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The Big Easy (1987)

Just relax, darlin’. This is the Big Easy. Folks have a certain way o’ doin’ things down here.

— Remy McSwain

The Big Easy is probably one of my favorite Dennis Quaid movies. It’s not because the movie is great, but this is the sexiest role that he has ever been in. There is something alluring about this gorgeous man having that New Orléans accent that hypnotizes you. Quaid is from my hometown of Houston, Texas so I wanna keep up with my fellow Houstonian.

The Big Easy refers to New Orléans, Louisiana and Det. Remy McSwain (Quaid) is being plucked from his bed, snuggling with a stuffed crocodile to be the first to response to a murder. A man is found facedown in a fountain. McSwain’s boss, Captain Jack Kellom (Ned Beatty) tells him that it might the start of a gang war between the mob guys. They call them wiseguys.

Assistant District attorney Anne Osbourne (Ellen Barkin)  is assigned to the case, but she is also looking into the deep corruption in the police force. There are accusations of bribery, tapering with evidence, extortion and murder. Remy uses his charms to woo the bloodhounds from off their backs. He says that it’s the New Orléans way of doing things. Sometimes you have to bend the law to get the job done.

Anne tries not to fall for his charms, but he slowly lowers her defenses until she is ready to pounce. He pounces hard. She is reluctant to get involved with him, but the passion outweighs any code of ethics. Everything is fine, but Remy gets caught in a hairy situation that he might not get out of.

The movie is eye candy first. There is nothing deep and meaningful about this movie for me. There is a mystery element that was brushed to the side until the end of the movie. It felt like an afterthought. There were some points in the movie that I wanted to slap Anne to say that he is not good for you, girl. You gotta admit that he is sexy as hell.

Judgment: You get the chance to watch Dennis Quaid stripped down. Nuff said.

Rating: 6.5/10

Raising Arizona (1987)

We figured there was too much happiness here for just the two of us, so we figured the next logical step was to have us a critter.

— H.I. McDunnough

Raising Arizona was probably my favorite comedy of theirs growing up. This was before I became the movie snob that I claim to be today. You know my track record with the Coen Brothers. Some times they could deliver absolute masterpieces and others are mindless pieces of dreck that would ever be put on celluloid. I believe that my previous love of this movie has waned a bit.

Convicted convenience store robber, H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) comes in and out of jail, because he wants to flirt with the officer that takes his mug shots, Edwina (Holly Hunter). After he gets paroled for the umpteenth time, he proposes to Edwina. They quickly marry; Edwina quits her job at the station, and the couple moves into a mobile home in the middle of the Arizona desert.

Things seem to be great, but Edwina desperately wants to have a child. The couple exhaustively tries to conceive without any success. Edwina learns that is barren. It devastates them. They try to the adoption without success, because of H.I’s long rap sheet.

They think their prayers have been answered when a news report reports about “The Arizona Quints.” Local celebrity Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) and his wife, Florence (Lynne Kitei) took fertility treatments to get their quintuplets. H.I. read is in the papers that Nathan was quoted in saying that the quints are a handful. The McDunnoughs come up with the idea of kidnapping one of the kids.

They break into the Arizona house while they are there and take almost all of them out of their shared crib. Some of the kids crawl away towards the door. H.I. hears that somebody is coming and leaves. He is scolded by Edwina to take one of the babies. He goes back to take Nathan Jr. (T.J. Kuhn Jr.) and raise him as their own.

Naturally, Nathan Arizona issues a $20,000 reward for his safe return. A bounty hunter that looks like he stepped off Mad Max, Leonard Smalls (Tex Cobb) takes up the slack that the inept police force couldn’t do. There is also H.I.’s cellmates, Gale and Evelle (John Goodman, William Forsythe) break of the same jail, Shawshank style. They come to the McDunnough’s trailer to spend the night, which complicates matters that the police will be after them soon.

There is blackmail, betrayal, kidnapping and redemption in this movie. I should feel like I did when I was a kid, but I didn’t. I understand that this movie was supposed to be over the top, but I think the Coens should have dialed it back a thousand percent. I still enjoyed the ridiculous action set pieces like the extended convenience store robberies with the barking dogs, the hand cannon and the Pampers, the fight between Gale and HI and also the climatic scene. Other than that, it was too much for me to handle.

