Tag: Better Off Dead

Foolishness: My Favorite Comedies

I thought you guys might enjoy the list I did on my other blog of my favorite comedies in honor of April Fools

Rachel's Reviews

Happy April Fools!  I’m honestly not a big fan of practical jokes but I do enjoy a good laugh.  I thought given the day I would share with all of you 10 of my favorite comedies.

For these 10 I tried to pick all out comedies, not romantic comedies, dark comedies or movies like the Apartment that have comedic elements.  These are roll on the ground, laugh out loud, make me laugh every time films.  Humor is completely subjective (all films are but especially comedies) so these are just what I find most funny.  You may not and that’s cool.  Instead of just critiquing my list (easy to do) share with me your favorites and what makes you laugh.

1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail- Almost everyone I know thinks this is funny. There are so many jokes and the script is so well written. Some highlights are the…

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Guilty Pleasure Movies

Yesterday my friends over at Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys) posted a list of their favorite guilty pleasure movies.

http://jordanandeddie.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/top-10-guilty-pleasure-movies-eddies-take/

I commented on Eddie’s choice of Pearl Harbor, one of my least favorite movies, and it got me thinking.  What movies do I know aren’t great but I have an affection for?

The guys lists are:

Eddie- Phantom Tollbooth, Mouse hunt, Transformers, The Mummy, Pearl Harbor, Death Race, Con Air, Deep Blue Sea, Ave Ventura Pet Detective, Hot Rod

Jordan- Doom, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Doomsday, Kung Pow: Enter the Fists, Mallrats, Bad Taste, Mother of Tears, Man with Two Brains, My Name is Bruce, Resident Evil Franchise (I haven’t seen a single one of Jordan’s choices).

Jordan describes a guilty pleasure as- “There those endlessly rewatchable treats that appeal to some and are despised by others, usually nestled somewhere between bad and terrible”

It was tougher than I thought to come up with a list because there are a lot of movies that I LOVE which most people are lukewarm for such as You’ve Got Mail, Just Like Heaven, or Source Code.  I couldn’t think of that many movies that people really hate that I like.

However, I could think of a lot of made for TV movies I like that people hate.  I don’t know if these should count but I figure a movie is a movie.and it’s my list so who cares!

Guilty Pleasure Movies

Love Comes Softly
Love Comes Softly

1. Love Comes Softly Series-

Starting in 2003 Hallmark released their first Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on Janette Oak’s novels of a family finding love and hope on the frontier in the 1860s.  Each features a strong willed woman who must support her family emotionally and physically and find love along the way

You can watch the series based on the release date starting with Love Comes Softly, Love’s Enduring Promise, Love’s Long Journey, Love’s Abiding Joy, Love’s Unending Legacy, Love’s Unfolding Dream, Love Takes Wing, Love Finds a Home, Love’s Christmas Journey

or you can watch in chronological order with 2 prequels made in 2011 Love Begins and Love’s Everlasting Courage (I have all 10 films if you want to borrow).

What Critics Think:

The average critic would hate these movies.  The acting isn’t always great.  The stories are predictable and the sentiment is laid on pretty thick.  One reviewer said “abysmal like too little grass spread across too much lawn…”

Why I Like Them:

I know these movies are sappy and predictable but I feel like they tell their stories in a really likable way.  The cinematography is good, the performances are earnest and sometimes quite good.  They also talk about faith without beating it over your head.  They will make you cry and smile and just like a bowl of soup feel good even if you know it’s just a bowl of soup.

high school musical

2. High School Musical-

I actually don’t own high school musical but it is one I turn on when I see it is on TV.  High School Musical was made for the Disney channel in 2006 and became a sensation.  Like a musical from the 60s (or a musical set in the 60s ala Hairspray or Grease) HSM is set in a high school with Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens as two students afraid to try out for the high school musical despite their great voices and chemistry.  There are all the typical characters of a high school including jocks and prima donnas but none of them are done in a mean or heavy-handed way.

The reason why this movie did so well I believe is because it appealed to the pre-teen crowd even though it was set in a high school.  There is so few quality entertainment that is targeted for that demographic.  Most are for either older or younger kids.  With HSM tweens could dance and sing and swoon over Zac Efron.  The songs were catchy and the dancing energetic.

What Critics Think:

One critic said “And although the movie is mindlessly engaging for a while, the whole thing ultimately becomes so overwhelmingly silly and juvenile, it’s difficult to imagine even the most die-hard fan of musicals finding anything here worth embracing.”

