#329- Three Kings

Quick recap: Set during the Persian Gulf War, a group of military men head out on a rogue mission to find gold

It’s Maeby from Arrested Development!

Fun (?) fact: I’m just going to quote this straight from the IMDb trivia page:

During the editing stages, David O. Russell attended a fund raiser for George W. Bush at a Warner Brothers executive’s house. Russell walked up to Bush and said, “Hi, I’m editing a film that will question your father’s legacy in Iraq.” Bush shot back, “Well I guess I’m going to have to go back there and finish the job.”

Yeah.

The man sure can dodge a shoe though

My thoughts: War is hell, you guys. Yadda yadda yadda. If you watch Three Kings like I did, though, you’ll become jaded towards all things war. I’ve never considered myself a pacifist but this movie had me questioning all sorts of things- like, what really is the point of war? Is it ever really necessary? And who can we trust to keep things in line? Let me tell you something, an existential crisis was not what I had planned for the holiday break.

Despite the snazzy script and slick cinematography, Three Kings is fairly scathing look the Gulf War. Casting the likes of George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg makes it seem like this is a buddy heist romp, but it’s actually a complicated story. The beginning of the film, which is set at the end of the war, plays out like I imagined it really did- a bunch of confused but happy 18 year olds quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done even though they didn’t do much. I was put off by the careless attitudes of the three kings (even though it’s really 4 guys) as they started out on their journey, although I knew that was the point- to show that no one really understood what was going on. By the end of the film, everyone learns a valuable lesson about war being hell and so on but it was frustrating how many lives were lost before that point hit home.

I think my main issue with the movie was George Clooney’s character Archie Gates. He has a Bugs Bunny quality about him- always one step ahead and a scheme to get out of trouble. I think I was supposed to cheer for him and the men but I just couldn’t. I know they did the right thing in the end but there was so much that was wrong to get to that point. It just showed how flawed the system is. And I think what taints this movie more is that 4 years after Three Kings was released, we were back in Iraq dealing with the mess we left. War isn’t just hell. It’s bullshit.

Final review: 2/5. Kept my attention but disagreed with almost everything else.

Up next: Amarcord

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#317- Audition

Quick recap: A director uses the audition process to find an actor for his film as well as a wife. What he gets instead is a big ball of crazy.

Crazy, yes, but also really talented at torture, so points for that

Fun(?) fact: That was totally actress Eihi Shiina’s (Asami’s) throw up given to the prisoner. IMDb says she’s a method actress but I’m going to double down on ‘big ball of crazy’.

My thoughts: As with every Horrorfest, my goal is always to find the movie that scares me most. Being an adult, it’s hard to latch on to anything creepy these days. I’m more likely to freak out about whether I paid a bill on time than if there is a ghost haunting my house. Then again, the other day I walked into my bedroom to find my cat meowing at the wall and it scared me so much I just walked back downstairs. So, where does Audition fall on Mary’s Spectrum of Horrors? I’d say it’s scarier than a wind turbine (seriously, those things are so unnerving) but not as scary as my child silently walking down the stairs with an astronaut helmet on at 6 in the morning.

There were definitely parts of Audition that stuck with me and I thought the film itself was gorgeous, in that ‘someone’s about to get murdered’ way, but I can’t say it was enough to keep my interest for long. I was really surprised by how normal everything seemed in the beginning and I admit to be lulled into a false since of security. But then unnerving information started coming to the surface and soon it was just all out crazy. I don’t want to reveal much because I think that’s the film’s best quality: surprise.

Two elements of the film keep me from giving it a higher rating- the over the top torture, and the explanation as to why the woman turned out the way she did. For some people, these elements are what make the movie so fascinating and scary but personally, it detracted from what I was looking for.

Final review:3/5. Not a strong start to Horrorfest but there are several days left in the month! The search continues.

Up next: more Horrorfest!

 

 

#315- The Ice Storm

Quick recap: Rich white people make really bad decisions, as do their rich white kids. During an ice storm, of course.

rich or not, everyone made bad clothing choices in 1973.

