Thursday, December 30, 2010
The worst movie of 2010 for me was Sex & The City 2. I hated this movie. Were there technically worse films out there? Sure. Maybe. But none got under my skin or insulted me more than this pretentious piece of crap. Everything about it bugged me. The acting. The dialogue. The plot. The condescending tone. The costumes. The freaking karaoke number! Just UGH!! What happened to the HBO show's edginess? This is just watered down, and dumbed down beyond measure.
A movie that should have been straight to DVD. The only good thing about it were the special effects. But the plot, dialogue, characters and acting were beyond bad. An embarrassment for all.
No reason for this film's existence. Phoned in. Boring. Ridiculous. A waste.
I was supposed to laugh, but I didn't. Not once. And Jessica Alba has proved once and for all that she's only good for underwear modeling and nothing more.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
One of the worst endings I've ever seen. Badly directed film. Not sure what Oliver Stone was thinking. The tacked on romantic comedy ending was out of place and doesn't fit with the rest of the movie's tone. What is this movie meant to be about? What is the theme? What is meant to explore? A mess.
I feel as though I haven't seen a lot of films this year, but I know logically I have. I just didn't get around to seeing a lot of independent films or foreign films like I usually do. Not saying I didn't, as they made my list. But my list certainly isn't the same as the list of "real" critics out there.
So here's my list, and in no particular order...
Toy Story 3
A delightful film and hopefully the last in the series as it ended on a perfect note. Andy goes off to the college and the toys get sent to a daycare where they meet the villainous Lotso, an old bitter bear, who runs the joint. The Toys must escape the toddlers who pummel them on a regular basis and also the fiery pits of the junkyard. The film has laughs and tears and is a perfectly put together screenplay.
A high school kid and comic book fan decides to become a super-hero, and he gets his ass kicked, but also kicks some ass too. It's full of violence and foul language and a stand out performance by Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl. I want to be Hit Girl!
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The best of the trilogy. It's well written and flows well. Lisbeth Salander is a force to be reckoned with as a fictional character you do not want to mess with. It's a smart film, and the plot has many layers involving rape and violence and unsolved crimes and disappearances.
It's cute and sweet. Not the best Disney film out there, but I enjoyed it. Rapunzel is a tough cookie and finds her way with some help along the way. She's not looking to get rescued, which I like.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I liked it, but didn't love it, but it still is one of the better films of the year. It has set up a finale that is going to be spectacular. I can't wait for the showdown between good and evil!
Never let me go
Despite the book being much better than the film. I like the film more now as time has passed. It had a really nice tone and feel to it. It's haunting. The score by Rachel Portman is what makes this film.
My favourite big Hollywood film this year. It's got action, and eye candy and intelligence. The dreamworld is quite realistic in this mind bending adventure.
Nina is an obsessed ballerina who gets the role of the swan queen and we watch as she descends into madness. What's real? What's fantasy? A mind bending experience that is worth the ride.
A straight to dvd film that deserved the big screen treatment. A psychological thriller centered around a black-ops interrogator and an FBI agent who press a suspect terrorist into divulging the location of three nuclear weapons sets to detonate in the U.S. The Terrorist is Britsh actor, Michael Sheen and it also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Carrie-Anne Moss. It's a smart, small film that makes you question when is torture okay?
Danis Tanovic's latest film (he won the Oscar for best foreign film for No Man's Land) It's set in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 90's just before the outbreak of the civil war. A Man returns from Germany with money and a hot young wife, wanting to start again. But his ex wife and son aren't too keen on his plans. It's poignant, and sad and quite funny too. A real gem.
Why is there a sequel to the sequel of this film 6 years later? I guess with the box office gross over the holidays, it's obvious that people are desperate for the Fockers.
Throughout the film, I kept thinking, I should be laughing, right? This scene or that line of dialogue is supposed to be funny and make me laugh out loud, but I didn't. The film really doesn't explore anything new and relies on penis jokes a lot. Robert DeNiro's character hasn't changed and it's boring to watch him do the same thing here again. The film isn't as phoned in as The Tourist, but it's still a ridiculous waste of money.
The writing isn't fresh. Owen Wilson's character is a caricature now, far removed from any kind of reality. Where have all the smart comedies gone? Comedies for people of a certain age? Don't get me wrong, I love my slapstick and my fart jokes and pratfalls, but I prefer it partnered with wit.
I could mention the plot, but there isn't much of one. The Fockers are planning a birthday party for their twins. Parents come to visit. Jack thinks Focker is having an affair on his daughter with Jessica Alba's character and so on. Chaos ensues. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I do have to say that the thing that stuck with me the most is how out of her element Jessica Alba is. It's obvious that she was only hired for her siren role because she looks good in underwear. Was Jessica Biel not available? (they are interchangeable Jessicas, afterall)
Save your cash. Rent Parenthood instead. But if you've watched the first two Focker films then I guess you might want to revisit these characters, but please wait for dvd or go on cheap Tuesday,
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Tourist is a mess. Silly waste of money and talent. And beyond predictable. Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp must have gotten a lot of money to do this film because it couldn't have been the roles they chose based on the script because the story is weak and cliché ridden and boring, which is kind of surprising considering the writers behind the film aren't newbies, they're award winning writers. Then again, writers can phone it in too. Or maybe Hollywood could stop remaking European films in such an inferior manner.