Why I Like It:

Well my friendly critic I find much worth embracing.  Again if we look at the high school musicals of the past are they really that much better than this?  They have charm, likable leads and catchy music.  At least HSM actually stars real teens instead of a 30 year old Olivia Newton John.

Glee was obviously a result of HSM’s popularity and I think they would have done better if they had kept some of it’s innocence instead of treating it’s characters like adults.

So I like HSM.  I think it is fun, with engaging performances, dancing and singing. Enough for me.

hallmark christmas

3.  Hallmark Christmas Movies-

So I’m a real sucker for Christmas movies.  In fact, it takes a lot to make a Christmas movie I don’t like (I’m talking to you Four Christmases).  Every Christmas I look forward to the Hallmark channel’s Countdown to Christmas and daily syrupy tales of holiday joy.  They always get capable actors and the stories have charm and bring that Christmas cheer.

Some of my favorites are

The Road to Christmas- stars real life couple Jennifer Grey and Clark Gregg (I believe they met on this film) in an opposites attract,  road trip story, that’s completely cheesy but what can I say sometimes I like my Christmas cheese.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year- stars Brooke Burns, Warren Christy and Henry Winkler.  A sweet story of single Mom who is trying to make a Christmas for her son and her uncle who befriends a man on the plane and ends up inviting said man to enjoy Christmas together when his plane is delayed.

The Christmas Choir, Mrs Miracle movies, The Christmas Card, The Christmas Ornament, The Wishing Tree. etc.

What Critics Say-

Well critics, as you might guess, are not very nice to these movies.  They say they are the same movie made over and over again.  One critic cried out in exasperation “If I have to watch another sappy freaken christmas movie I am going to go POSTAL”

Why I Like Them-

First of all the repetition doesn’t bother me.  The whole joy of the holidays is repeating the same messages and traditions over and over again.

Besides, we know there are 7 plots in storytelling, so really almost all movies are the same as a million other stories.  I can only think of a few times in my life I have seen or read something truly original (The Book Thief, Inception come to mind).  That is such an exciting event when it happens but it is rare.

So, you have to find a type of story that you like and then the repetition won’t bother you. I guess I just like stories of Christmas and family and love and romance and goodwill to mankind.

4. Hallmark Hall of Fame Movies-

hallmark romance

This is a bit of cheat because I just had Love Comes Softly and Hallmark Christmas but these bi-monthly films satisfy my need for romantic comedies about nice people falling in love.  In a world where the rom-com is dead what’s a girl to do?

I won’t go into these because the explanation is basically the same as my affection for Hallmark Christmas but some of my favorites are

For the Love of Grace, Love Notes, Romancing the Bride, The Love Letter, The Lost Valentine, Remember Sunday, The 7 Year Hitch, How to Fall in Love, Good Witch, Puppy Love, I Married Who, Flirting with Forty. (Those are not all hall of fame movies but I think they are all Hallmark.  Could be wrong about Flirty).  Lifetime movies are not always as good but still enjoyable.

But honestly I pretty much like them all.  Tonight is one starring James Denton.  Love him…

Friends With Kids main

5 . Friends with Kids-

This movie is technically fresh on rotten tomatoes but it seems like the people who hated it really hated it but I liked it.  It’s not perfect but I really liked what it was trying to do even if it didn’t quite get there.

The movie is about a group of college friends in their early 30s starting to get married and have families.  The ensemble includes Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Westfeldt (starred, wrote and directed), Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.

2 of the group Julie (Westfeldt)  and Jason (Adam Scott) remain single while the others get married.  They see their friends new lives and on one hand are insanely jealous (and probably a little left out of the concerns and problems they talk about).

On the same breath they are horrified by the chaos and quarreling they see in their married friends.  I so relate to that and I have yet to see a movie really tackle that idea. I honestly think it could be done even better than this movie but I enjoyed it.

What Critics Said-

They are a 65% on RT so a lot of critics liked it but then some hated it.  One said “I’d rather have my head stuck in a vise than be forced to sit through another viewing”

Oh well!

What I Liked About it-

I did not enjoy the routine plot of Julie and Jason deciding to have a platonic child together.  That was boring but the observations about life and their friends I totally bought and as that is the majority of the movie I really liked it.  I think it is a hidden gem and if you are single in your 30s check it out.  I bet you will relate too.

It does have a lot of language so you’ve been warned.

win a date

6. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton-

The kind of sweet simple movie that used to be made all the time but almost never is now (except on Hallmark channel).  Stars Kate Bosworth as a midwest fan girl who gets a chance to go to LA and go on a date with her celebrity crush played by Josh Duhamel.  Meanwhile back home her manager Topher Grace has long had feelings for Rosalee.  What will she decide  the glitzy life of Hollywood or the ordinary man who really loves her? hmmm…

All the leads are endearing and fun.  Ginnifer Goodwin and Sean Hayes also give nice supporting work.  It is completely predictable but in a likable way.

