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Groovy, original, and deep
Due to a misleading marketing technique (one that did not feature the Monkees themselves), this movie did not get the hype it deserved, and thus, it fell short of its marketers' expectations. But...that does not mean that it is a horrible movie.
On the contrary, it is inventive, funny, thought-provoking, and generally groovy. Some parts are confusing, some are just weird, but chalk it all up to the sixties and enjoy everything else.
It's nice to know that the Monkees can make fun of themselves. In the "Ditty Diego War Chant," they say, "Hey, hey, we are The Monkees/You know we love to please/A manufactured image/With no philosophies." Most music groups would get mad if people constantly called them 'manufactured,' or fake. The Monkees are able to rise above their tormentors and laugh at themselves in a sly, surreptitious fashion. This they do constantly, but stealthily, throughout the movie, and the effect is smart and funny.
Who can forget the memorable scenes from the film? Just a few of my favorites: 1)Micky battling the coke machine, 2)Peter's ice cream, 3)Davy becoming obsessed with the mirror--there's an eye in there!, 4)the group of soldiers randomly surrendering to a confused Micky, 5)the black box, 6)the opening and closing few minutes, 7)the strange occurrences in the factory that only Davy seems to see, 8)the fight sequence, 9)the war sequence with the helmet, 10)Mike saying, "see that you do"...I could go on. And on. And on.
In the "Ditty Diego War Chant," the Monkees say: "We hope you'll like our story/Although, there isn't one/That is to say, there's many/That way, there is more fun." Yes, there are indeed a great many stories within this film. And most of them are bizarre. And trust me, it does--kind of--come together in the end.
This would actually be a fun movie to write an analytical essay about. Though you may struggle while searching for a plot, or might even sit with a confused (but happy) look haunting your face for a good 85 or so minutes of it (it's 86 minutes long), there is much material here to keep you thinking. And that material would make a good essay: it's fun to analyze and interpret.
The special effects are fun, what with the dancing scenes, the "Circle Sky" performance, and the mermaid scene. I've also found that I perpetually have the "Porpoise Song" stuck in my head, along with a mental image of Micky falling (from the opening scene). I also constantly remember the last scene, which brings clever closure to the film as a whole.
Definitely worth a rent at the least, Head will probably surprise you (hopefully in a good way). It's a groovy ride of a movie, and it will leave you with food for thought. Plenty of food for thought.
The Bumblebee Flies Anyway (1999)
Mind over Matter-what you believe is what is real
The Bumblebee Flies Anyway is a mysterious maze of a movie, twisting and turning throughout its hour and a half time span. What you see is what you believe, and what you believe is what becomes reality. This is mind over matter. Despite the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees can fly. These concepts are the basis for an experiment involving Barney Snow.
Barney Snow (Elijah Wood) is a young man with amnesia. He cannot remember anything prior to his arrival at a small experimental hospital, and some days, he even has trouble remembering his own name. He is the only amnesia patient in a hospital for terminally ill children, so the doctor warns him to remain detached.
Such a warning is hard to heed when Barney's home (and all he remembers) is the hospital. Naturally, the other patients become friends, even family to him. His new friends include Billy (George Gore II), a boy with a kidney disorder inherited from deceased parents, and Mazzo (Joe Perrino), a young man with bone cancer. Mazzo's twin sister, Cassie (Rachael Leigh Cook), comes to visit her brother, and meets Barney.
Barney's relationships are truly beautiful. He is not rude or condescending to the others in the hospital-nor does he seem to pity them. He takes them for their personalities, looking beyond face value. Even though Mazzo is constantly angry about his disease and projects this at Barney, the two share an amazing bond. Barney won't stop trying with Mazzo. When Mazzo gets mad at Barney, Barney doesn't pity him-he exchanges tense banter. They are real characters; they have human traits, beliefs, and struggles. Billy, the boy with the kidney problem, is a stoic, sarcastic, and even humorous child with something to say about everyone and everything. He ignores his own disease, but he doesn't deny it. His sarcasm provides a way of dealing with his problems. Finally, there is the element of romance, coming into play with Cassie and Barney. This is a subtle, effective romance, one that makes sense and moves at the right pace. Both Cassie and Barney are at crossroads in their lives, and this is reflected in their time together.
