November 2011 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

90’s-vember: Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

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Bringing Out The Dead is criminally overlooked and features every single one of its players operating at a nightmarish level of intensity.  This is partly expected due to the involvement of Scorsese and longtime screenwriting partner Paul Schrader, whose collaborations with Scorsese brought about Taxi DriverRaging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ.


Jack and Jill (2011)

Note: I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone that our rating system is wholly based on our own reactions to a movie and is not any measure on an objective scale. A positive review does not equal a recommendation. I think you will understand this note in a moment.

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site

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So it's come to this. It's time for my turn to defend an Adam Sandler movie; worse, one of his most poorly received, one seen as a direct rebuke to his art house roles in Funny People and Punch Drunk Love.

Somehow I knew this day would come.

Jack and Jill is about a pair of twins both played by Mr. Sandler. On a base level, Jack is a successful commercial director who lives in a mansion in L.A. Jill is his sister from the Bronx who is rude and crude. When she comes to visit, Jack has to put up with her insufferable nature while still trying to use her to hook Al Pacino to do a lucrative television spot.


90’s-vember: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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Quentin Tarantino gets a lot of flack from critics, both professional and amateur. There's the accusation that he steals his ideas from other films, and while there are undeniable influences in his work from the grindhouse and exploitation films of the 70s, calling them "stolen" is a gross exaggeration. Tarantino isn't a thief: He's a nerd.

I mean that in the nicest possible way. Tarantino is a film nerd. He loves films, especially obscure films, and he wears his influences on his sleeve. Are there more than a few similarities between the plots of Reservoir Dogs and 1987's City on Fire? Definitely, but Reservoir Dogs didn't just copy Ringo Lam's crime thriller, change the setting to California and call it a day. No, he took the concept of a film that he loved and then he made it his own.

This actually works to the film's credit, too. Reservoir Dogs is a film obsessed with pop culture; from the obvious to the obscure. The soundtrack, to the dialog, even the wardrobe choices are all a parade of the things that entertained or inspired Tarantino. It only makes sense that the film's plot would be a reference itself.


90’s-vember: Swingers (1996)

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With my cohorts already taking a Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino film and the fact that my recent break-up with Robert Rodriguez was still to fresh to look back at his good films, I was all set to review Glengary Glen Ross, my favorite Mamet film. That was until I was talking to an old friend about the movies I was going to do and he said that he was surprised that I wasn’t doing Swingers. I had an epiphany at that moment and realized that there was no other movie that I could review.

The reason Swingers was such a no brainer is not because I love the film (which I do) but because for most of the late 90’s I tried to live the movie. My friends David, Matt and I all wore the retro shirts, shoes and chains. I used to listen to all of the swing music that the movie helped make popular and would have given anything to live their lives. I wanted to grow up and live that life.


90’s-vember: Chasing Amy (1997)

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We can't discuss the '90s without taking a quick detour into the Askewniverse.

Kevin Smith (love, tolerate or hate the man), along with the Weinstein's and Miramax, built a cult of personality around being the guy we were all afraid would never leave the basement.  He writes characters obsessed with Star Wars, emotionally and sexually insecure to an unhealthy degree, trapped in dead-end jobs with great potential but little intellectual curiosity.  This is the dark underbelly of the well-off protagonists of Danny's pick, Kicking and Screaming, a great film but not nearly as influential as Smith's best film to date, 1997's Chasing Amy.

So why Chasing Amy and not Clerks?  Amy, for all it's directorial flaws, hit the sweet spot of dark, sexually tinged comedy centered around mentally stunted "adults".  Clerks' characters can be accused of just never finding their niche and tolerating what they have, Amy set the tone for ensemble comedies trying to get some emotional growth mixed in with their raunchy humor.  If There's Something About Mary hit the tone for content, Amy let's the audience know just what's going on through these people's minds, and it's a horrible place to be.

One thing Smith's films lacked going into the new millennium was a certain revelry in how dingy they are.  Clerks and Mallrats both embraced this as a source of humor but Amy goes straight for the harsh truth.  Men who sit around discussing Star Wars and are scared of their girlfriends' past sexual experiences are not developing properly and are one bad situation away from hurting the minds and hearts of anyone around them.  Smith found his muse for this venue of expression in his current girlfriend (and soon-to-be ex) Joey Lauren Adams and an unlikely schleb Ben Affleck.