Back to School Part II #22: Three O’Clock High (dir by Phil Joanou)


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For the next entry in my back to school series of reviews, I want to say a few words about the 1987 comedy, Three O’Clock High.

I have no idea how Three O’Clock High did when it was originally released into theaters.  I know, I know — I could just look it up on Wikipedia or the imdb but I’m lazy and, besides, I hate that whole idea that box office success is somehow synonymous with quality.  That said, Three O’Clock High is one of those films that seems to be in a permanent cable rotation (seriously, it always seems to be playing somewhere and there’s always a few people on twitter talking about how excited they are about coming across it) and I kind of hope that it did well when it was originally released.  It’s an entertaining and genuinely funny little high school comedy.

Three O’Clock High tells the story of Jerry (Casey Siemaszko).  Jerry is a high school student, one of those kids who is a bit anonymous.  He’s kind of a nerd but so much of a nerd that he painfully sticks out of the crowd at this school.

You know who does stick out of the crowd?  Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson).  Buddy is the new kid at school.  He’s a big, hulking, and rather intimidating figure and he comes with quite a fearsome repuations.  All anyone can talk about are the stories that they’ve heard about Buddy’s dangerous past.  The one thing that the rumors all have in common is that Buddy does not like to be touched.  In fact, it appears that his aversion to being touched has made him the most dangerous high school student in the country.

The first hour of Jerry’s school day is spent working at the school newspaper and, of course, his teacher has a bright idea.  Why not welcome Buddy to the school by interviewing him!?  Sure, why not!?  Everyone loves to be interviewed!  And why not get Jerry to do the interview?

The problem is that Buddy doesn’t want to be interviewed.  And, once he realizes that Buddy not only doesn’t want to talk to him but is actually getting rather annoyed with him (this may be because Jerry chooses to approach Buddy in the boy’s bathroom), Jerry asks Buddy to forget that he even bothered him and then reaches over and punches him on the arm.

Of course, this leads to Buddy announcing that he and Jerry are going to have a fight.  At 3 pm.  In the school parking lot…

The rest of the film plays out like a surrealistic, teen-centered parody of High Noon, with Jerry desperately trying to figure out a way to avoid the fight.  He tries to frame Buddy by placing a switchblade in his locker, just to have Buddy use the knife to disable his car, effectively trapping Jerry at the school.  He tries to help Buddy cheat on a test.  He tries to get the principal to kick him out of school.  He even tries bribery!

But ultimately, three o’clock arrives and Jerry must face his destiny…

Three O’Clock High is cheerfully cartoonish and rather entertaining little film.  Director Phil Joanou pays homage to a countless number of other films, often framing the high school action like a Spaghetti western stand-off and, when the final fight arrives, it’s just as wonderfully over-the-top and silly as you could hope for.  Casey Siemaszko, who was also in Secret Admirer, is perfectly cast as Jerry and Richard Tyson is both funny and intimidating as Buddy.  Meanwhile, ineffectual adults are played by everyone from Philip Baker Hall to Jeffrey Tambor to Mitch Pileggi.  There’s a not a subtle moment to be found in Three O’Clock High but the relentless stylization definitely works to the film’s advantage.

I’d keep an eye out for the next time that Three O’Clock High shows up on Showtime.  It’s an entertaining film about teens doing what teens have to do.

Film Review: Ghostbusters (dir by Paul Feig)


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If you need any further proof that 2016 is a screwed-up year, just consider the fact that Ghostbusters, an entertaining but ultimately rather mild-mannered and innocuous summer action/comedy, has become the center of one of the biggest controversies of the year.

It all started, of course, when the reboot was first announced.  Fanboys reacted with outrage, offended that Hollywood would even consider remaking a film that was apparently one of the defining moments of their childhood.  Then, it was announced that Ghostbusters would feature an all-female cast and it would be directed by Paul Feig, the director of Bridesmaids.  The howls of outrage grew even louder.  Then that infamous trailer was released and even I felt that trailer sucked.  I wasn not alone because the trailer quickly became one of the most disliked videos in the history of YouTube.  Reading the comments underneath that trailer was literally like finding yourself trapped in a production of Marat/Sade.

