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Almost Famous

Almost Famous is 2000 comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe. It’s partially based on Cameron Crowe’s own experiences as a teenaged writer for Rolling Stone. Seems to me that Cameron Crowe is a bit of an overachiever. So I have a confession to make. I saw this movie for the first time a week ago. Every time someone has mentioned this movie, I smiled, nodded my head, and pretended to know what everyone was talking about. A good portion of my life has been a lie. I’m sorry.

But I’ve seen it now. It’s a pretty good movie. I understand why it’s still relevant fifteen years later. Almost Famous tells the story of William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit), a high school student who gets tasked with writing an article for Rolling Stone about a band called Stillwater. Stillwater might be a fictional band, but they still rock hard. William goes on tour with the band, while forming a friendship with Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson in her breakout role), a groupie with a heart of gold, and an uneasy alliance with the various members of Stillwater.

It’s a coming of age story. William learns about life and love, he loses his virginity, and he finds himself. It’s a period piece set in 1973 but it doesn’t feel dated. It has a great soundtrack, filled with tons of real classic rock songs and pseudo classic rock songs written for the movie. It features the best use of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” ever put on film. The cast includes a bunch of A-listers before they were super famous like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, Anna Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, and Rainn Wilson just to name a few.

The movie has a nice pace in the beginning, but it starts to drag along towards the end. It could have been thirty minutes shorter. They should have skipped most of the stuff that happens after they all sing “Tiny Dancer.” The plot fizzles out and loses momentum. It’s still good though. I would recommend that you watch it if you haven’t yet. Better late than never.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Twister (film, not the awesome game)

Twister was the first Hollywood movie released on DVD. That alone is reason enough to watch this movie. Jan de Bont (Speed) directs Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton in Twister. They play a couple of storm chasers who track down tornadoes. For science.

Helen Hunt plays Jo, a meteorologist with a traumatic tornado-ridden past. Bill Paxton plays Bill Harding, her husband who shows up seeking her signature to finalize their divorce so he can marry his bitch girlfriend Melissa (Jami Gertz). Bill and Jo used to partners, both on the field and in the sack, but now Bill is out of the tornado chasing game. Jo has developed a tornado researching device based on Bill’s designs that they codenamed DOROTHY. Bill and Melissa tag along with Jo and her team of storm chasers as they attempt to launch DOROTHY before a rival team of storm chasers launch their own rip-off version of DOROTHY and steal all the credit.

Cary Elwes plays the rival storm chaser, Jonas Miller. He has a corporate sponsorship. He is like Team X-Bladz and Jo’s side is like Team Pup ‘N Suds. And if you don’t get that reference I feel sorry for you. Jonas swoops in and tries to take all the good twisters, but he doesn’t understand them like Jo or Bill. Cary Elwes has a ridiculous accent in this movie. I can’t tell if he’s trying to be Southern or Midwestern, but c’mon, you’re Cary Elwes and we know you are English and we want to hear your English accent. You don’t see Hugh Grant trying to talk like an American.

Bill is trying to move on with his life with Melissa, but he can’t escape the fact that storm chasing is in his blood. And so he returns to his old ways, and starts to go on the hunt for the chance to release DOROTHY into a tornado so that they can use science to develop an early warning system. With each new and more powerful tornado he experiences, he becomes closer to Jo and more distant to Melissa.

By the time the final and most powerful tornado shows up, a motherfucking F5, Bill and Jo are fully reconciled and Melissa can fuck off. Bill and Jo manage to deploy DOROTHY and tornadoes will never again plagued mankind. Happy endings rule.

This is a weird blockbuster. It has a bunch of actors that you recognize, but none of them are really movie stars. Bill Paxton is famous, but he’s not Brad Pitt. Helen Hunt was really big for a while but she faded away. You recognize Cary Elwes from the Princess Bride, Alan Ruck from Ferris Bueller, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. You might even recognize Jeremy Davies (Daniel Faraday from Lost). But most of the actors aren’t that big. The special effects were cutting edge at the time, but they look dated now. Flying cows just aren’t that impressive anymore.

Twister is an action film, but sometimes it seems like a horror movie. Especially how the tornadoes seem to stalk Jo. She can’t escape them. They killed her father and they keep coming after her. It’s pretty suspicious how each one of the twisters becomes more violent. First it’s a weak F1 which escalates into an F2, and then there’s and F2, and later an F3. Then an F4 almost wipes out Jo and her group and tries to kill her aunt. And then an F5 forms and heads straight for her and almost kills her, mirroring the F5 that killed her dad. Nature is a bitch and it hates Helen Hunt.

Watching this movie now is a trip. This movie came out in 1996 and you forget about how there was no technology back then. They storm chasers communicate by radio, not by iPhone or Droids. They have archaic computers and software to simulate weather patterns, not with iPads or knockoff tablets. Alan Ruck’s whole character could be replaced by Tom Tom or any standard GPS.

I feel like everyone has seen this movie. You almost had to. But it’s not that good. It’s really dated, it doesn’t hold up. It’s a decent story of man versus nature, but I always thought that man versus bad man with a gun is a better story.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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