The film itself is a pensive piece. The maze that it is must be solved before it makes sense, but then it does. Every twist and turn are accounted for finally. The last approximately twenty minutes are truly outstanding. It shows something about human nature and the reality of life.
I Am Sam (2001)
Unrealistic & frustrating: go watch Rain Man
Well, that was not the greatest movie to spend six-fifty on. In the beginning, I bit my lip with frustration. Toward the middle, I was groaning inwardly. By the end, I sat in my seat filled with shock, ranting to my friends and anyone else who would listen.
Obviously, not enough research went into this film. Sam (Sean Penn) was an unrealistic character. The characters explained that he had autistic tendencies and was retarded. No. I have dealt intimately with autism (living with someone who has it, working at a daycare for children with it, going to preschool in a class with well over half people with disabilities) for over sixteen years, and I can tell you that Sam is well off his marker. He is far too high functioning for some of his low functioning traits. In other words, he becomes incredibly capable when the plotline requires it, then appears to be quite low functioning at other times.
He knows the Beatles like the back of his hand. Okay. I can go for that. But how does he apply the songs and life stories to and draw complex connections from the Beatles to his own life? How can he come up with these life lessons for his daughter and profound statements for just the right time ("Always set your dreams high, Lucy." "You need to leave your husband." "You don't know what it's like when you try and you try and you try, and you never get there!")? So he is high functioning enough to do all that, but he can't make a drink at Starbucks after many years there? He can't understand concepts simpler than the profound exclamations he makes?
Some of the other disabled people in the movie were well done. However, the man who the filmmakers apparently wanted to appear to have autism (the one who kept rattling off movies and their release dates) was a cheap Rain Man rip off but plausible. The largest problem with him however, the thing that made me not believe in him, was that he seemed capable of analyzing the characters in the movies of which he spoke. While this only happened once or twice, it was enough to cause me frustration.
Also, there was very little to no background given. How did Sam have a baby? How did he hook up with a woman, hooker or not? How did he raise a child alone (except for the help of a woman who never leaves home) for seven years? How did he know what diapers to buy? How, how, how? How did all of these plot holes sneak by? This only served to confuse viewers and give an unstable view of Sam's abilities. More "hows" were generated than answers.
The best thing to come out of this movie was Dakota Fanning (Lucy, Sam's daughter). She was the most believable character, and seemed to innately know how to act and react. Laura Dern (Randy, foster mother) was also fantastic. She obviously just wanted the best for little Lucy. Sean Penn did the best he knew how for Sam, but it just wasn't up to par. With a script that had adequate research, a well-defined character with a well-defined disability, and some more research on his part, he would have fared much better.
Many think this is "just a movie" and doesn't deserve harsh criticism, but face it, this is what the general public sees of disabilities. This is what the average person thinks about people with autism. They'll get their education about disabilities from movies like this one. And what they're seeing is a false image. I'm so sick of seeing autism misrepresented in cinema.
If you want to see a good drama that deals with disabilities, Rain Man is the best. Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of autistic savant Raymond is dead on-I believed that he was autistic. The next best is What's Eating Gilbert Grape?. Leonardo DiCaprio does an excellent job with his autistic character Arnie, a completely unrecognizable change from the DiCaprio in Titanic or Romeo and Juliet. If you do want to watch I Am Sam, knock yourself out. Just don't waste any of your time believing it.
Scary Movie (2000)
How did this get away without an NC-17 rating?
To sum this movie up in one word, yuck. The concept was wonderful, and it had the potential to be hilarious. Why, then, is it solely about sex? Why are most of the jokes about sex? That was completely unnecessary. Also, equally disturbing, was the amount of jokes directed toward retarded people. Who gets off on those jokes? I find them grossly cruel.
This is not a movie to waste even matinee price on. If you want a quality parody movie, get Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, or Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Scary Movie is just a little too far off color and focuses on the wrong things. Why is escaped with an R rating is beyond me.
Harrison Bergeron (1995)
A disturbing view of the future
This is not the movie to watch right before you trust the government to do something that they say is in your best interest.
Living some years from now, Harrison Bergeron is a smart young man. So smart, in fact, that he's had to repeat grades, several times. That's because A's are bad, C's are good. Everyone is to be rendered average by a headband that moniters brainwaves and keeps intelligence level to average. Harrison, however, is so smart that the headband does not work for him. Recruited by the government, he learns that people have so much more potential than is allowed. Armed with this new knowledge, he feels compelled to act.