Judgment: I can’t imagine enjoy this film, unless you want to make fun of white trash.

Rating: ***

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I was cursed by a dastardly witch doctor. One minute I’m a prince, charming and handsome, cutting the rug, and the next minute – woah!

— Prince Naveen

The Disney Company has gone back to their hand-drawn animation roots with the release of The Princess and the Frog. Deviating from the classic tale, “The Frog Prince”, the movie is set in 1930s New Orleans. This is billed as Disney’s first movie with an African American princess as the lead. The problem is that it’s not… really.

A young woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) works double shifts as a waitress to save enough money to open her own restaurant. It has been a life long dream for hers and her father, James (Terrence Howard) that died years earlier. Her aging mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) wants Tiana to focus on finding a man that could provide her with the life that she always dreamed.

As fate would have it, Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruce Campos) visits New Orleans to find a bride quickly. He has been cut off from his wealth, because of her womanizing, philandering ways. Accompanying the inconspicuous Prince Naveen on his journey is his manservant, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett).

When the duo steps off the ship, “The Shadow Man” Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo doctor that pretends to be a tarot reader, confronts them. He wants to isolate them to grant their greatest wishes, for Naveen it is wealth and fortune that he was stripped and for Lawrence it is a privileged life like Naveen’s. They both decide to have a deal with The Shadow Man where Naveen is turned into a frog.

Tiana’s friend from childhood, Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) commissions her to provide 500 beignets for her masquerade ball that night. With the money from her dad, “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman), Tiana has enough money to make a payment on a broken down warehouse. The problem is that another bidder made a bid on that property, and she needed the money by the next day or she will lose it.

Distraught about the situation, Tiana spills food on herself. Charlotte quickly whisked Tiana into her room to change. She is dressed as a princess when she wishes on the Northern Star for a solution to her situation. Prince Naveen as the frog shows up to convince Tiana to kiss him to turn him back into a human. She is reluctant at first, but she does kiss him. There has an adverse effect; she is turned into a frog.

The whole movie is an epic journey for Naveen and Tiana to go into the grand bayou to seek out the wisdom of old, blind voodoo queen, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis). Along the journey, a trumpeting playing alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and the broken down Cajun lightning bug Raymond (Jim Cummings) befriend Naveen and Tiana.

In the African American community, people are debating about the state of class in the movie. The privileged people in the movie were the whites and poor were the blacks. They don’t realize in that at the time, blacks people did not have the same opportunities that whites had. They had to work extra hard to catch up. Even though this is a fairy tale, it doesn’t have to be completely unrealistic in that aspect.

This was supposed to be a return to form for Disney, but I thought there was something about the climax of the movie that bothered me. I thought it was wrapped up too tightly at the end of the movie with all the characters collimating at the Mardi Gras parade at the same time. The love story between Naveen and Tiana felt a little rushed to me. I did not have room to breathe. Besides, that I thought that it was a fun time with the upbeat jazzy numbers the characters.

Judgment: A Disney movie that has a somewhat lackluster story.

Rating: ****

The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Goddamn you Walter! You fuckin’ asshole! Everything’s a fuckin’ travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the FUCK, has anything got to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?

— The Dude

The #158 Movie of All Time on IMDb: The Big Lebowski has been a divisive film since its release in 1998. Some people have since it and dismissed as garbage, upon a second viewing they loved it. This is the first time that I have seen it. I am tittering between it being pure genius and pretentious bullshit.

The unemployed bum simply known as “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges) becomes the anti-hero of this story. Being mistaken for a millionaire that share his real name Jeff Lebowski (David Huddleston), a pair of thugs rough him up. During the encounter, one of the thugs pees on his “prized” rug.

The Dude seeks out the other Lebowski to get him to pay for the rug. This action leads to chain of events that spiral out of control. Lebowski and his manservant, Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) want to get Lebowski’s young wife, Bunny (Tara Reid) back who has been kidnapped.

The Dude is mixed up with a trio of nihilists (Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges), a pornographer, Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara), Lebowski’s feminist daughter, Maude (Julianne Moore) who all want something from him. There is also his bowling buddies, Walter (John Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) that want to occupy his time.

