Movies to Watch at Home — Double-Feature

At the Movies Blog
This story has a list of many great movies to watch.

Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt give excellent performances in 12 Monkeys.

March 23, 1990 — 30 years ago, was when Pretty Woman was released. Do you remember that? No, not the movie being released, but…going to movie theatres!

That was a joke Jimmy Fallon did the other night (March 23) on his show. That and a few other things, made me decide to write this.

One of the other things is that a few friends have posted on my Facebook page, posts like “Since you can’t review new movies because none are being released, why not review some of the classics?”

Another reason is because I’ve been receiving about 8 to 12 texts or more a day asking things like: Was ‘The Lobster’ a good movie? (no, it wasn’t). “Is Weird Science okay to watch with my 10-year-old? (no, that’s a bit young; and besides, there are so many better John Hughes movies — The Breakfast Club or 16 Candles for teenagers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for everyone in the family, and his most underrated movie — Some Kind of Wonderful.

But I figured, why review old classics? People have already seen them, and if they haven’t, they know whether the subject matter appeals to them or not, and my pontificating on it probably won’t sway them (or even interest them). I mean, Casablanca and Some Like it Hot are two classics I love, but I can’t imagine writing anything about those films that could convince people to seek them out if they haven’t at this point. You’ve had 60 years to have watched Marilyn Monroe torture Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, and 77 years to find out where the phrase “Here’s looking at you, kid” came from.

The first brief review I’ll write is for Friends With Kids. I can’t find my original review for this, because I was doing reviews for a website that doesn’t have it up. It’s a shame because I also had an interview with the writer/director/star of the film. I remember when she (Jennifer Westfeldt) called, and I was driving to Alpine, writing her answers down to my questions, while going 70 mph on the I-8 east.

The reason I picked this movie is because it just popped up on our Amazon Prime account in the “newly added films” section for free pictures. That means while you guys are all hunkered down at home, it won’t cost you a penny to watch it (just make sure the kiddos are out of the room, as it’s rated R with a lot of sexual situations).

The premise is going to sound horrible, but it works. Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt play best friends that are annoyed that the two other couples they’re close with, had kids. That wouldn’t be bad to them, if it wasn’t for the fact that it ruins all their dinner plans; loud kids at restaurants, or if it’s at one of the homes, the distractions of getting up every second to feed a baby or calm a rambunctious kid. 

Westfeldt, who wrote and directed this (in 2011, so stop with all this nonsense about no female directors and blah blah blah), stars. In real life, she was the long-time girlfriend of Jon Hamm (they were together for nearly 20 years). He plays one of their friends, who is married to Kristen Wiig (in a serious role for one of the funniest cast members ever on SNL). They can’t keep their hands off each other, often going to the bathroom for a quickie.

Westfeldt and Scott decide they should have a kid, since both want one. So even though they aren’t a couple, they figure — what could go wrong? Their friends think everything will, but…you can watch and see. 

There’s great support work from the other couple in their friend group, played by Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd. Ed Burns shows up in a perfectly cast role as the ideal boyfriend, and Megan Fox as the hot girl making the other women jealous.  

Westfeldt did the film Kissing Jessica Stein 10 years before this. So, if she takes 10 years between movies, she’s due to give us her next gem. And while we’re waiting for that one, watch this. It’s a When Harry Met Sally for contemporary times.

4 stars out of 5.

The next movie I wanted to review was 12 Monkeys, and I have a few reasons for that. With Coronavirus, everyone — talking heads on TV and friends — have been mentioning Contagion and Outbreak. Both movies dealt with a virus that kills many people. Unfortunately, neither of those were very good films (Contagion was one of the rare missteps for Steven Soderbergh).

When 12 Monkeys came out in 1995, Brad Pitt won the “best supporting actor” Golden Globe and got nominated for an Oscar, but more people talk about his other movie that year — Seven. Outbreak came out that same year. Aside from that film, it was a great year for movies: Toy Story, Sense & Sensibility, American President, Apollo 13, Braveheart, The Usual Suspects, Heat, Clueless, Mr Holland’s Opus, Casino, Crimson Tide, Before Sunrise, Get Shorty, Dolores Claiborne (an underrated Stephen King film) and the feel-good movie of that year —  Leaving Las Vegas (I kid). Ah, remember those days, when Nicolas Cage actually displayed some talent?

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll give you a spoiler free idea of what the premise is. Set in the future, a virus has wiped out most of humanity. Scientists have developed a time machine to send someone back to combat the virus, but it doesn’t quite work as well as they had hoped. They use prisoners to go back in time, so if something goes wrong — so what, it was merely a prisoner they left back at a different time or whose brain they turned to mush. Bruce Willis is sent back to a time right before the virus, not to stop it, they don’t feel that’s possible. But, for him to get an idea of what caused it so they could possibly come up with a cure. A few times he’s sent to the wrong times, which creates a lot of fun. Of course, when you show up out of it, drooling all over yourself, telling authorities that you’re “from the future” they put you in the nuthouse. That’s where he meets Brad Pitt, who has a wonky eye, and is…very, very nutty. Yet it turns out, he formed a group called the “12 Monkeys” and they’re a good lead to how this virus started. His pop, Christopher Plummer, who plays such a great bad guy, runs a lab doing tests on animals, and Pitt and he…well…you’ll have to watch the movie.

Madeleine Stowe is great, playing a psychiatrist that starts to believe that maybe Willis is from the future. That happens when you clean up at Santa Anita on every race (I kid, a second time).

David Morse, who I first saw when I was 11-years-old, in the powerful movie Inside Moves, isn’t given a lot to do, but it was nice to see him in it.

Character actress Carol Florence is terrific as the astrophysicist who has that vibe of a creepy futuristic genius that you might not want to trust.

The film was written by the guy who gave us the incredible Western Unforgiven, and who co-wrote Blade Runner, which this sometimes reminded me of; the post-apocalyptic dreariness of the cities. 

It was directed by the crazy mind of Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. I was never the biggest fan of his Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, or The Fisher King, but thought Brazil was kinda cool. Yet with this film Gilliam knocks it out of the park.

A special shout-out goes to Paul Buckmaster for an original and wacky score, with lots of accordion and other weird sounds that are just perfect. Side note: Buckmaster has done film work, but also played cello on Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and arranged “Space Oddity” and worked with Elton John on Madman Across the Water, won a Grammy for work with Train, and arranged one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs — Moonlight Mile (that’s another film you can put on your list of quarantine flicks to watch).

12 Monkeys got me into such an argument with a woman I was dating at the time, regarding the ending, that we went back and saw it again the next night. She reluctantly admitted she was wrong. It would be the only time she ever admitted to being wrong in our debates, and the relationship didn’t last much longer. That’s all apropos of nothing, but hey…I’m locked up at home and just riffing.

12 Monkeys gets 5 stars.

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