Movie Project #3: Say Anything… [1989]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

Say Anything... [1989]

Say Anything… [1989]
Director: Cameron Crowe
Writer: Cameron Crowe
Country: USA
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Starring: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor
Running Time: 100 minutes

Is there a more iconic image of 1980s teenage romance than a young John Cusack standing outside of his ex-girlfriend’s window while holding a boombox over his head? Going into Say Anything…, that scene was pretty much all I knew about the film. It was a bit of a surprise then that this scene was so short. I sat there waiting for this magical moment, and then… she didn’t even look out the window! That’s cold, man. Cold.

John Cusack is Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school grad who is all about punk rock and kickboxing. On graduation day, he gets a wild idea: he decides to ask out Diane Court (Iona Skye), the smartest girl in school. His friends, a group of girls including Corey Flood (Lili Taylor), scoff at his idea, but he’s a man on a mission. He works up the courage to make a phone call and gets her dad, James (John Mahoney), instead. They have an awkward conversation (it ends with Lloyd saying “Good afternoon” in response to the dad’s “Good luck”), but it proves to be fruitful as she calls him back the next day. Much to Lloyd’s (and everyone else’s) surprise, she accepts his invitation to a party later that night.

Say Anything... [1989]

The two of them hit it off immediately and fall into a heated romance. However, there are two obstacles in the way of their relationship: 1) her overprotective father, and 2) Diane is moving to England after the summer. Her father means well — he has even taken certain illegal risks to make sure she can be as successful as possible — but he immediately looks down at the “basic” Lloyd. It’s a matter of two completely different social classes coming together due to an undeniable connection, but it’s a relationship that is difficult to sustain.

What impressed me about this conventional tale is that Lloyd is genuinely a great guy. Sure, he may not be sure what he wants to do with his life, but he knows how to treat a girl. Diane realizes this, too, but it’s her that has to do some growing here. It’s rare that a guy in romantic comedies comes across so well, so it’s refreshing to see things from this perspective.

Say Anything… [1989]

For this being a Cameron Crowe film, I was a little surprised to see music take a bit of a backseat here. There’s the seminal boombox scene in which Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is the main focus, but other than that, the soundtrack is rather subtle. This is not a fault at all, just a bit unexpected.

There is a bit of melodrama near the end that feels caked on, but for the most part, Say Anything… hits all the right notes. It also certainly says something that such a small scene in the film has made an incredible lasting impression over the years.

8/10

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2012 Movie Mini-Reviews: Dredd, Seven Psychopaths, The Paperboy

I was able to indulge in a movie marathon of sorts over the weekend, catching up another few films that I missed out on last year. Here are some quick reviews for all three:

Dredd [2012]
Dredd [dir. Pete Travis]
I always know I have come across a great comic book film when it has made me want to read some of the comics afterward. The only other franchise that has made me want to do so is Batman, namely Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Now I can say the same for Dredd, a gritty action film that surprised the hell out of me.

Dredd feels like a throwback to the old school, ultra-violent 80s action movies, but in a setting not unlike last year’s kinetic Indonesian film, The Raid. Karl Urban stars as the eponymous character, a badass police officer who acts as a judge, jury and executioner. He is partnered up with a rookie, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is a mutant with psychic abilities. When the two of them are sent to investigate a triple homicide, they are locked into a 200-story slum tower block by the evil drug lord “Ma-Ma” (Lena Headey, completely unrecognizable from her even more sinister role as Cersei in Game of Thrones). Now, rather than capture a suspect and leave, the officers must fight for their lives to escape.

In terms of plot, Dredd is remarkably simple, but there is enough style to draw you in and not let go. This is a dark, brutal film that never really lets its foot off the pedal. Some of the visual effects — such as an overabundance of slow motion techniques — seem to have been created for 3D and therefore fall flat on DVD, but these are just small issues in what is otherwise a very enjoyable action flick. 8/10

Seven Psychopaths [2012]
Seven Psychopaths [dir. Martin McDonagh]
Seven Psychopaths is the second collaboration between director/writer Martin McDonagh and Colin Farrell (the first being 2008’s critically-acclaimed In Bruges), and it doesn’t miss a beat. Farrell stars as Marty Faranan, a struggling screenwriter who gets tangled up in a ridiculous series of events when his best friend (Sam Rockwell) steals the Shih Tzu of an explosively-tempered gangster (Woody Harrelson). Like In Bruges, the writing is extremely clever and loaded with biting dark comedy and Tarantino-esque violence. Occasionally a joke will fall flat, but then another will pop up shortly after that will bring out the major laughs.

The cast here is incredible, with some noteworthy supporting roles from Christopher Walken (in his best performance in years), Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton. There’s even an amusing wink at Boardwalk Empire during the film’s opening scene, as it involves cameos from two of my favorite actors from the show: Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg. The real star here, however, is Sam Rockwell, who is an absolute riot for most of the film. His monologue in the desert is hilarious, and it is one of the best scenes I have come across this year. Seven Psychopaths may be too spastic for some, but I had a great time with the film. 8/10

The Paperboy [2012]
The Paperboy [dir. Lee Daniels]
The Paperboy is a hot mess of a film, one that revels in its trashy Southern Gothic atmosphere. The film follows two brothers, Ward (Matthew McConaughey) and Jack Jensen (Zac Efron), who are investigating a death row inmate (John Cusack) that they believe may be innocent. Or rather, Ward is looking to get a story out of this that he can write for the Herald. He doesn’t really care if the man is innocent or not. They become involved with Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), a middle-aged woman who has fallen in love with the inmate despite never meeting him.

There are many different subplots at play in The Paperboy, and as such the film never really knows where it wants to go. Occasionally there are random moments of incredibly bizarre actions — there is a certain scene involving jellyfish that everyone seems to talk about — and director Lee Daniels often appears to just throw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see if it sticks. The lack of proper direction is frustrating, but there is still an entertaining film underneath (albeit a rather filthy one). If there’s one thing the film nails, it is its visual appeal. The washed-out color tones are a perfect fit for the sticky Floridian setting. The Paperboy is all over the place, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this gather somewhat of a cult following someday. 6/10

Have you seen any of these? What did you think of them?