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Jen’s Movie Musings

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Top 5 rom-coms

June 13, 2015

Romantic Comedies or Rom-Coms tend to leave a very bad taste in my mouth, like when you take a sip of the wrong cup of tea and it’s sugared or not depending on your preference. They’re predictable, unoriginal, and more often than not neither funny nor romantic. So I thought about the worst offenders and where it all tends to go wrong;

I then realised it would be a very, very long list and I’d probably have to watch a lot of them all the way through, which could induce nausea, headaches and possible seizures.

However, I decided to remain positive and have compiled a good old fashioned top 5 list.

I’ve applauded where they went right (usually by not casting Katherine Heigl) and tried not to include the really obvious ones: When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, Pretty Woman and the very re-watchable Dirty Dancing (it lacks the comedy aspect but let’s have a moment’s silence for the charismatic and always wonderful Patrick Swayze….).

You may find a gem here that you’ve never seen or you might have a suggestion for me. So, in no particular order, here we go…

 

Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)giphy (9)

In a time when it seem rom-coms are constantly popping up and one is more indistinguishable from the last this is a breath of fresh air. I think there’s 2 ways the bigwigs in Hollywood go about making rom-coms. One is when they need a vehicle for someone. “People can’t get enough Katherine Heigl at the moment, let’s get her in something asap with whatever actor is hot right now…Gerard Butler? Sure he’ll do.” 

The other is when they have an actual well-written script, a director who cares about his work and most importantly great casting. We’re used to seeing Ryan Gosling all broody and serious (The Notebook, Blue Valentine) and this is a welcome change. He’s charming, funny, well-dressed (and ab-ed) even though he’s kind of a dick. Steve Carrell, is the hapless everyman in his ill fitting chinos and sneaker combo.  When Cal’s (Carrell) wife leaves him, suave womanizer Jacob (Gosling) takes pity on him after observing him in his local meat market (bar) and takes him under his wing. He gives him a makeover and all the moves he needs to become a ladies man. It’s kind of like Clueless for guys, but it’s got real heart, great laughs and a few little twists. Julianne Moore and Emma Stone round out the cast with some fiery red hair and womanly charms. Fun for the whole family, except kids, really not appropriate for kids.

Jerry Maguire (1996)giphy (10)

“You had me at Hello”. Enough said. No? Okay. Cameron Crowe has always done the rom-com well, in a cool, thoughtful, non-cheesy way.  I could equally have picked Say Anything but my Tom Cruise affection always leads me to include one of his movies in any list I make. And this is probably my favourite. Cruise as sports agent Maguire whose love life, work life and life in general is falling apart thanks to his growing a conscience while managing to hold onto one client and employee. The path of both relationships are rocky and this movie is actually a romance and a bromance as Jerry falls for Dorothy and her cute little boy, just as much as Rod “show me the money” Tidwell, the football player. Everyone knows the famous quotes, and you’ve most likely seen this one if you’re a non-rock-dwelling-human, but it’s always worth a rewatch. Cuba Gooding Jr brings the comedy and there’s more than a few lump-in-the-throat moments.  And a great Springsteen song to boot. What more could you want?

Groundhog Day (1993)giphy (11)

Is this a rom-com i hear you ask? Well, yes of course. It may air more on the side of comedy than romance but that’s down to the always hilarious Bill Murray. But the general story is of a man trying to win over a woman who is initially less than enamoured with him in some extraordinary circumstances. Bill Murray’s Phil Connors lives the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again; no matter what he does he wakes at 6am to Sonny & Cher’s “I Got you Babe”. Phil and his producer Rita and cameraman Larry get snowed in in Pennsylvania when sent to do a weather segment on famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.  As Phil relives this day over and over he starts to use it to his advantage to try to win over Rita (Andie MacDowell). Things get a little dark for Phil at one point but for the most part this is hilarious family entertainment at it’s best.  An interesting note of trivia, Bill Murray seemingly has a reputation for losing enthusiasm for a project as it goes on, so director Harold Ramis (Bill’s pal from Ghostbusters and Stripes) filmed it backwards so he’d be upbeat and happy for the final scenes and get grumpier for the burnt out weatherman at the start.

 

The Princess Bride (1987)giphy (12)

One of my favourite films of all time;  this is the ultimate romantic comedy. Its got love and romance in spades between a young Robin Wright (before the Penn was added then dropped) as Princess Buttercup and Cary Elwes as sword wielding Wesley.  Buttercup and Wesley’s true love is in jeopardy after they are separated for some years, but nothing, not even Rodents of Unusual Size, 6 fingered men, or death will come between them.  It’s laced with clever humour, classic one-liners and magical performances (Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin is wonderful) and cameos by a host of comedians from the time (look closely, some are disguised). This is from director Rob Reiner, Mr. When Harry Met Sally, and in my opinion this gem is superior as it has a little fantasy mixed in. Definitely one for the whole family, and will delight one and all. That’s it, I’m off to watch it again.

