Movie Bag #4 – Basketball Diaries, Taking Woodstock, X-Men First Class, Natural Born Killers, Extract

The Basketball Diaries is nothing more than a demo tape for Leonardo DiCaprio.  Leo plays a teenager who drops out of school and spins out of control with drugs and terrible friends.  He cries a lot and treats people like shit, then he gets arrested and gets better.  The end.  That’s really all that happens.  It might have been an interesting movie when it first came out because of how well Leo does in it, but at this point we’re all used to him and the movie has nothing left to offer aside from a surprisingly powerful scene near the end.  Click here to watch it on Youtube and save yourself the trouble of sitting through the entire movie.

Taking Woodstock is mostly just bland.  It follows the story of Woodstock being moved to a small town that isn’t quite ready for it by Elliot Tiber (Dmitri Martin).  There’s some legal and human drama, but it was all remarkably forgettable and uninteresting.  Aside from the transvestite bodyguard you could probably write out entire plot just by being told the premise.  An unoriginal story could have been saved by excellent acting or writing, but both are nowhere to be found.  Dmitri Martin tends to speak in the same way that he sets up most of his stand up jokes, which was distracting at times, and there’s almost no music to be found in the film.  Almost no music.  In a movie about a music festival.  Yeah.  If you really want to watch a movie like this I’d recommend Across the Universe.  The story isn’t all that interesting in that one either, but at least you get some kick ass musical performances and some trippy scenes.

X-Men: First Class is hands down the best X-Men movie ever made.  It really hurts to say that ab0ut a movie without Patrick Stewart, so you can trust me.  It’s a complete return to form for the series that recaptures what made the first two films great and then improves upon that.  First Class follows Professor X and Magneto as they gather the first ever team of mutants and inevitably split to form the competing factions that we all know about.  Professor X wants peaceful resolutions, and grew up with the luxury of not being treated differently for his hidden power.  Magneto seeks revenge for a tortured past involving the holocaust Kevin Bacon’s villainous character.  Mystique struggles with her identity as she seeks to conform with society but isn’t willing to sacrifice who she really is.  Solid character development leads to First Class being a well done movie about a group of very human characters  that just happen to be in a superhero movie.  It’s fun, action-packed, interesting, beautiful, and funny.  If you’re a fan of the franchise at all you have no reason to miss this one.

Natural Born Killers follows mass murderers Mickey and Mallory (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) as they carve a trail of blood across America.  Killers focuses heavily on the celebrity status that is assigned to famous criminals, and Robert Downey Jr. plays a large role in the second half of the movie as a crazed journalist that seems to fall in love with what the murderers do.  The killers have such a powerful enthusiasm about what they do, so you can’t help but root for them when you clearly shouldn’t.  Some truly bizarre scenes, a dark sense of humor, and manic performances from Harrelson, Lewis and Downey Jr. are enough to make Natural Born Killers a very re-watchable movie.  Love it or hate it, this one is simply to different to be missed.

Extract is a 90 minute sitcom episode.  Imagine the following.  You’re flipping through the channels on your TV and come across a comedy show that you’ve never heard of before.  You watch the entire thing and enjoy yourself, but when the credits roll you don’t feel any desire to watch it again or recommend it to anyone.  That’s Extract.  It’s funny and entertaining, but once the credits roll you’re left in a bubbling pool of “meh.”  Jason Bateman’s character owns an extract business and wants to trick his wife into cheating on him so that he won’t feel bad when he cheats on her.  His employees find out that he’s planning on selling the business so they protest ineffectively.  Mila Kunis plays a con-woman who latches onto a wounded worker and pushes him to sue.  Take those overlapping plot lines and balance them like a sitcom episode and you’ve got Extract.  It’s not bad by any means, just not all that good.


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