Suddenly, in the eyes of very vocal group of internet trolls, the reboot of Ghostbusters went from being simply another dubious idea to being a crime against humanity.  And the trolls were so obnoxious that they managed to turn this big-budget, studio-backed production into an underdog.  Here was a movie directed by one of Hollywood’s biggest directors and starring some of Hollywood’s hottest stars and suddenly, it had become David in a biblical showdown with the Goliaths of internet.

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And then it happened.  Earlier last week, Ghostbusters was finally screened for critics.  The first reviews started to come in and they were surprisingly positive.  In fact, they were so positive that I found myself distrusting them.  I found myself wondering if critics were reacting to the film or if they were simply trying to prove that they were better than the trolls who leave obscene comments on YouTube.

Which was true, I wondered.  Was Ghostbusters the worst film ever made or was it the greatest?  Or was it perhaps just possible that Ghostbusters would turn out to be a typical summer film?

With all the controversy, it’s tempting to overpraise a film like Ghostbusters.  Battle lines have been drawn and sometimes, I feel as if I’m being told that failing to declare Ghostbusters to be the greatest and most important comedy of all time is the equivalent of letting the trolls win.

Well, that’s not true.  Ghostbusters is not the greatest or the most important comedy of all time but you know what?  Ghostbusters is good.  Ghostbusters is entertaining.  Especially during the first half, it’s full of laugh out loud moments.  At times, Ghostbusters is everything that you could hope for.

No, it’s not a perfect film.  Paul Feig is a great comedy director but, in this film at least, his direction of the big action sequences often feels uninspired (especially when compared to his previous work on Spy).  The final fourth of the film gets bogged down in CGI and the film goes from being a clever comedy to being just another summer spectacle.  Even the one-liners, which flowed so naturally at the start of the film, feel forced during the final half of the film.  Ghostbusters is good but it never quite becomes great.

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Here’s what did work: the cast.  As he previously proved with Bridesmaids, Paul Feig is a director who is uniquely skilled at creating and showcasing a strong comedic ensemble.  Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, who is denied tenure at Columbia when it is discovered that a book she wrote on the paranormal has been republished and is being sold, on Amazon, by her former best friend, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy).  When Erin goes to confront Abby, she not only meets Abby’s newest colleague, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) but she also gets dragged into investigating an actual case of paranormal activity..  Soon, Erin, Abby, and Holtzmann are investigating hauntings and capturing ghosts, all with the secret approval of the Mayor of New York (Andy Garcia).  Of course, for PR reasons, the mayor’s office has to continually disavow the Ghostbusters and occasionally have them arrested.  Working alongside the three scientists are Patty (Leslie Jones), who apparently knows the history of every building in New York, and Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), their adorably stupid receptionist.

As written, both Patty and Kevin are fairly thin characters.  Kevin’s the handsome dumb guy.  Patty is streetwise and sassy.  But both Hemsworth and Jones give such enthusiastic and sincere performances that they transcend the stereotypical nature of their roles.  At times, Kevin runs the risk of becoming too cartoonish for even a Ghostbusters film.  But if you can’t laugh at Chris Hemsworth explaining that he took the lenses out of his glasses because they were always getting dirty, what can you laugh at?

Erin is an interesting character and Kristen Wiig deserves a lot of credit for her performance.  Erin is actually given a fairly affecting backstory, centering around how she was haunted by the ghost of the old woman who used to live next door to her.  Erin is a former believer, someone who, in order to succeed in the “real” world, gave up her beliefs and conformed to the expectations of society.  When she actually meets a ghost, it’s more than just a confirmation of the supernatural.  It’s a chance for Erin to finally embrace who she truly is and what she truly cares about.  When she and the other ghostbusters chase after evil spirits, Erin is not just doing a job.  Instead, she’s finally found somewhere where she belongs.  She no longer has to pretend to be someone that she isn’t.  Wiig plays the role with just the right touch of neurotic wonder.  She grounds the entire film.

