Fargo (1996)

The Little Guy Was Kinda Funny-Lookin’

Acting as both a review request and a movie I should’ve seen earlier comes today’s movie. Requested by Sam, today’s movie is a dark comedy, something that generally turns me off. I don’t like my comedies to be demented, with lots of death and sadness to them. On the other hand, this movie is by the Coen Brothers, and they gave me True Grit. On top of that, it’s a classic. How could I not watch it? This is how! This review is over! … Oh, you’re still here. Okay, I’ll review it. Today’s movie is Fargo, written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring William H. Macy, Kristin Rudrud, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, Frances McDormand, John Carroll Lynch, Steve Reevis, Steve Park, and Bruce Campbell.

Car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) has gotten himself into a bit of a financial pickle. The most obvious solution to his (and, let’s face it, ANYONE’s) problem is to hire two guys to kidnap your wife for the ransom. Through a Native American ex-con named Shep Proudfoot (Steve Reevis), Jerry is introduced to the two men who will do the deed, Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare). They kidnap Jerry’s wife, Jean (Kristin Rudrud), but things start to go sour for them as they drive to their safe house. First, they get pulled over for not having tags, then Jean’s bitching from the backseat gets the cop killed. Then, Carl’s lack of upper body strength gets them seen as he tries to drag the cop’s body off the street, making Gaear kill two more people. This gets the local police chief, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), involved. From here, the plan hits a few speed bumps.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to the greater majority of you, but this is a good ass movie. Hell, it didn’t even come as a surprise to me. I don’t know why it took me so long to watch this thing. I loved True Grit. I loved No Country for Old Men. I’ve already written of my affection for the Big Lebowski. And yet, foolishly, I refrained from this movie. But that problem is now solved. Dark comedies have never really worked for me in the past, but this movie combines a few solid laughs with all their dark subject matter, and ties it all together with an excellent story. I found that the accents wore on me in this movie, though. I was already a little bit prepared for them, having tolerated Sam’s accent for so long, but Jesus they say “Oh yeah” a lot. It kind of gave me the impression that the Coen’s did not care for the people of Minnesota that much, as most of them came off as not that bright. The story of the movie made up for it though. Shit just kept getting worse and worse in this movie. It’s like the Shield or something. You would be saying “Alright, give us a break and let something go right for a change” were the story not so well done. Instead you just sit back and enjoy. I don’t know if I’d call it a negative, but one part I had a bit of an issue with was the part between McDormand and Steve Park in the restaurant. This scene served no purpose whatsoever as far as I could tell, but it was a good scene, so I don’t know if I can say I’d want it gone. The story is put on pause by it, but the performances in the scene were good and it was interesting watching it be funny, then plunge into depressing, and back up again.

The performances in this movie were even better than the story somehow. I started wondering as I started listing the cast about who the hero was in this movie. William H. Macy is the driving force of the movie because he sets everything moving. Buscemi did the majority of the legwork in the movie while Stormare spent his time watching TV’s. Frances McDormand would probably have to be the hero of the movie because she was the only one that was a good person, she solved the thing, but she also didn’t have that much to do with the overall story until the very end. She did make me laugh the most, though. That accent amused me no matter who’s mouth it was coming out of, but it was even funnier when she was saying intelligent things and working out exactly what happened from very little evidence, but all of it was being said with that accent that would make me not take it seriously. Then again, she didn’t seem able to see through William H. Macy’s horrible poker face in their first interview, so who’s to say how bright she is? I did laugh at the joke she told about the personalized license plates, but only because the other cop’s response was “Oh yeah, that’s a good one”. But easily the most awesome thing about this movie is that Bruce Campbell was in it. Sure, he was only in about a minute of the movie, and that minute was on the soap opera Stormare was watching with horrible reception, but I recognized him! That dude rules.

I couldn’t really find a lot to say about this movie. Sometimes, movie’s are just great and I can’t make fun of them. I have let you all down and will now perform ritualistic suicide to punish myself, while simultaneously saving my honor. Probably the only dark comedy that has ever worked for me, the film delivers plenty of dark, plenty of comedy, and a fantastic story, all supported by great acting. No complaints. Go watch this movie and enjoy it, even if you have already. Fargo gets “You’re darned tootin’!” out of “So, I called it in. …End o’ story…”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

Pulp Fiction (1994)

And You Will Know My Name is the Lord When I Lay My Vengeance Upon Thee.

