Flashback Friday: Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003)

When a film is successful, the obvious response from the powers that be is to greenlight a sequel. Whether or not that second film has the same success as its predecessor is not as certain.

The 2003 movie, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is the follow-up to the 2000 film, Charlie’s Angels. After three years, the Angels- Dylan (Drew Barrymore), Alex (Lucy Liu), and Natalie (Cameron Diaz) have another case on their hands. Led by the ever-faithful Bosley (the late Bernie Mac, replacing Bill Murray), they have to locate and protect two rings that contain information on the Federal Witness Protection Program database.

Standing in their way is the potentially suspect fallen Angel Madison (Demi Moore) and bad guy/Dylan’s ex Seamus (Justin Theroux).

As sequels go, it’s not bad. The problem is that the spark that made its predecessor successful is dimmed. It is entertaining, but not as good as the original narrative.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Shrek Forever After (2010)

The first film in a series is exciting and new. The possibilities are endless. By the time the third or fourth movies comes around, it takes a greater mind to invent news ways of moving the narrative along.

The fourth movie in the the Shrek series is Shrek Forever After. After the events of Shrek (2001), Shrek 2 (2004) and Shrek the Third (2007), Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are dealing with the challenges of marriage and parenthood. Unable to deal with the stress of it all, he wishes that he was a real ogre. Rumpelstiltskin (Walter Dohrn) grants his wish. At first, he is content with his new life.

Then Shrek realizes that he has been setup. Before he can stop Rumpelstiltskin, he has to first convince Fiona, Donkey (Eddie Murphy), and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), who do not know him, to fight against their common enemy.

To say that the creators stretched whatever narrative ideas they had is an understatement. They get an A for effort, but little else.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Throwback Thursday: Shrek the Third (2007)

The third film in a series can travel into narrative territory that is not always clear. It can enhance the narrative and the characters, taking both in new directions. It can also be a disappointment if it lacks what its predecessors special.

Shrek the Third (2007) is the sequel to Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004). With the death of his father-in-law, Shrek (Mike Myers) is now the new King of Far Far Away. It goes without saying that he is not the right person for the job. The next in line is Artie (Justin Timberlake), but he is not exactly keen on embracing his future role. It is up to Shrek, Donkey (Eddie Murphy), and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to convince him to accept his destiny.

Meanwhile, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is pregnant and dealing with a very angry Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), who is planning to take what he believes was his to begin with.

The spark is somewhat diminished if we are comparing Shrek the Third to the first two movies. It’s almost a stretch, but it could be worse. Though my feminist self asks why Fiona, as the child of the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews), is not the next in line (thank you primogeniture), I appreciated that it was the princesses who saved the day.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Shrek 2 (2004)

In the lifetime of a romantic relationship, one of the major milestones is meeting your significant other’s family.

Shrek 2 takes place just after the ending of Shrek (2001). Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are in the midst of newlywed bliss when an invitation from her parents arrives at their doorstep. Traveling to the kingdom of Far Far away with Donkey (Eddie Murphy), they are initially given a warm welcome. That welcome is quickly rescinded by the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews), who are shocked and well, unhappy about their daughter’s choice of a spouse.

Among movie sequels, this one is near the top of my list. The film takes what made its predecessor successful and builds on it. It expands the world and the characters while using the same humor and heart of the first movie. What I personally love is that it represents a reality that is something not seen on screen and not seen in fairy tales. It shows that even in the happiest of families and the seemingly most perfect of marriages, there are still problems and conflicts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday-In Her Shoes (2005)

Ah, sisters. She can either be your best friend, your worst enemy or something in between.

In In Her Shoes (2005), Rose (Toni Collette) and Maggie (Cameron Diaz) don’t have the best relationship. Rose is the responsible straight laced lawyer, while Maggie is the wild child who has yet to get her act together. The relationship is nearly severed when Maggie sleeps with Rose’s boyfriend. It takes the discovery of their unknown grandmother Ella (Shirley MacLaine) to bring the sisters back together and heal decades old family wounds.