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But the true star of the film is Kate McKinnon.  Whether she’s cheerfully smiling as a ghost vomits all over her colleagues or cheerfully explaining how easily their equipment could kill them all, Holtzmann is the greatest character in the film and McKinnon gives the best performance.  If Wiig grounds the film, McKinnon provides it with a truly demented soul.

The first half of the movie, which focuses on the relationships between the characters and features snappy and endlessly quotable dialogue, is wonderful and I was thrilled while watching it, convinced that the entire movie would be as good as the first hour.  However, the second half of the film gets bogged down in a rather predictable plot and the final action sequences could have just as easily been lifted from Pixels or one of The Avengers movies.  The surviving cast of the original Ghostbusters all show up in cameos that are, at best, inoffensive and, at worst, groan-worthy.  The end result is rather uneven.  If the film had maintained the momentum of that first hour, it would be a classic.  But that second half transforms it into just another entertaining but not quite memorable summer action film.

That said, Paul Feig is an excellent comedy director and let’s hope that he never gets so self-important that he ends up turning into Jay Roach.  Hopefully, if there is a sequel, Feig will return to direct it and Kate McKinnon will have an even bigger role.

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Playing Catch-Up With 6 Mini-Reviews: Amy, Gloria, Pitch Perfect 2, Sisters, Spy, Trainwreck


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Amy (dir by Asif Kapadia)

Amy opens with brilliant and, in its way, heartbreaking footage of a 14 year-old Amy Winehouse and a friend singing Happy Birthday at a party.  Even though she’s singing deliberately off-key and going over-the-top (as we all tend to do when we sing Happy Birthday), you can tell that Amy was a star from the beginning.  She’s obviously enjoying performing and being the center of attention and, try as you might, it’s impossible not to contrast the joy of her Happy Birthday with the sadness of her later life.

A star whose music touched millions (including me), Amy Winehouse was ultimately betrayed by a world that both wanted to take advantage of her talent and to revel in her subsequent notoriety.  It’s often said the Amy was self-destructive but, if anything, the world conspired to destroy her.  By focusing on footage of Amy both in public and private and eschewing the usual “talking head” format of most documentaries, Amy pays tribute to both Amy Winehouse and reminds us of what a great talent we all lost in 2011.

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Gloria (dir by Christian Keller)

The Mexican film Gloria is a musical biopic of Gloria Trevi (played by Sofia Espinosa), a singer whose subversive songs and sexual image made her a superstar in Latin America and challenged the conventional morality of Catholic-dominated establishment.  Her manager and lover was the controversial Sergio Andrade (Marco Perez).  The movie follows Gloria from her first audition for the manipulative Sergio to her arrest (along with Sergio) on charges of corrupting minors.  It’s an interesting and still controversial story and Gloria tells it well, with Espinosa and Perez both giving excellent performances.

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Pitch Perfect 2 (dir by Elizabeth Banks)

The Bellas are back!  As I think I’ve mentioned a few times on this site, I really loved the first Pitch Perfect.  In fact, I loved it so much that I was a bit concerned about the sequel.  After all, sequels are never as good as the original and I was dreading the idea of the legacy of the first film being tarnished.

But the sequel actually works pretty well.  It’s a bit more cartoonish than the first film.  After three years at reigning ICCA champions, the Bellas are expelled from competition after Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) accidentally flashes the President.  The only way for the Bellas to get the suspension lifted is to win the World Championship of A Capella.  The plot, to be honest, really isn’t that important.  You’re watching the film for the music and the interplay of the Bellas and, on those two counts, the film totally delivers.

It should be noted that Elizabeth Banks had a great 2015.  Not only did she give a great performance in Love & Mercy but she also made a respectable feature directing debut with Pitch Perfect 2.

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Sisters (dir by Jason Moore)

It’s interesting how opinions can change.  For the longest time, I really liked Tina Fey and I thought that Amy Poehler was kind of overrated.  But, over the past two years, I’ve changed my opinion.  Now, I like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey kind of gets on my nerves.  The best way that I can explain it is to say that Tina Fey just seems like the type who would judge me for wearing a short skirt and that would get old quickly, seeing as how I happen to like showing off my legs.