What Critics Thought-

Most gave it a pass as harmless and likable (53% on RT) but a few had stronger words.  One critic said “There is no reason on God’s good Earth to see this movie”

Why I Like it-

It’s sweet love story with likable performances even from Duhamel- a role that would usually be a jerk or diva but he is very human.  But mostly I just like Topher Grace a lot.  He’s won me over way back to That’s 70 Show days.  He’s sweet and earnest and just so darn cute.  Enough for me!

Napoleon-Dynamite

7. Napoleon Dynamite-

This is another movie it seems like you either go with and love or hate because of it’s pacing and style.  It’s stupid no question but it made me laugh a lot.  Maybe part of it is it skewers small town Idaho which isn’t too far away from Utah where I live.  The performances are funny.  The style is slow and deliberate but it works and Napoleon is the coolest nerds before nerds became cool.  He’s not even self-aware that he is a nerd.  He’s just himself and the world responds to him.

I find with most any comedy it will either make you laugh or not and there is no guessing what will set any of us off. So in the end I thought it was funny.

A lot of critics actually liked it at 71% but there was also some backlash after it was so popular but go back and watch it I bet it will hold up for you.

A_Walk_to_Remember_Poster

8. Walk to Remember-

Most people give Nicholas Sparks a pass on The Notebook which is a fine movie; but, if I had to pick a Sparks adaptation as my favorite I would chose A Walk to Remember.  It contains all the Sparksian ingredients- young love, glistening charismatic actors, dewy locals and terminal illness.  However, there is good chemistry between the stars Mandy Moore and Shane West and I love the music.

What Critics Thought-

Walk to Remember gets a 27% on RT.  Most dismissed it as sentimental teen romance but others were harsher saying “A monstrosity of a movie that I am all too eager to forget”

Why I Liked it-

Like I said it’s sweet and I bought the simple romance.  It maybe belonged on Hallmark but the music takes it to a higher level for me.  I really like the songs and Sparks has certainly produced much worse cheese since this so I wonder if those critics might be a little nicer to it in retrospect?

better off dead

9. Better Off Dead-

This movie actually rates pretty high on RT (82%) but I put it on the list because I know it is completely stupid. but….it makes me laugh.  So many of the jokes work.  Whether it’s the Chinese men who learned to talk from Howard Cosell or the neurotic coupon obsessed brother or the strange concoctions his mother cooks, it makes me laugh every time!

The story is about Lane Meyers who is obsessed with his girlfriend (all the high schoolers look 36 in this) who dumps him for the ski team captain.  In revenge he decides to ski the k12, the hardest hill in the town and all hijinks begin.

What Critics Thought-

Like I said most of them liked it.  One critic, Brad Laiman said “I’ve rarely met anyone who didn’t secretly love it passionately.”  Isn’t that the definition of a guilty pleasure?

Why I Like it-

It’s pretty simple.  It makes me laugh.  It has been since 2012 that a comedy came out I wanted to see.  Most nowdays are hard Rs or children’s movies.  The family friendly or teenage friendly comedy is a rarity.   Please bring it back Hollywood.  I miss it!

miss congeniality

10. Miss Congeniality-

This is another one that simply made me laugh.  It’s a silly story of an FBI agent who goes undercover to find a bombing suspect at the fictional Miss United States pageant.  The idea of Sandra Bullock being an ugly woman is silly but they make it work and the scenes with Michael Cain are very good.  Benjamin Bratt is a charming love interest and Heather Burns scores a  lot of laughs as Miss Rhode Island.

Candice Bergen and William Shatner play the heads of the pageant and it gets weaker when they are on screen.  Sandra Bullock makes this movie work.  She’s just so darn likable.

What Critics Thought-

Critics aren’t as harsh on this as I would have thought.  42% on RT.  Most said pleasant, entertaining, harmless etc.  One said “Like most beauty pageant contestants themselves, Miss Congeniality is all charm and little substance.”

Why I Liked It-

I’d actually agree with the above quote.  It’s totally charm over substance but it was charming enough for me to overlook the silly plot.  If you have likable characters with some funny dialogue than I don’t need a huge substantial plot.  In fact, sometimes that can make a rom com feel muddled and pretentious.

cutting edge

11. Cutting Edge-

This is one I have nostalgia for.  I know it isn’t a great movie but it’s ice skating and the Olympics and opposites attract and romance.  I loved it when I was younger and I still enjoy it today.  I have also seen all of the sequels.  That’s right all of them and they are basically exactly the same movie and since I like it I like those although less than the original of course.