 

Oh, wait, I said 5.

 

27 Dresses (2008)

Just joking…this is a Heigl-free list.

 

Chasing Amy (1997)giphy (13)

You may be familiar with the serious actor/director Ben Affleck getting snubbed by Oscar and squeezing his manly jaw into the batsuit, but he got his start with cult fav Kevin Smith. After a small part in Smith’s Mallrats, Affleck is his main man in this offbeat, romantic comedy. Affleck plays Holden (I’m sure there’s Catcher in the Rye implications here but lets not over-analyse) who writes a somewhat successful comic book with his bestie forever Banky (Jason Lee). On a typical night out they meet Alyssa (90s hot girl Joey Lauren Adams), a cool chick who turns both their heads even though she is a lesbian. Ignoring this, Holden falls in love with her and has to deal with a jealous best friend, a girl with a checkered past and his own insecurities. This movie definitely showcases Ben’s acting chops and watching it now it’s no surprise that he has such clout in the acting world today. Jason Lee is the funny, sarcastic best friend, a job he did so well there was danger of him being forever typecast until he broke free with My Name is Earl . (why did you break free?)  As always with Kevin Smith there’s a little visit from Jay and Silent Bob (his alter ego) and watch out for an appearance from Ben’s pal Matt Damon. Overall, this is a welcome alternative to the boy meets girl rom-com but beware there is a lot of F-bombs and sexually explicit conversations so send the kids to bed early.  In fact, unless it’s a Richard Curtis rom-com, send them to bed… they can watch youtube there instead of being exposed to any filth on your watch.

 

As I thought about romantic comedies for this list, I realised the definition has changed. Originally, they were comedies with a romantic tone but now, the romance aspect has become the dominant theme. You could hardly call Maid in Manhattan or Love Actually a comedy, but rather cute, vapid romantic stories.  I think this is the part of the genre that has turned me off when actually some of my favourite films could be classified as rom-coms…. I Love You Phillip Morris, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Lars and the Real Girl (more Gosling), Beautiful Girls, Tootsie and okay let’s throw in Knocked Up, Katherine’s not all bad.  I concede that it is not the most well-rounded of lists and confess that my knowledge of the classics is very shaky (I only cover my own lifespan, starting from the late 70s). I’m sure Roman Holiday or something Clark Gable-y would be much more respected but it’s all subjective. It’s nice to know I can now go forward with an open mind and continue to enjoy the best of this category.

 

Guest Post, Jen's Movie Musings

“I Didn’t Invite You This Time Renesmee”

April 23, 2015

10806429_10205250478121448_1080073800692734934_nAs far back as I can remember my cousin Aisling has been getting me jobs (well, this guest post and one other time when she got me a job in Pizza Hut). Isn’t nepotism great? But I am not the almost-old woman who lives in a shoe (Doc Marten) like Aisling as I am new to the child-rearing game so I have to fall back on my only area of expertise: Movies. And I thought I could delight you with my ramblings of one of my favourite genres, Vampires.

I remember many years ago, sometime in the  late 80s, watching Salem’s Lot on our portablewhere-are-these-creepy-horror-movie-kids-now-75175339-aug-13-2013-1-600x500 colour (this was a time when you had to clarify black & white or colour) TV with my brother and cousin. The movie lolled along for some time during which my co-watchers succumbed to sleep then all of a sudden a dead boy was floating outside his friend’s bedroom window tapping on the glass in that eerie way anyone who’s seen it will remember. I was frozen with fear, unable to get up to turn it off (no remote) or wake up my peaceful non afraid relatives. And that was my introduction to the world of Vampires.

the-lost-boys-originalA couple of years later I had another run in with these nightcrawlers, less scary and more starry eyed, with the 1987 classic The Lost Boys (it was probably more like 1990 by the time it had reached our video shop shelves). This was life-changing stuff. Cool vampires in leather jackets and long hair living in a sunken night club eating chinese food to a soundtrack of The Doors and INXS. (Whenever I get sad about how Joel Schumacher almost ruined the Batman franchise, I think of how right he got vampires). This introduced a new generation to Vampires, how they turn you (drinking the head vampire’s blood), the rules (sunlight, garlic, holy water) and how to kill them (stake to the heart, death by stereo). A re-teaming by the Corey’s (Haim and Feldman) with addition of the smoking hot Jason Patric and 80s fav Kiefer Sutherland cemented this film as a classic in and out of its genre. It has charm, humour, a couple of decent scares and plenty of blood and gore which is really worth revisiting if you haven’t for awhile.

burns

winonakeanurdracula1Although there were some efforts over the next few years, nothing really hit big in the vampire world until Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Here was a serious movie with a serious director (Francis Ford Coppola) and serious actors like Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins. Maybe it went over my head at the time, but I thought it took all the fun and glamour out of the vampire genre and was very loosely based on the book. As creepy as Oldman’s Dracula was, there was something comical about his bouffant hair and slide-across-the-floor movement (a bit of “Old Time Rock and Roll” in his socks and undies would have been great) .  But I think it generally comes down to the dreadful casting of Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves trying on their best proper British accents. Nontheless Bram Stoker is the father of Vampires and being from just down the road from me means he’s practically family.