I sometimes get worried when I start a review after watching a movie that caused me to take almost no notes whatsoever. This usually doesn’t happen when watching a crappy movie because I think of lots of jokes to take down during those; this mainly happens during good movies. What is there to say about a good movie? Well, let’s find out. This movie was suggested by my friend Chris, a young crippled boy who probably submitted his request through the Make A Wish Foundation. Or he posted it on my Facebook page. Either way, this movie is a classic movie, much beloved by many people I’ve spoken to about it. As with most movies with such a pedigree, it took me a while to see it for the first time, but once I had, I loved it and bought it on DVD. When it was requested, I busted out that bad boy and sat down to write what you are presently reading. This movie is Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Maria de Medeiros, Harvey Keitel, Peter Greene, Duane Whitaker, Alexis Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Kathy Griffin, Phil LaMarr, and Christopher Walken.

This here is a difficult movie to summarize, and even more without spoilers. So there will be spoilers, but I’m going to try to do this chronologically. Two hit men, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson), go to an apartment to pick up a briefcase with mysterious, shiny contents. They kill the people in the apartment and leave with their informant, Marvin (Phil Lamarr). On the drive, Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the face. They go to Jules’ associate’s, Jimmy’s (Quentin Tarantino), house to clean up the situation, but his wife, Bonnie, is coming home and they need to get it done by the time she arrives. The Wolf, Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), is called in by their boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). He takes care of the situation and Vincent and Jules go to breakfast. Here, they get involved in a hold-up at the restaurant by Ringo (Tim Roth) and Yolanda (Amanda Plummer). Because Jules is reluctant to give up Marsellus’ case, it devolves into a Mexican standoff between the four. Jules defuses the situation and Vincent and Jules take the case back to Marsellus. Here, they see Marsellus paying off boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis), to take a dive in his fight. After turning over the case, Marsellus asks Vincent to take his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman), out for dinner that night to occupy her. He does, they have a nice night of dinner and dancing, and he returns her home. While he’s in the bathroom, Mia finds a baggie of heroin in Vincent’s jacket and snorts it, mistaking it for cocaine. She immediately overdoses and Vincent must rush her over to the house of his drug dealer, Lance (Eric Stoltz), and his girl, Jody (Rosanna Arquette). They are able to revive her by administering an adrenaline shot directly into her heart. Later, Butch does not take the dive in his match. Instead, he kills his opponent in the ring. His intention is to take the money and his girlfriend, Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros), and run away. But Fabienne has forgotten his watch, given to him as a child – along with a disturbing story of a POW camp and anal storage of said watch – by Captain Koons (Christopher Walken), who was in the POW camp with Butch’s father. Butch returns to his apartment for the watch and kills Vincent, who was there looking for Butch. On the way back to Fabienne, Butch sees Marsellus in the street and hits him with his car. Marsellus chases Butch into a pawn shop owned by Maynard (Duane Whitaker), who stops Butch moments from killing Marsellus. Maynard knocks out Butch and Marsellus. They wake up to find themselves tied to chairs with ball gags in their mouth. Maynard called in his buddy, Zed (Peter Greene), and they decide to rape Marsellus. Butch escapes but decides to go back to save Marsellus with a katana. Marsellus tells Butch to never come back to LA, which he happily does with Fabienne.

That is basically the entire movie, condensed to a paragraph. You get a two and a half hour movie out of that by filling it with lots and lots of dialogue. Normally, this would make for an excruciating movie, but this is written by Quentin Tarantino. Much like the oft-mentioned Kevin Smith, Tarantino is an expert at taking scenes where nothing is happening beyond people talking, and that conversation has nothing to do with moving the story along, but make it super compelling so you don’t mind or get bored. The dialogue is definitely the most appealing part to this movie, but that is not to say that the story should not be lauded. Take out all the dialogue and you’d still have a good movie, but not a great one. It’s funny in a lot of parts, dark and violent all over the place, and always intriguing. Though it works in this movie, I’m generally not a fan of the movies being shown out of order. In this movie, it’s fine, but it also makes it a little hard to follow the order of things. But now I’ve written it down in chronological order, so all is well. As with most Tarantino movies, the music is fantastic as well. He loves to throw in those old songs, most of which probably wouldn’t be remembered now were it not for him. Take Miserlou, for example. I like the song, but there is no way I would know that song if it weren’t for this movie.

