When it comes to Rachael Leigh Cook "She's All That"

She's All That
2/14/2015

While the previously reviewed "Easy A" is a great example of the classic teen comedy done right, the 1999 film "She's All That" is quite the opposite.  This movie has been mocked and parodied to death, but is it really that bad?  Rachael Leigh Cook is the only reason to see this movie and she does her best with the material given. The rest of the cast is stocked with the late 90's version of the Brat Pack: Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Anna Paquin, a young Paul Walker not to mention others.

The story is packed to rafters with cliché piled on top of cliché.  Cook plays Laney Boggs, a "nerdy" artist type.  Her clothes are splattered with paint, her hair always in a ponytail not to mention she wears glasses, by the rules of high school movies she is a hideous freak.  We then arrive at the jump off point to our familiar story.  Prinze plays Zack Siler (not to be confused with Stewie's Family Guy Parody Zack Sawyer) the jock and hottest, richest guy in school.  His equally rich bitch of a girlfriend has just dumped him right before the prom, dude bogus!  He was dumped for a conceited douche bag (played by Matthew Lillard) who's claim to fame was being on the MTV's "The Real World".  On the rebound and looking to change things up a bit Zack and his friends make a bet the he can turn any girl into the prom queen .  Right on queue the messy and clumsy Laney stumbles on by. Little does he know that through Laney he'll learn more about himself and loving another person than he ever though he could. (silent giggle).


First of all Laney is obviously the hottest girl in school even in her "ugly" phase.  She's smart, expressive, and a strong independent girl.  Smelling his bullshit a mile away Laney keeps her distance but he is very persistent.  She eventually gives him a chance and they start to bond.  Before going to their first big party as a couple, Zack's sister Mackenzie (Anna Paquin) comes over to make Laney "pretty".  This consists of taking off her glasses, cutting her hair and putting some make-up on leading up to the grand staircase entrance/reveal.  The party turns out to be a disaster and leaves Laney feeling more alone than ever.  Zack is also still harboring some strong feeling for his old girlfriend Taylor.  Then Laney becomes aware of the contest she kicks his ass to the curb.  Coincidentally Taylor also becomes available and wants Zack back bigtime.  Does he go back to his old cheating girlfriend or try to repair things with Laney?  Not so fast Zack, in the mean time his best friend Dean (Paul Walker) has eyes on Laney and she uses him to make Zack jealous.  But like all teen movies everything comes to head at the prom, where for some reason there is a big choreographed dance number and everyone is a professionally trained dancer.

Teen movies follow a pretty strict formula and very rarely do anything original or daring. "She's all That" is a used text book example, but as I said in the beginning Rachael Leigh is pretty awesome in this.  She really is all that.  So if your lookin' for some cheesy romantic 90s nostalgia this is quite the goldmine.




"Easy A" is Essential Teen Comedy Viewing

Easy A
2/7/2015

"Easy A" was the surprise sleeper hit in the fall of 2010 and propelled the funny and charismatic Emma Stone to Hollywood stardom.  This movie was surprising because its not the 1980s or late 90s for that matter and the chances of a teen comedy being successful, funny, and profitable all at once is pretty rare.  But every generation needs its "Breakfast Club, American Pie, etc.  A movie that portrays the modern teenage experience.  A film that is honest and relatable without being cheesy or pandering.  "Easy A" is all of these and will take its place in the hall of fame of great teen comedies.

Emma Stone plays Olive Pendergast, a sort of revamped Molly Ringwald for today's generation.  The film knows its place in teen movie history and its crush on the 80s is very apparent with numerous reference all the way to the big ending.  This is not a bad thing but a wonderful homage to the memorable films that preceded it.  The story as a whole also plays like a modern retelling of "The Scarlet Letter" with Olive being Hester Prynne "Except without Demi Moore and all those bubble baths"

It started with a lie.  To get her best friend off her back about losing her virginity Olive says she slept with an older guy.  In literally a few hours the whole school knows and now the once clean cut Olive is the newly minted school slut.  Lies and rumors are the foundation of any high school society and now Olive has to figure out her next move with the help of her closeted gay friend Brandon played by Dan Byrd.  Brandon feels frustrated and depressed for not being able to be who he really is so they make a deal.  Olive pretends to sleep with him at a party so everyone will think he is straight, just until he gets through high school.  She then plans to give the people what they want and become the biggest phony slut she can be.  Word of the deal leaks out and guys start approaching her wanting the same deal.  They offer her money (she prefers gift cards) just to be able to say they did things with her.  She even starts to dress the part complete with a red "A" or scarlet letter.  This eventually becomes a problem and things get a little to real and she must try to put a stop to it.  She plans a to tell the whole story in a web cast that is played sporadically throughout the film.  This also plays havoc with her own crush on Woodchuck Todd, the school mascot and a long time friend that she has feelings for.

Emma Stone is not alone as the supporting cast is phenomenal.  Her cool and progressive parents are Thomas Hayden Church is Mr. Griffith a no nonsense teacher that is looking out for Olive and concerned about her recent changes.  Lisa Kudrow has a small but essential part as the school guidance counselor, who also happens to be married Mr. Griffith.  Before losing her mind and wondering off to crazy town Amanda Bynes plays a Christian Jesus freak named Marianne, Olive's arch enemy.
played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanly Tucci, who are normally seen in dramatic roles so it was quite the refreshing change.  Its also refreshing that their characters are portrayed as real people and not the clichéd movie parents that just don't understand.   


