American Beauty

MPAA Rated – R
It’s 1:58 Long
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

American Beauty
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Annette Bening, Kevin Spacey, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley
MPAA Rated: R
Released By: Dreamworks
Kiddie Movie: Definitely not.
Date Movie: She might hold your hand, or get suspicious of the way you look at a teenager.
Gratuitous Sex: Some boob shots, some butt shots, but no gratuitous sex.
Gratuitous Violence: One scene for sure.
Action: Nope.
Laughs: Chuckles.
Memorable Scene: Lester, Carolyn, and Jane at the dinner table, and the, well, almost last scene.
Memorable Quote: “Cunt.” – Not heard nearly enough in movies today. And in a different scene, Buddy says “You like getting nailed by the king!” to which Carolyn replies “Oh yea! Fuck me your majesty!”
Directed By: Sam Mendes

Lots of critics have proclaimed “American Beauty” a remarkable film, worthy of all of the statue awards, the best film of the 90’s, and all of the rest of the things that go along with that. I will just say that “American Beauty” is a pretty damn good film which, for a change, didn’t go for the happy Hollywood ending. That really doesn’t spoil the movie, but it was the final thing that made me really like this movie, and actually made me reflect a little on my life.
Picture if you will a totally dysfunctional family. Mom is in real estate and losing it, dad is in advertising and losing it, and the daughter has already lost it, hanging around with the high school babe and just trying to accept being abnormal. That’s bad enough, now introduce a new family next door. Dad used to be in the military and is always suspicious of his son. Mom is, well, basically comatose. And the son gets his kicks by seeing beauty in the strangest things, usually videotaping them, and also sells pot. Alright, you probably guessed this, but the son likes the daughter, the daughter ends up liking the son, and “American Beauty” turns into one of those movies that has a lot of slow spots but still has you leaving the theater just saying something like “Whoa.”
Well, in “American Beauty”, real estate mom is Carolyn (Annette Bening, who I have always liked, and I guess that sounds weird, but I have), advertising dad is Lester (Kevin Spacey, in another great roll), and their daughter is Jane (Thora Birch – she plays the displaced teenager perfectly). Then you’ve got the main player from family #2, Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley – playing the psychotic but still with maybe the most grip on reality teenager). Well, Lester gets most of his pleasure by beating off. Yea, that’s right, masturbating, and it’s usually with Angela (Mena Suvari), Jane’s high school friend, in mind. He hates his job, he’s in his midlife crises, and Ricky shows him the way to tap into being young again. Now, Carolyn, on the other hand, would get her pleasure by selling a house, but sadly seems to have lost it. So she sees her way to happiness in the likes of Buddy Kane (Peter Gallagher), the local real estate mogul who she lets teach her a thing or two about positive thinking and royalty. In the meantime Jane and Ricky fall in love with each other but Ricky’s military dad is still suspicious.
I can’t really give you much more without giving away a lot of the subtleties that make “American Beauty” a great film. It’s a dark movie. Families are falling apart and it unfolds right before your eyes. It kind of might make you wonder about your own family. It also has some funny moments, maybe because you might see them in your own life. But mostly, at least for me, “American Beauty” just had all of the right players in all of the right parts, and that got me past the slow moments, probably high on an artistic standpoint, but I was just stuck waiting a little longer to see if dad would score with Angela.
If things like sex, a dad lusting over a teenager, a family falling apart, or just life not being happy aren’t your idea of a good movie you might want to stay away from “American Beauty,” and that’s a little too bad. It’s sometimes blunt, sometimes not really to the point, but it takes you on a trip and the acting is great. That, and maybe this doesn’t really fit with the review of the film, but a clip achieved what Paul tried to do in a “Mad About You” episode – film the wind. It’s an artistic message for this movie, but just stood out for me as well, filming the wind.
Well, let’s leave this review at that. I’m giving “American Beauty” 4 ½ stars out of 5. It’s a great film, although it does drag a little, but I guess that’s sometimes the price you pay for mixing the artsy side a little with the serious side..
That’s if for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!


MPAA Rated – PG-13
It’s 2:02 Long
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, Laurence Fishburne
MPAA Rated: PG-13
Released By: Columbia Pictures
Kiddie Movie: Only if you to turn them into degenerate gamblers.
Date Movie: If she likes to gamble in Vegas and doesn’t just go there for the shows.
Gratuitous Sex: Ben and Jill get it on, but sadly it’s PG-13 so her arms cover her boobs. The group also meets in a strip club, but the girls have pasties on.
Gratuitous Violence: Some some beating up of people.
Action: Our heroes do find themselves running from casino goons through the belly of a casino.
Laughs: A chuckle here and there.
Memorable Scene: All I’ll say is the look on a dude’s face at the end of the movie.
Memorable Quote: Micky to Ben: “I love a parade, don’t you?
Directed By: Robert Luketic
Produced By: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Kevin Spacey

That’s it. I’m draining my bank account and heading to Vegas. Yup, I can count, too. Oh wait, they have that crazy facial recognition software now, don’t they? And, oh yea, I like to have a cocktail or ten while at the blackjack table. And, oh yea, they worked in teams. You know what, I guess I should scrap that idea and just go back to the lottery. “21” though, a movie loosely based on a group of MIT students who made a lot of dough in casinos by counting cards at the blackjack tables, is a lot of fun, if not somewhat preposterous.

In the movie we get Ben (Jim Sturgess), a student at MIT who wants to go to Harvard Medical School, only he ain’t got the money, and he’s banking on getting a free ride scholarship. When his professor, Micky (Kevin Spacey), notices that Ben is a math wiz, he figures Ben would make a good fit into his team of kids who take weekend trips to Las Vegas beating the casinos at their own game. At first Ben is hesitant, but since his dream-girl from afar, Jill (Kate Bosworth), is part of the team, Ben finds himself wrapped into a world he never came close to dreaming about (you see, Ben was the typical nerd at MIT, hanging out with his two, typical nerd friends, concentrating on school and a robot project instead of hitting on girls). Things are going well as Ben finds he is great at running a table, Micky loves him because he’s making him loads of easy money, but then, you can guess, the lifestyle starts to get to Ben’s head, he starts to gamble instead of remember the rules, and forgets that as easy as Micky can make his life in college, he can also make it miserable. Then of course there is Cole (Laurence Fishburne), a loss specialist for the casinos, hot on the trail of our college kids, realizing exactly what they are up to and probably happy because it means he gets to beat up somebody.

“21,” being the Hollywood take of the actual story, of course changes a whole bunch of things about the story, but it’s probably better because the actual story, while fascinating, would be pretty boring on the big screen. At its core, though, is the basic concept of using a team to gaining the upper hand at the tables, though I’m doubting any of the original team members found themselves running through the casino kitchen trying to get away from casino goons.

Jim Sturgess does a nice job of developing the nerdy Ben into a flashy Vegas high-roller, Kate Bosworth just needs to be on the screen to make me happy (although an R-rated version with her naked would be better), and Kevin Spacey is great in that “I am holier than thou so you will listen to me or be crushed” role. Some of the flashy effects make the film look better on the big screen, and the ending was “Hollywood calculated” for me, but if you’ve got an afternoon free and ever thought you could beat a casino at blackjack, the movie pretty much shows you that you have no chance, so go ahead and split that pair of tens even though the dealer has a nine showing (I’ve seen it done – the dude won both hands). It’s 3 ½ stars out of 5 for “21.”

That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!