The acting is pretty much all the way perfect in this movie. John Travolta was a quiet badass who remained calm throughout the greater majority of the movie, even with Bruce Willis pointing a gun at him moments before his death. The only time he lost his shit was when Uma Thurman was dying in front of him, and that was more about getting killed by Marsellus than it was about her death. Samuel L. Jackson was really intimidating at most parts of this movie, more so when he was staring a gun down it’s barrel in the restaurant and when he was quoting the bible at people he was about to kill. “I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration?” Priceless. Uma Thurman was probably as hot as she’s ever been in this movie, and very real as well. I’m not usually one to dig on Uma for whatever reason, but something about that hair do worked for me. Ving Rhames was a great, powerful character in this movie that had that power taken away by a good ass-raping. And he reacts to that much as I assume I would: with a shotgun blast to the rapist’s penis and a threat against anyone who may mention it ever again. I could go through everyone in this movie, but I’ll have the same thing to say about every character from the biggest to the most minor: very real, very good. I think the person that impressed me the most was right in the opening scene of the movie: Amanda Plummer. She comes off first as a sweet lady out to eat with her boyfriend, talking innocently about robbery possibilities. When it’s time to bust out the guns and rob the joint, she is frightening as hell. And later, when Roth has a gun pointed at him, her tough persona cracks drastically as she is terrified she’s about to lose her man to this endeavor.

No surprises here, people. If you’re looking to be shocked by my reviews, keep walking. But I can’t hate on every movie, people. I like stuff too! WHY DON’T YOU GET OFF MY BACK!?! …Sorry. Anyways, great story, fantastic dialogue, and amazing performances land this movie firmly in position for you to own it. Everyone either does or should. So go get it or watch it. Pulp Fiction gets “I want that trophy, so dance good” out of “I don’t need you to tell me how fucking good my coffee is.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

The Big Lebowski (1998)

With my roommate back in town, the decision was made to rewatch The Big Lebowski, recently released in Blu-Ray. This movie has quite the star studded cast, including Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and many many more. It’s also a Coen Brothers movie and, at least so far as I’ve seen, they can do no wrong, so let’s dive right in.

The Big Lebowski is the story of the Dude (Jeff Bridges) who is a laid-back bowler on a bowling team with Goodman (a crazed, Jewish, Vietnam vet) and Buscemi (Shut the fuck up, Donny). The Dude gets confused for another Lebowski and is subsequently assaulted, threatened, and – worst of all – has his rug defiled. And that rug REALLY tied the room together. The Dude goes to the other Lebowski to get his rug replaced and kinda does. Then the other Lebowski’s wife (Tara Reid) gets “kidnapped” and the remainder of the movie is the situation getting more and more crazy around the Dude. But it’s okay, ’cause the dude abides, man.

This movie can be a little hard to follow at times, trying to figure out who’s doing what and why, but that’s really not the point, is it? This is a comedy, it’s purpose is to be funny, and it is. It should come as no surprise that I liked this movie as I’ve already said that, as far as I’ve seen, the Coen Brothers can do no wrong. Jeff Bridges portrayal of the Dude (though admittedly similar to ALMOST all of his other performances I’ve seen him in) is fantastic. He’s somewhat dimwitted, pretty clever, very comical, and totally laid-back. I like this dude Dude. I say it’s similar to his other performance only because I’ve only seen him in like 5 movies, and two of them are Tron. No one can say Rooster Cogburn had anything in common with the Dude beyond being awesome. John Goodman is awesome in this movie as well. He’s a crazy asshole Jewish Vietnam Vet. I could totally see hanging out with this guy even though he’d drive me nuts, especially because whenever he gets involved he makes things worse and doesn’t seem to realize it. Julianne Moore and Buscemi were also quite enjoyable, but of the lesser cast, I think Turturro stands out as Jesus. He would just pop in occasionally as an over the top antagonist stereotype, but was funny every time.