Anyway, in Sisters, Tina and Amy play sisters!  (Shocking, I know.)  Amy is the responsible one who has just gotten a divorce and who wants to make everyone’s life better.  Tina is the irresponsible one who refuses to accept that she’s no longer a teenager.  When their parents announce that they’re selling the house where they grew up, Amy and Tina decide to throw one last party.  Complications ensue.

I actually had two very different reactions to Sisters.  On the one hand, as a self-declared film critic, it was easy for me to spot the obvious flaw with Sisters.  Tina and Amy should have switched roles because Tina Fey is simply not believable as someone who lives to have fun.  Sometimes, it’s smart to cast against type but it really doesn’t work here.

However, as the youngest of four sisters, there was a lot of Sisters that I related to.  I saw Sisters with my sister, the Dazzling Erin, and even if the film did not work overall, there were still a lot of little scenes that made us smile and go, “That’s just like us.”  In fact, I think they should remake Sisters and they should let me and Erin star in it.

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Spy (dir by Paul Feig)

There were a lot of very good spy films released in 2015 and SPECTRE was not one of them.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am with the latest Bond film.  It’s not so much that SPECTRE was terrible as there just wasn’t anything particular memorable about it.  When we watch a film about secret agents saving the world, we expect at least a few memorable lines and performances.

Now, if you want to see a memorable spy movie, I suggest seeing Spy.  Not only is Spy one of the funniest movies of the year, it’s also a pretty good espionage film.  Director Paul Feig manages to strike the perfect balance between humor and action.  One of the joys of seeing CIA employee Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) finally get to enter the field and do spy stuff is the fact that there are real stakes involved.  Susan is not only saving the world but, in the film’s best scenes, she’s having a lot of fun doing it and, for that matter, McCarthy is obviously having a lot of fun playing Susan and those of us in the audience are having a lot of fun watching as well.

Spy also features Jason Statham as a more traditional action hero.  Statham is hilarious as he sends up his own macho image.  Seriously, who would have guessed that he could such a funny actor?  Here’s hoping that he, McCarthy, and Feig will all return for the inevitable sequel.

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Trainwreck (dir by Judd Apatow)

There’s a lot of great things that can be said about Trainwreck.  Not only was it the funniest film of 2015 but it also announced to the world that Amy Schumer’s a star.  It was a romantic comedy for the 21st Century, one that defied all of the conventional BS about what has to happen in a romcom.  This a film for all of us because, let’s just be honest here, we’ve all been a trainwreck at some point in our life.

But for me, the heart of the film was truly to be found in the relationship between Amy and her younger sister, Kim (Brie Larson).  Whether fighting over what to do with their irresponsible father (Colin Quinn) or insulting each other’s life choices, their relationship is the strongest part of the film.  If Brie Larson wasn’t already guaranteed an Oscar nomination for Room, I’d demand that she get one for Trainwreck.  For that matter, Amy Schumer deserves one as well.

Seriously, it’s about time the trainwrecks of the world had a film that we could truly call our own.

Lisa Marie Picks The 50 Best Films of The Past 3 Years


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As of this month, I have been reviewing films here at the Shattered Lens for 3 years.  In honor of that anniversary, I thought I’d post my picks for the 50 best films that have been released in the U.S. since 2010.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
  2. Exit Through The Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)
  3. Hanna (directed by Joe Wright)
  4. Fish Tank (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  5. Higher Ground (directed by Vera Farmiga)
  6. Shame (directed by Steve McQueen)
  7. Anna Karenina (directed by Joe Wright)
  8. The Cabin In The Woods (directed by Drew Goddard)
  9. 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
  10. Somewhere (directed by Sofia Coppola)
  11. Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee)
  12. Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese)
  13. Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan)
  14. Animal Kingdom (directed by David Michod)
  15. Winter’s Bone (directed by Debra Granik)
  16. The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
  17. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonagh)
  18. Bernie (directed by Richard Linklater)
  19. The King’s Speech (directed by Tom Hooper)
  20. Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig)
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Thomas Alfredson)
  22. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  23. Never Let Me Go (directed by Mark Romanek)
  24. Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
  25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
  26. Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman)
  27. Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder)
  28. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
  29. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  30. Melancholia (directed by Lars Von Trier)
  31. Super (directed by James Gunn)
  32. Silver Linings Playbook (directed by David O. Russell)
  33. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (directed by Edgar Wright)
  34. The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm)
  35. Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes)
  36. Easy A (directed by Will Gluck)
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (directed by David Yates)
  38. The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon)
  39. How To Train Your Dragon (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois)
  40. Win Win (directed by Thomas McCarthy)
  41. Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper)
  42. Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley)
  43. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  44. Rust and Bone (directed by Jacques Audiard)
  45. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
  46. Ruby Sparks (directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
  47. Brave (directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  48. Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin)
  49. Jane Eyre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)
  50. Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman)

