashes.

Picking up at the end of Planet of the Apes with the displaced astronuat, Taylor (Charlton Heston), and mute native, Nova (Linda Harrison), travel through the Forbidden Zone. Strange lightning causes Taylor to investigate and disappear before Nova’s eyes. Another spaceship crash lands nearby with a group of astronauts looking for Taylor. Brent (James Franciscus), thinks he has traveled to a distant planet and stumbles upon Nova, wearing Taylor’s dog tags. The two ride together to Ape City where Brent is startled by the simian population. He is befriended by Cornelius (David Watson) and Zira (Kim Hunter) who helps him escape capture by the gorillas. Brent then goes below ground, following a strange sound, and finds a group of telepathic humans living underground.

I’ve always enjoyed the original Planet of the Apes and I’m one of the few people that didn’t hate Tim Burton’s remake but I’ve never actually seen any of the other movies in the original series of films. Beneath the Planet of the Apes was not a great movie but I did have a great time watching it. I’ve always liked the special effects used for the ape costumes and even though the apes aren’t the focus in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, at least they didn’t cheapen out. The filmmakers even brought back the original cast when applicable, something that makes this feel like an actual sequel instead of a quick cash-in.

It’s kind of funny that I’ve seen so many Beneath the Planet of the Apes references but never understood them. In fact, I knew about 90% of the plot of the film just from pop culture references over the years; though, to be fair, it’s not exactly a complicated plot. Without spoiling anything, I will say the ending took me off guard – that was a pretty gutsy move. I purchased the series box-set, so I’m eager to get to the next films, even if they don’t appear to have the same level of love from fans. I wasn’t blown away by Rise of the Planet of the Apes but I’m glad they are making a new series of films in the franchise.

We’ll see what the next three movies have in store for the series, but Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a worthwhile affair that falls short of the original, but is still a worthwhile sequel. Beneath the Planet of the Apes gets the job done, continuing the ending of a great movie with a new, interesting twist on the Planet of the Apes franchise.

I give it 3 General Ursus and Dr. Zaius riding horses out of 5.

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Home Alone – Nostalgiathon [guest post]

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When a family leaves their eight year old Home Alone, he proves to himself and his family that he “didn’t burn down the joint” and that he’s capable of being man of the house.

In Winnetka, Illinois, it’s the night before the McCallister family flies to France for Christmas to visit extended family. The house is filled with the excitement of Christmas and preparing three families under one roof for a transatlantic flight. A burglar posing as one of Chicago’s finest (Joe Pesci) is doing checks for home safety during the holidays, to which the the patriarch Peter McCallister (John Heard) assures him that they’ve taken the proper precautions. When one of the youngest, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), begins acting out of sorts his mother (Catherine O’hara) sends him to an attic bedroom without dinner.

Due to a power outage, the McCallister family oversleeps and must rush out of the house to catch their flight. They inadvertently leave Kevin home alone and he’s left thinking he made his family disappear. While alone, he spends his time eating junk food, grocery shopping, cutting down a Christmas tree, and overcoming his fear of the basement. During this time, the house is being monitored by the “Wet Bandits” played by Harry Lime (Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) as they pick the perfect night to rob the house. Kevin catches on to their plans and creates a boobytrap-filled house to buy time while he calls the police.

Home Alone easily my number one Christmas and Nostalgiathon movie pick. As Andy can tell you, I can recite the entire movie along with the sound effects [ed. note – it’s true, she can]. In fact, my plot description was four paragraphs before he whittled it down to the necessary details. As a kid, I thought Kevin was the coolest and I was never allowed to be left home alone when I was 8. I was also really jealous that he got to set up all the Christmas decorations by himself because that was one of my favorite things to do. My brother and I watched Home Alone year-round and quizzed each other on different parts of the dialog. I even had the Home Alone board game. I have so many wonderful memories surrounding this movie.

As an adult, I feel the movie has done well over time in spite of the changes in technology that would have probably rendered it impossible. From the cool pranks, the Chicago setting, and awesome cast (namely, John Candy) Home Alone literally has everything I could possibly want in a movie.

My childhood dream came true this past summer when I got to see the actual McCallister house, eat a piece of “Little Nero’s” pizza, and answer Home Alone trivia questions as part of a scavenger hunt. For me, the Christmas season is not complete without at least one viewing of Home Alone yet I often quote the movie throughout the year.

I give it 5 “Buzz, your girlfriend…woof” out of 5.

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