The next big vampire on the block was one I could really get my teeth into. Enter Interview with the Vampire, old worldly, beautiful, no leather jackets but long hair and my personal fave Tom Cruise (alright I’ve heard all the arguments, you won’t change my mind). interview-with-a-vampire-after-dark-21959716-852-480Interview-with-the-vampire-vampires-29834424-2560-1810Vampires who adhered to the strict rules we’ve come to love, no sun, no ageing, no pulse. But this story was about a new vampire Louis (Brad Pitt), made by Cruise’s Lestat, who finds it hard to come to terms with his new persona as a blood-sucking monster. Instead of praying on human victims, Louis sucked dry the rats and pigeons of 18th Century New Orleans until he stumbled upon a young girl with the plague that he couldn’t resist. Lestat finishes the job and turns little Claudia into a vampire (you have to drain your fledgling vampire and then feed them your immortal blood) creating a very modern day two dad family. But it’s not all a bed of roses and Claudia struggles being trapped in her childs body as her mind matures. Anyway it’s not long until, blaming Lestat for all this, she rebels against him and crazy vampire adventure ensue. I got sucked into this world in a big way and read all (maybe not the last) of The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice which had some really juicy insights as to how the whole vampire business began in Ancient Egypt. Alas, as with most sequels, the follow up to Interview, The Queen of the Damned was cheesey and lacking the same dark Neil Jordan vibes of its forerunner (plus Stuart Townsend does not hold an ounce of the screen presence of Monsieur Cruise).

twlightbeastialitynecrophiliaThis brings me to the current state of affairs with our friends the Vampires.  They have been robbed of their mystery and sex appeal and turned into pre-pubescent moody monosyllabic douchebags that glitter in the sunlight! That’s right, Twilight, the vampire saga that has taken the pre-teen/teen world by storm. For all it’s faults, and there are a multitude, it fails on the most basic characteristic of vampirism, they can go out in the daylight. It’s ridiculous. Part of the whole danger and allure surrounding vampires is that they’re creatures of the night, as soon as the sun goes down, you’re helpless, vulnerable, doomed. But when your whole premise is a thinly masked metaphor for abstinence and your protagonist meets  her true love in science class in highschool, I guess you have to bend (smash into smithereens) the rules.  I have actually watched all 23 twilight installments (what, there weren’t that many?) at first very annoyed but by the end actually chuckling away at the hilarity of it all.  Jacob turning up constantly with his shirt off and if it’s not off how quickly it comes off.  Kristen Stewart’s constantly grumpy face, how her wedding night nearly killed her and the comical CGI baby/vampire (that again nearly kills her again) which they laughably name Renesmee after both their mothers. Yes you guessed it, Renee and Esme.  When it comes down to it, I know I’m not the target audience of these books or movies and hopefully those Twihards out there will eventually stumble upon some real vampires who can’t go out in daylight.

 

shadows-2Bstill_46639Recently I watched a comedic addition to the vampire genre. What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary by the same New Zealand team behind Flight of the Conchords. Four vampires from different periods share a house together and have to deal with mundane decisions on whose turn it is to wash the dishes, what to wear on a night out and how to get victims. One of the flatmates is a Nosferatu type ancient who isn’t all that interested in attending flatmate meetings. They have more than a few nods to the genre such as giving their guests spaghetti-os and making them think they’re worms and a feud with a gang of werewolves. If you’ve watched a bit too much Twilight recently this will bring you back to a world that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

 

Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer_by_mitchie_vI’m not forgetting television and the world of vampires it homes, but that could be a whole other post. Vampire Diaries, True Blood, etc. But I can’t finish up without mentioning the wonderful Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It took the premise of the movie and ran off with it in so many directions. It was funny, romantic, sad, action-packed and as cheesy as it could be it will always have a special place in my heart. It had a plethora of fantastically likeable characters over its seven year run and some real mind-bender episodes (Buffy in the insane asylum, Dawn’s appearance, the singing one). It rarely disappointed, dealt an explosive ending and I still find it hard to pass by if I come across one.

 

Some honourable mentions if you feel the need for a blood transfusion: From Dusk til Dawn, Shadow of the Vampire, Let the Right One In (Swedish), Let Me In (it’s American counterpart), Fright Night (2011 Colin Farrell version), Dark Shadows. I realise there’s a whole spate of vampire slayer movies, Blade, John Carpenter’s Vampires, etc but they never really appealed to me.  Now go forth and watch, but keep your curtains and windows closed.

giphy (2)