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: Bridesmaids (dir. by Paul Feig)


Last night, I watched, via Uverse OnDemand,  one of my favorite movies of 2011 — Bridesmaids.

Why Was I Watching It?

Why!?  Because it’s just like one of my favorite movies of all time!  Seriously, I love Bridesmaids.

What’s It About?

To put it simply, this is a movie about a bunch of bridesmaids but really, it’s so much more.  Annie (Kristen Wiig) is struggling to get over the loss of her bakery and trying to find some sort of happiness in a purely sexual relationship with married Ted (Jon Hamm, at his sleaziest) when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces that she’s getting married.  She asks Annie to be her maid-of-honor but Annie quickly finds herself locked in competition with Lillian’s other friend, the rich and snobby Helen (Rose Byrne) as well as in a tentative romance with Nathan (Chris O’Dowd, who is so cute and adorable here), who is a traffic cop but he’s also Irish so he can be forgiven.

What Worked?

Okay, so when Bridesmaids came out this summer it was advertised as being a “gross out comedy” for girls but it’s so much more.  I mean, I’m not a huge fan of gross out comedy, like not at all.  But I love this movie.  The film is full of great (but honest) dialogue and features some of the best ensembles of the year.  Along with Byrne and Wiig, the bridesmaids include Wendy McClendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, and Melissa McCarthy and they all get a chance to shine.  Especially McCarthy, who plays the sister of the groom and who gets to deliver all of the crude, laugh-out-loud lines along with getting a great, semi-dramatic scene towards the end.

This is a very funny movie but, ultimately, it’s funny because its true.  As Annie, Kristen Wiig is very funny and likable but ultimately, she’s a single woman struggling to maintain both her independence and her own sense of self-worth in a world that seems to exist just to judge, a struggle that leads her to live a little too vicariously through her best friend and try to justify being the lesser half in a degrading relationship.  And you know what?  We’ve all been there.  I know I have.  And, when you find yourself in that type of prison, sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from going crazy.

There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this film that I don’t even know where to begin in picking out my favorites.  However, a few obvious highlights: the ill-fated trip to try on bridesmaid dresses and the equally ill-fated flight to Vegas.  I also have to give major kudos to the film’s opening, which is one of the few sex scenes ever to be found in a comedy that’s actually filmed from the woman’s point of view.

Finally, the film features Jill Clayburgh’s final film performance and she is hilarious.  Thank you, Bridemaids, for coming out after Love and Other Drugs.

What Doesn’t Work?

Any time you have a comedy like this, there will occasionally be a one-liner that falls flat or a joke that doesn’t quite work and Bridesmaids has one or two of these.  But the entire film is so likable that the jokes that don’t work are quickly forgotten.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments:

Oh my God, so many!  And it would probably be TMI for me to go into every single one of them but I will say that I’ve been a bridesmaid like five times and I was my sister Megan’s maid of honor though that was mostly because I cried until she agreed to give me the job.  And I actually really enjoyed it every time, mostly because it meant I got to be up at the front of the church instead of stuck sitting all anonymous-like in the back and I could stand up there and be all like, “See, I even make this dress look good.”

The second time I was a bridesmaid, I kinda got everyone mad at me because I made this gagging motion when they were lighting the unity candle but seriously, I just think unity candles are all silly and Vermont-like.  Plus, the marriage eventually ended in divorce like a year later so let’s hear it for me for being honest.

Lessons Learned:

Laughter is the best medicine.  Always.