In a wonderfully hilarious supporting role, Eugene Levy plays the randomly selected president, who has no idea how to lead a country but loves wielding power. His conversations are little sub-gems sprinkled throughout a gem of a movie. This one is well worth the while, though quite disturbing.
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
Scary! And good!
Okay, this movie was creepy and twisted, but really, really good. The effects aren't the best, but that is easily overlooked (if you aren't a nitpicker).
John Trent is sent to find Sutter Cane, a fiction writer, who mysteriously disappeared shortly before he was supposed to hand over his latest horror story. Accompanying Trent is Linda Styles. Together, they begin to drive to a town from one of Cane's earlier books, Hobb's End, previously thought to just be fictious. However, as Trent and Linda drive, the lines between fiction and reality blur, and they end up in Hobb's End, a town that really does just belong in a horror novel. Once there, a disbelieving Trent must figure out exactly what is going on and where Cane is.
John Carpenter outdid himself with this one. In my opinion, it beats out Halloween even. The movie keeps you thinking on your toes, but somehow stays one ironic step ahead of you. While somewhat confusing, everything DOES come together eventually, so don't give up on it.
Trapped in a Purple Haze (2000)
A realistic, engaging story
Max Hanson (Jonathan Jackson) feels pressured on all sides. His mother wants one thing for him, his friends want another. Max isn't sure what he really wants for himself. Then he meets Molly (Carly Pope). Molly is everything that Max isn't. Free, happy, open. He starts dating her, and she gets him on drugs. Turns out she isn't so free or happy after all. And neither is Max anymore.
We follow Max in his downward spiral to addiction. We see him begin to lose everything he has worked for, family, friends, hockey, school, painting... Instead, his life turns to one of drugs, sex, crime, highs, and lows.
The acting is incredible, especially for a made-for-TV movie, and look for Hayden Christensen in a bit part as Orin Krieg, one of Max's friends (the hockey goalie and video store clerk). JoBeth Williams is outstanding as Max's overbearing mother.
If you can find it, this one is worth viewing.
Higher Ground (2000)
Poignant, realistic, wonderful
If you're looking for 'Dawson's Creek,' this is not it. If you want mushy characters who fall apart when their clothes don't match, this is not it. If you want a show that is realistic, dramatic, thoughtful, and well-acted, look no further. 'Higher Ground' is it.
Located 25 miles from the nearest town, Mount Horizon High School is a school for teens who were struggling with their lives. The show focuses on one group of these teens, the Cliffhangers, the director of the school, and a few counselors. One teen is a vandal, one had an eating disorder, several were on drugs, and a couple were sexually abused. As their individual stories unfold, we can see deeper into their hearts, as well as our own.
Joe Lando (who plays Peter Scarbrow, the director of the school) makes an outstanding return to TV drama, and other standout performances include those of Hayden Christensen (playing Scott Barringer), A.J. Cook (playing Shelby Merrick), and Jewel Staite (playing Daisy Lipenowski).
It is utterly believable, thoughtful, poignant, and wonderful. You will cry with these teens, and you will love and want to understand each of them.
Miracle in Lane 2 (2000)
Uplifting movie with outstanding cast
Justin Yoder (Frankie Muniz) wants desperately to win a trophy. He wants to compete, to succeed, to win. One problem. Justin is in a wheelchair.
While his disability has hampered him for years, Justin finally finds something that he can do--soapbox derbies. After talking his parents into it, he launches into a whole new stage of his life, finding that he is good at something, and he might even have a chance at a trophy.
This movie caught my eye one day a little over a year ago on the Disney channel. I watch 'Malcolm in the Middle' and quickly recognized Frankie Muniz. However, it was not him I came away loving, it was Patrick Levis. Patrick plays Seth Yoder, Justin's older brother. I have a brother of my own with a disability, so I understood every single one of Seth's feelings and frustrations. The scene in which Seth breaks down and spills his feelings to his father was especially poignant. Thank you, Patrick, for such a beautiful and understanding performance. This movie is careful not to deny the truths of being a sibling to someone with a disability--a rare and wonderful thing for films.
All in all, a magnificent piece of work, especially for a made-for-TV movie.