Fun (?) fact: There really was a bad ice storm in 1973.

My husband spent a great deal of the movie angrily confused because he can’t tell Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire apart. Is this a thing?

My thoughts: Despite my previous snark, in the genre of Rich White People Drama, The Ice Storm is quite good. Watching sad married people can be tiresome after awhile, but the performances in this film made me loathe everyone less than I normally would. It also helps that Ang Lee directed it, which added depth without overkill on the whole ice storm metaphor.

And now to the real star of the film: the ice storm. Being from Texas, I haven’t experienced ice in the way people up north have. Sometimes it accumulates enough that school is canceled but we all know it’s mostly because we needed a break anyway. But this was a legit storm! I don’t know how Ang Lee managed to create something so realistic but it totally worked. I was worried the metaphor might be too heavy handed ,like when you learn in middle school that birds symbolize freedom, but the storm really did tie everything together nicely.

As for the plot, I particularly liked that nothing was really solved. Everyone was just as miserable at the end, but with a new perspective on their miserableness, I think. In a strange way, I wouldn’t say the movie as a whole was depressing. There were sad moments, sure, but everyone just endured through them in the way that people back then did. I won’t give away the ending because I do have some self-control at times, but I imagine that the defining moment ultimately didn’t do much for either family in the end. They carried on as people tend to do, and for some reason, that comforts me.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: City of God

 

#312- Titanic

Quick recap: So, there’s this ship, ok? And everyone says it will never sink, which is exactly the sort of thing you should say when you want the ship to sink. Which it does. And there’s also a love story thrown in for good measure.

Fun (?) fact: After the Internet collectively decided Jack could have fit on the door at the end of the film, James Cameron went on record saying that no, ‘It’s not a question of room; it’s a question of buoyancy.” That’s when the Mythbusters stepped in and proved that with a little bit of help from the life jackets, both Jack and Rose totally could’ve survived.

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Ah, true love

My thoughts: Titanic came out in when I was in junior high and because I was a Cool Teen, I boycotted watching it. While my friends bought tickets to see the movie again and again in theaters, I scoffed at how easily they fell for a love story. I was especially angry that James Cameron turned a perfectly good disaster story into romance. Yuck. But behind closed doors? That was a different story. I got the VHS tapes as a throwaway gift at Christmas and although I outwardly seethed at such a Teenage gift, inside I was giddy to finally see what all the fuss was about. Secretly I watched the movie several times, pausing at my favorite part, when Rose jumps from the life boat back onto the sinking ship and makes the choice to stay with her love. I never admitted it, but it was this level of love I wanted. It wouldn’t be until Moulin Rouge several years later that I could finally be free and admit I had a soft side.

To the most obvious question, ‘Does Titanic hold up 20 years later?’ It does, mostly. Watching it this time around, I was more aware of the background actors, all supposedly based off of real passengers. Their various deaths stung more when I watched than I remembered back then. The visuals were just as amazing as they were back then and I can’t imagine anyone ever being able to do the disaster better than Cameron did. As for the central love story, this time I wasn’t as enthralled. Leo and Kate have amazing chemistry and sell their characters so well, but the dialogue was insanely cheesy at times, to the point that I cringed during some scenes. Unhappy Rich Girl and Impish Wanderlust Guy just didn’t have the same impact as it did when I was 13. But really, the plot only grated on me during the first part of the film. The second part, when they’ve hit the iceberg, is near perfect. I mean, except for the death. That was unfortunate. I absolutely loved the scenes where Jack and Rose were trying to find a way out through the freezing water and the lights kept flickering on and off. Those moments alone could’ve made a great horror film.

I was in Walgreens a couple of days ago and that Celine Dion song came on the speakers. My first instinct was to roll my eyes but then flashes of the movie started going through my head and for a brief moment, I felt genuinely sad, as if I had just watched a documentary on two real people on the Titanic. Teenage Me would be so embarrassed that I admitted that just now, but that’s part of growing up, I suppose.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: Meet Me in St. Louis