I like this movie. Based on the book of the same name by Jennifer Weiner, the relationship between Maggie and Rose feels very real. The story really starts to move forward when we meet Ella and we learn about Ella’s late daughter (Rose and Maggie’s mother), who had issues that nearly destroyed her family.

I recommend it.

Throwback Thursday- Finally, A Good Rom Com- The Holiday (2006) & Something’s Got To Give (2003)

The romantic comedy genre (shortened to rom com) is a pretty basic genre. Two people meet and something sparks between them. But there are boundaries, acted out in a light and funny way, to what may be their happy ending. While there are many rom coms that are formulaic and predictable from the get go, thankfully there are a few movies within the genre that are not.

In The Holiday (2006), Amanda (Cameron Diaz), who lives in Los Angeles and Iris (Kate Winslet), who lives near London, are having relationship issues. Needing a break from their lives, they meet on a house swapping website and agree to live in each others homes during the holiday.  In England, Amanda meets Iris’s brother, Graham (Jude Law). In Los Angeles, Iris meets Amanda’s 90 year old neighbor, Arthur (the late Eli Wallach) who helps her to regain her confidence while she starts to fall for Miles (Jack Black), one of Amanda’s colleagues.

While I normally don’t care for Jude Law or Jack Black, both are charming in this movie. Jude Law, playing a Cary Grant-esque Graham and Jack Black, without resorting to his usual man boy clownish acting are genuine in their parts.

What I like about this movie is that it is simple and sweet without being too predictable. We can all agree that every genre has it’s standard plot markers. But this movie reaches those plot markers without the audience feeling like they saw it comes a mile away.

In Somethings Got To Give (2003), Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) is a successful playwright. Her thirty something daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) brings her much older boyfriend Harry Sandhorn (Jack Nicholson) to her mother’s Long Island home for the romantic weekend. Marin does not know that her mother and aunt Zoe (Frances McDormand) are there. After suffering a heart attack, Harry is rushed to the hospital where he is treated by Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves) who develops a crush on Erica.

At the time of the movie’s release, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in regards to the brief frontal nudity of Diane Keaton. But it was so brief that the audience had to blink or they would miss it. That aside, what I like about this movie is that Keaton and Nicholson, for once, are age appropriate for on screen romantic couple. Adding Reeves and Peet to this very odd love square was a wise touch by the screenwriter.

I recommend both.

 

Throwback Thursday-Shrek

Fairy tale male leads are often a certain type. Tall, dark, handsome, charming and maybe a little flawed, just to make him interesting. He is the one who not only rescues the princess, but also marries her. Their happily ever after and ride into the sunset is predictable from the word go.

Shrek (2001) smashed this stereotype, forever altering the way we see the male lead character in fairy tales.

Shrek (Mike Myers) is an ogre. He is rude, smelly, keeps to himself and not the image that a female would conjure up when she thinks of Prince Charming.  Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) starts to encroach on Shrek’s swamp. Shrek makes a deal with Lord Farquaad to rescue his intended, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and bring her back to his kingdom. If Shrek agrees and bring bring the princess, he will be left in peace for the rest of his days. Traveling with Shrek is Donkey (Eddie Murphy), a talking ass who is part sarcasm, part performer and part wise old man.

Did Shrek break the mold for fairy tales? No. Did the story have the predictable, typical happy ending? Of course.  But what this movie does brilliantly is to take the stereotypes of genre, flip it on the head and skewer in a way that is pure genius. The twist in this story (which I will not share, in case anyone has not seen this movie), certainly goes a long way in redeeming the standard ending.

Do I recommend this movie? Sure. Do I recommend the sequels? Let me put it this way. Outside of Star Wars, Star Trek and  a handful of the most recent superhero movies, most movies that have multiple sequels begin to loose their steam after a while. The sequels that followed this movie are among the movie sequels that will never be as good as the first.

 

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