DB Sweeney is the hockey player who is forced to train in figure skating with Moira Kelly for the Olympics.  he’s gruff hockey and she’s elegant skating.  Will they ever get along?  Love it!

What Critics Thought-

The critics were pretty nice on this one 60% on RT.  Most said it was silly but charming.  One said  ” A guilty-pleasure ’90s romance you can skate to”  So I guess it belongs on this list! .

Why I Like It-

I am an Olympics junkie and there are surprisingly few movies about the Olympics.  This is what I call a sleepover movie.  Meaning it is one of the movies my girlfriends would watch when we were having a sleepover.  Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Dance with Me, Dirty Dancing (Dance is a general theme) as well as Emma, Clueless and more made the list.

Like I said before.  It is cheesy but sometimes I feel like some cheese!  Nice chemistry, decent skating scenes and a ton of fun.

Honorable mentions- Legally Blonde, Kate and Leopold, An Affair to Remember, Blind Side, Some Kind of Wonderful, Moonstruck, Mamma Mia, Christy, Steel Magnolias, Miracle, Dirty Dancing, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Valley Girl, Princess Diaries, What a Girl Wants, Sydney White, Hope Floats, Something New

So that’s my list!  What would you say is a guilty pleasure movie of yours?  Do you agree with any on my list?  Please check out the Movie Guy’s lists as they inspired me to create my own.

Thanks and watch a guilty pleasure movie on me!

Underrated Movies

movie-clip-art11-287x300So a few weeks ago I wrote a story on movies I felt were overrated.  Now those were not necessarily bad movies I just didn’t think they were the amazing 5 stars everyone else seems to. The follow up naturally becomes what are underrated movies that deserve more playing time?

I actually struggled in coming up with a list because some of them seemed difficult to defend but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  Some might think how could I not be into the Godfather and like Sweet Home Alabama or The Blind Side? I can’t explain it.  I just do. So here are some underrated gems to check out by category:

Rom Coms that do the genre right- anyone knows I love a good romantic movie but they have been the scene of some truly horrific flops in the last 10 years.  Some that were unjustly ignored are:

IQ- a funny movie starring Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walter Manthau about Einstein’s niece falling in love.  The banter between Einstein and his buddies is hilarious, the chemistry is right on.  Its available on netflix so check it out (many on this list are on netflix).

Sweet Home Alabama-  Predictable? yes.  do some of the jokes fall flat? yes, but I really enjoy this movie.  I LOVE Josh  Lucas.  He is super sexy and Patrick Demsey plays the other man with a lot of class.  They do not take the easy way out and make him a jerk.

Just Wright- A movie nobody saw with Queen Latifah and Common. The Queen is divine as a physical therapist tasked with helping an NBA player come back from an injury.  Yes, its predicable but you need some of that in this genre.  Its really a fairy tale with the prince charming a basketball player and Paula Patton as the somewhat evil stepsister (god-sister in this story . She’s a gold digger with a heart and boy is she pretty)

Return to Me- Similar to IQ this sweet love story of a girl who gets a heart transplant but then falls for the widower of the heart donor. Its sweet and how great to have a Hollywood romance where the character falls in love without the girl revealing a scar on her chest. A very clean simple movie with a great group of older actors playing the Irish/Italian family of the Minnie Driver character.

Better Off Dead- I can’t really defend this movie except to say that it makes me laugh every time.  A boy is infatuated with his girlfriend and then is dumped for the captain of the high school ski team. To get back he decides to ski the K-12.

Hijinks erupt with everything from Howard Cossell Japanese taxi drivers, animated burgers, a paper boy who wants his $2, a mother who boils bacon and makes goo for dinner and a brother who cuts out coupons from boxes before the cereal is eaten.  What can I say?  It just makes me laugh.

Drama’s that deserve  to be seen-

Marvin’s Room-  A gut wrenching drama with Meryl Streep, Dianne Keaton, Robert Deniro and Leonardo Dicaprio.  It reads like a good play. Two estranged sisters get back together when  one is diagnosed with cancer.  Dicaprio plays a teen with severe behavior and mental illness issues but it is done in a realistic way.   Every performance is good.  It felt like watching a real family.