So I’m keeping it short here because I really don’t have much to say about a movie most people already know and love. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Escape from LA (1996)

I decided to keep the Kurt Russell love going by watching Escape from LA next. Snake Plissken (Russell) is back, this time rescuing the President’s daughter from LA because she’s carrying a device that will can set an Electromagnetic Pulse loose that will turn the world back to the Dark Ages.

Time is still a major gripe of mine in this movie, just as it was in Escape from New York. The movie came out in 1996, and it makes the claim that 4 years after the movie came out, LA has turned into a squalid city of sin and vice that, in 2000, is separated from California by a giant earthquake. Okay, I give you that, even in 96, that was an apt description of LA from my experience, but you gave God 4 years to sink that bitch. Suffice to say that didn’t happen. The movie itself takes place in 2 years, so I guess it still has some time for Snake Plissken to get down there and start some shit. At least they realized that CGI would evolve. So we have 2 years to get full holographic recordings. We’re actually on our way there from what I’ve seen. We’ve got that lame 3D nonsense already, and I’ve seen those holographic newscasts on some station before. It’s a dumb gimmick, but a plausible one!

So Snake is again arrested, his status as badass not affected by the fact that he’s not that great at eluding the police. His help is needed again because the President’s daughter stole the EMP device – which I am ashamed to admit I kept trying to type EVP because I watch Ghost Adventures too much – and went into LA to take it to her boyfriend, Cuervo Jones. He of course, is not down like a clown, not even for Charlie Brown, but they entice him by scratching his hand and giving him a virus, which is TOTALLY different than the last movie where almost everything else happened exactly like this but it was an explosive in his neck. He gets in to LA and almost immediately gets close to getting the device from Cuervo by stealing a motorcycle and traversing his motorcade and beating ass on most of his men. Cuervo sees him running up on him with a shotgun and Cuervo takes him down with bolas. Now, if you’re not all weapon nerdy like I am, you may not know what bolas are. Bolas are a snare device dating back to the 1600’s or earlier that are basically a set of weighted balls connected by a string that you throw at something to wrap it up. Badass status slightly diminished there, Snake. You now those shotguns shoot bullets, right? Another thing you learn from this section is that when a motorcycle falls onto it’s side, it explodes into a giant ball of flame. Can’t say you didn’t learn anything, eh?

Along his way to the end of the movie, Snake meets up with a colorful cavalcade of characters. He meets “Map to the Stars” Eddy, played by Steve Buscemi, who is a nervous, shifty, sheister that Buscemi is so good at playing. He comes across the hot chick from Hot Shots Part Deux Valerina Golino, who promptly dies. He escapes from a hospital where – my favorite – Bruce Campbell plays a doctor who trades in body parts to people whose plastic surgery is failing because they’ve had too much and they need it replaced daily, a fair enough commentary on the fakeness of LA. And last but not least, Pam Grier as a transsexual named Hershey, who is so good at playing one that I originally thought she was actually a man before I knew who Pam Grier was. Not to say she’s not hot, but they messed with her voice so I thought she was a dude. I never said I was a smart kid.

So, there were some problems to this movie, the most glaring of which is that it is basically Escape from New York in LA with a better budget. I think people would’ve liked the movie better if they released it as a re-imagining and not a sequel. In the middle of the movie, after being captured by Cuervo, Snake must fight for his life in a win-or-die game of … basketball … so there THAT is. Also, being as LA was split from the world by an earthquake, the city is semi-regularly ravaged by aftershocks, which would be fine if it was actually random and not only when it advanced the plot. It seems like the writer would write himself into a corner and say “How do we get Snake out of this? Oh yes, random earthquake, someone falls down, Snake runs away”.

That all being said, I actually preferred this movie and I seemed to be one of the few. The movie got a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes and Escape from New York got 80 something. I think a lot of that probably comes from the fact that it was basically the same movie, but I don’t see why that wouldn’t make someone just think it’s like the first one with better graphics and more explosions. For a brief time I tried to find out what people’s problem was with this movie, then I realized I don’t care. I give this movie a “Fuck you guys, it’s better than the first” out of 27.