This movie is a mind fuck. You wonder when the ending credits start; did the Coens take LSD when they conceived of the movie? In the beginning, the characters carried on some inane conversations that go around in circles. It infuriated me. “We get it! Move on.”

The sequences go from dark to slapstick to tripped out. I had no idea what I was watching. I tried to make some sense out of it. I concluded with this.

At the core of this movie, you have to understand that every character is living in their own universe. They are self-absorbed, needy, and selfish. The only way the monotonous conversations make any sense is that nobody is listening to each other. Perhaps for a split second before they launch into their polemics about urine soaked rugs, mistaken identity and bowling etiquette.

My mind needs time to digest what I seen.

Judgment: This movie should be watched more than once to understand it fully.

Rating: ***1/2 (with wiggle room)

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

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They said I was a valued customer. Now they send me hate mail.

— Rebecca Bloomwood

One of my Facebook friends, Stephen Guarino was talking that he was in the movie that I am reviewing now, Confessions of a Shopaholic that was released earlier this year. He played the receptionist at Alette magazine.

I completely ignored this movie when it came out because of the economic downturn. Here is a movie about spending frivolously and accumulating a massive amount of debt to make yourself fell better. It had a lukewarm reception at the box office. I completely understand why. It’s not good.

Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher) is a frustrated journalist that is working at a job that she hates. The remedy for her blues to buy latest fashion accessories. Price is not a factor for her. She has her magical cards (credit cards) to help her get whatever she wants.

As you can tell from the title, Rebecca is addicted to shopping. She is living beyond her means. Debt collectors are constantly calling her. Side note: a debt collector can call you and mail you letter, but they cannot physically come to your apartment.

She has a chance encounter with a dashing magazine editor, Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy) when she is trying to buy a green scarf on multiple credit cards.

Luke hires Rebecca as new columnist as Successful Saving for a mistake she made when mailed two similar looking letters to Luke and to Alette Naylor (Kirstin Scott Thomas) where her dream job she wants.

Rebecca calls her column, “The Girl in the Green Scarf”. This is the ultimate bit of irony that a woman with massive debt to telling readers how to be careful spenders. Everybody that Rebecca meets thinks that she is genius that “insightful” advice that she gives. She is not. She is vapid stereotype of what a woman is supposed to be.

She is klutz that has a debt collector, Derek Smeath (Robert Stanton) after her. She tries to hide her debt from Luke and her family. All kinds of hijinx occur to the cliched conclusion.

This movies does not portrayed women in the best light. Every time that a woman sees something that she likes, she turns into Shopzilla wants to devours another woman whole to get the latest pair of Gucci boots or a Nancy Gonzalez purse. If I was woman, I would be offended.

The story is typical and contrite. The “jokes” feel flat and obvious. The romance between Luke and Rebecca was convienvent. Nothing transcendent.

Judgment: If you want to mock a movie, this is it.

Rating: **

Coyote Ugly (2000)

The Party Never Ends.

Flipping through the channels, I caught the middle part of Coyote Ugly yesterday morning. This is another movie that I love that it is so campy and fun. It’s not Oscar-caliber material, but it’s fun fluff.

It tells the story of Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo. What a name, huh?), an aspiring songwriter with a debilitating case of stage fright, struggling to make it big in New York City. When she moves to the city, she gets robbed and the money she has been saving was stolen as well.

She needs a way to make money. When she is at a diner, she overhears at the next table that one of the Coyotes, Zoe (Tyra Banks) is leaving to go to college to become a lawyer.

She seeks out the place called “Coyote Ugly”. She sees that it is a bar run by women. Violet is hired by Lil (Maria Bello) to replace Zoe. She meets the other Coyotes; the seductress, Cammie (Izabella Miko), the gruff Rachel (Bridget Moynahan), who thinks that Violet doesn’t have to chops to stay.

Violet’s inevitable love interest is Kevin O’Donnell, played by the delicious Adam Garcia. On first impression, she thinks that he is a big-time music manager, but it turns out that he is a short order cook. He tries to coax her out of her shell by the end of the movie.

The ending is predictable, but it’s fun. They try to make the impossible dream possible. It’s just a movie. Not everything is going to work out in the end.

Judgment: If you want to see a nice, fluffy movie, then check this one out.

Rating: ***

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