Warrior- Not enough people saw this great sports/family movie.  The conceit is predictable.  We know the brothers will end up fighting against each other but the journey is so well done.  All the performances are great.  Tom Hardy is super hot and Nick Nolte is totally believable as the alcoholic father everyone has discounted.  The fight scenes are not overly long and the tension is built perfectly.  Great example of its genre.

Secret Life of Bees- Another movie with a strong ensemble cast that nobody saw.  Based on the bestselling novel by Su Monk Kidd tells the story of a little girl who runs away from home in 1964 South Carolina. She finds a new home with a family of black women that knew her mother and are beekeepers.  I loved the book and the movie.

Jane Eyre 1996- I have yet to dislike a version of this story (including the 2011 filming) but this one may be my favorite big screen adaptation.  Charlotte Ginsberg is the most plain Jane but that totally works for the character.  William Hurt is brooding and fun as Rochester even without a British accent.

The Blind Side- Obviously this film has its fans as it won an oscar for Sandra Bullock but amongst critics it is frequently chided as sentimental and even manipulative.  My answer to that is so what?  Hasn’t sentimentality always been an essential aspect to the movies? Even going back to Gone with the Wind or Mrs Minver.  If it is done well I enjoy a good hearted fable that helps encourage me to be a better person.

This story is of course about future super bowl winner Michael Oher and how he is adopted by the Tuohy family of Mississippi.  Its the kind of movie I want to watch when I’m having a bad day or feeling discouraged and I don’t think that is a bad thing.  Our society could use a little more hope and little less cynicism.

Children Movies You Might Have Missed

Winnie the Pooh Movie- Finally a movie designed for little, little kids.  Its short enough for them with a simple sweet story that I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for.  I LOVE the music.  No winking humor for adults just an unabashed little kids movie (5 and under)

Holes- The first time I saw this movie I was blown away.  I called my family and said ‘you have to see it’.  They weren’t as impressed but I thought it was so creative.  Weaving a story of a kid sent to a desert camp to dig holes and an cowboy love story that ended badly leaving a curse on the entire family.  I still think it is brilliant.

Where the Wild Things Are- This movie has its fans and I admit it is one you either go with or don’t. I did.  When I saw it in the theater half of us thought it was amazing and half a big bore.  I loved its realistic depiction of a child, without any of the cloying sweetness of most Hollywood movies.  This is a real kid with tantrums and stubbornness.

Then he is given the chance to actually lead creatures, creatures that feature all of his good and bad traits and he realizes how hard it is. He gets a new empathy for his mother.  I loved the music, voice acting, the kid is a great actor (plus looks like my step-nephew).  Its different but I totally bought it.

Ponyo-  A weird but delightful animated movie from Hayao Miyazaki who made Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.  Both of those are better movies but this one is more like My Friend Totoro and is designed for little kids. The story is simple but the images are so creative and the basic idea so dazzling that the kids have room to write some of their own story.  It is about a little boy that adopts a gold fish that is the daughter of the great sea wizard.  The ocean begins to search for the adorable Ponyo and everything begins.

Classics You Should See-

Talk of the Town- At its release this movie was nominated for Oscars but I doubt many have seen it.  Certainly Cary Grant’s other comedies such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday (both wonderful) are more popular but I love Talk of the Town . It has Jean Arthur who plays the high school crush of town good-for-nothing Grant who has been framed by a union for a fire that killed a man.

Knowing the jury is rigged Grant escapes from prison and seeks refuge at Arthur’s summer home which is soon to be occupied by a potential supreme court nominee played by Ronald Coleman.  Justice vs mercy is amazingly mixed in with some great slapstick.  I laugh my head off at this movie and think about philosophy at the same time.  A rare combination.

Brigadoon- The Gene Kelly musical most people haven’t seen.  Lerner and Loewe’s broadway musical comes to life about a town that ages only one day every hundred years.  Kelly and his friend stumble upon the town on a hunting trip and meet the lovely Cyd Charisse.   Some great songs such as Almost Like Being in Love, There but for you go I, Waitin for my Dearie and other great music and dancing.

Lili- A movie most people probably haven’t seen but a sweet fairy tale with amazing dancing.  Its the story of a girl named Lili played by Leslie Caron who stumbles upon a circus in a small town who agree to give her a job as a magicians assistant.  Young, she botches the first night and runs away in distress.  To her surprise she stumbles upon a puppet show and the puppets start to speak to her.

She agrees to be the MC for the puppet show but gets so lost in the illusion that she doesn’t remember who is behind the scenes. Could it be jaded carnival operator who is bitter about his career in dance going down the tubes because of an injury? You will have to see! The dancing is magnificent and like I said it is a gem.