The script is clever, sharp and witty throughout.  Its satirical, heartfelt and just a heck of a lot of fun.  Now that I've run out of adjectives to describe this little piece of awesomeness it's time to "bucket list this bitch".


The Rockport Reviews Top 5 Films of 2014

The Rockport Reviews Top 5 Films of 2014
1/23/2015

It was an interesting year in movies, a lot of good movies, but very few great ones.  There is still a handful I have yet to see so the list could possibly change.  So with out anymore needless blabbering here's this years list.


The Top 5 (in no particular order)
Boyhood
Ida
Only Lovers Left Alive
Enemy
Birdman

Honorable Mentions
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Under the Skin, Blue Ruin, & The Immigrant 

Best Horror Movie
Oculus - Not so fast Babadook

Best Documentary
Life Itself - The incredible life story of the late Roger Ebert

Best Actor
Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy & Nightcrawler)

Best Actress
Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Snowpiercer)

Most Audacious Taboo Crushing Gross out film of the Year

Wetlands - Bodily fluids abound

Nothing "About Cherry" is all that good

About Cherry
1/4/2015

The 2012 film "About Cherry" was the debut film from writer/director Stephen Elliott and although it deals pornography it is pretty tame and watered down.  It plays as if it's a fairy tale as told through the diluted eyes of its main character, Angelina or Cherry.

With an impressive ensemble cast that includes James Franco, Lily Taylor, Dev Patel, and Heather Graham you would think the results would be much better.  Ashley Hinshaw plays Angelina, a young beautiful blonde girl who lives with her alcoholic mother, two siblings and her mother's abusive boyfriend. Unable to take it anymore she moves out to San Francisco with her possibly gay best friend Andrew (Patel).  To make some extra money she agree to model for a photographer.  After that bad experience she meets Frances (Franco), a slick lawyer at a nightclub who introduces her to some people at an adult film company.  The business is like any other as if was a bank or a hair salon, except they make porno's.  Angelina is taken on as an actress and does solo's and girl on girl movies, all directed by Margaret (Graham) a lesbian in a rocky relationship.  I personally have no idea what the porn industry is like but this all seems so fake and glossed over, kind of like the content they produce.  Margaret develops a major crush on Cherry (Angelina's stage name) however she isn't gay or is she? It's San Francisco so anything is possible.

The movie is more about messed up personal relationships than pornography, all of which revolve around Angelina, who really isn't that interesting to begin with.  The supporting characters are loosely drawn and don't seem all that believable either.  We are then force fed a typical Hollywood style ending.  Like I mentioned before the whole story could actually be a diluted fantasy all taking place with in Angelina's mind, but it doesn't seem like that's what the filmmakers are going for.  While watching this I though of David Lynch's "Inland Empire" a much darker and much better film, although not exactly  similar.  "About Cherry is currently available on Netflix watch instantly.


"Ida" The Best Foreign Film of 2014!


"Ida"
12/29/2014

"Ida" is the new film from famed Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski and is one of the best films of the year.  It's beautifully shot in black and white and presented in a square format that gives it that extra level of style and authenticity.  Its the story of a young girl at a crossroads in her life when the truth about her origins is revealed.  

Taking place in Poland in the 1960s we are introduced to Anna a young woman who has lived most of her life in a convent and is close to taking her vows to become a nun.  Before this will happen the Mother Superior requests that she spend some time with her only living relative, her Aunt Wanda.  Wanda has never shown any interest in her previously and Anna is reluctant to leave the safety of the convent.  When it comes to the outside world Anna is quite naive but strong willed.  Wanda however is quite the opposite, a down on her luck former prosecutor who smokes, drinks, and sleeps around.

Upon their first meeting Anna is given some life changing information.  She is actually Jewish and her birth name is Ida Lebenstein.  Her parents put her in the convent as a baby to escape the Nazi's.  She is then told they were both killed in the war.  Unable to accept her explanation Anna sets out to find the truth about there deaths.  Feeling guilty and having nothing else better going on in her life Wanda helps her in her search.  They find the farm where her parents were staying during that time and the current residents brush them off. 


Along the way Anna crosses paths with a young attractive saxophone player who shows a genuine interest in her.  Anna is forced to confront new feelings and choices that she has been protected from her whole life.  The choice to be brought up in a convent was never hers and with revelation that she's Jewish brings up some tough choices.  Does she goes against everything she has ever known and reinvent her life? Does she return to the convent and continue to live as if nothing has changed?  Wanda doesn't force her in one direction or another, but she does seem happy to have her in her life.


The women make progress in discovering the fate of Anna's parents and a deal is made with the family at the farm to learn the truth.  Now fully knowing what happen Anna is forced to make her choice, which leads to Wanda making one of her own.  The character of Anna/Ida is played by first time actress Agata Trzebuchowska (don't ask me to pronounce it) and she does a fantastic job in translating her inner conflict and repressed emotions in the subtlest of words and gestures.  Although I didn't agree with her final decision it was hers and hers alone.  "Ida" is currently available on Netflix instant streaming.