Jolie and Depp barely try with their roles. There is no reason why this film was made other than for two major celebrities to prance around Europe in hair and makeup and costumes. It brings nothing new to the cinematic landscape. If these are the films that they are choosing to do then it's better if Depp grows grapes in the South of France and Jolie adopts ten more kids. At least that way, they are bringing something better into the world.
Did I hate this film? No. It's just so completely ridiculous that it's barely even worth the words I write about. It's forgettable the moment it ends.
Black Swan tells the story of a ballerina's descent into madness and it's a riveting and engrossing fall into that madness. I couldn't look away from Natalie Portman's Nina who is obsessed with perfecting the role of the Swan Queen while trying to keep her limited grip on reality. Was she crazy before she got the role, or did the role make her mad? It's safe to say that Nina had major issues beforehand: She scratches herself leaving scars, she lives with her mother who smothers her (we question whether her mother is a good or bad influence and well, she's both), she questions her sexuality, she vomits up her food, she rehearses day and night until she bleeds. Portman does a great job in her role. She immersed herself. The supporting players are pitch perfect as well and create a ballet world that is fierce and lonely at its core. A world this spinster is glad she never participated in. Those dancers are much too thin, but their bodies are, at times, works of art and well crafted.
Winona Ryder has a small role as an aging ballerina, but if you blink you might miss her. It's weird seeing Winona on screen again. An actress who ruled the 90's on screen doesn't have the same sort of presence now. A shame. Mila Kunis is great as well. She is slowly shedding her persona as the spoiled loud mouthed Jackie from That 70's Show. Also, Barbara Hershey plays Nina's mother, and nails the stage mother role perfectly and shows the many layers this former ballerina has and at times, it's frightening. She deserves an Oscar nomination.
The film requires attention as we are taken on this reality bending ride and the payoff is well worth it. I loved the ending. Nina wanted to be "perfect" and I believe the ending was perfect because it makes you think and question, and ultimately, you are relieved that you survived this tale without having to give up your favourite junk food.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has lost her bloom. Becky, in her 6th book, hasn't changed. She's still flighty, irrational, and a raging shopaholic. What made Becky so enduring and charming the first go around is the very thing that makes her annoying. Even though, deep down, she is sweet and has a good heart, she's absolutely ridiculous, and at times, completely moronic.
I loved her silliness in the first 3 books of the series. She was still likable, and not yet too crazy. The first book, we're introduced to her and she learns a financial lesson. In the second book, she's off to New York City where she has a few slip ups involving Barney's department store, which is acceptable. And in the third book, she's getting married. And every bride goes a little nutty preparing a wedding. But these last 3 books have gone too far because Becky is no longer innocent or naive or even cute in her actions. She's a grown woman, married, and now a mother of a 2 year old. And she needs medical attention asap. After all these years, a rich husband, motherhood, part-time employment, Becky is still in debt, still overspends, buying silly stuff like birthday napkins with a name on it that is not her husband's because it was in the pound shop. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
But the biggest complaint with Mini Shopaholic is that it really doesn't involve a 2 year old shopping. The main plot is Becky wants to throw a surprise party for her husband. That's it. I mean, it's chick lit fair, but it's just so dumbed down. Despite, the silly plot, it's still well written. Sophie Kinsella is the queen of the Chick Lit genre, and I have enjoyed her other books that are separate from Becky's saga very much. It's also a very quick read. Mind you, this time it took me the full 3 weeks to read through it (the library lets you have it for 3 weeks) because I kept leaving it. I just didn't care how it ended. Will the party be a success? Will Luke be surprised? Will Becky go in debt for it? Who really cares. But because I have such a past fondness for Becky that I persevered. But I just really want Becky to learn a bit more. Then again, if she did there would be no shopaholic books. I understand that. So I guess I just have to accept Becky and all her faults. Because like real life, some people just don't change.
But the big question remains, if there is another book in the series, which there probably will be, will this reader return? Hmmmm. Who knows. As long as I don't spend my hard earned money on it then you never know!
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Two movies opened yesterday that I want to see, Love & Other Drugs and Disney's Tangled. You can guess by the title of this post which one prevailed. I was in the mood for an animated princess, the tug of nostalgia was too great, and I wasn't disappointed. It was exactly what I thought it would be. It's sweet and inoffensive. It's not really laugh out loud funny like Pixar movies tend to be. This is much more staying in the Disney tradtion of safe, but cute.
The only major issue with it was that it kind of had this unbalanced use of music. It wasn't a traditional musical like The Little Mermaid or Beauty & The Beast, only a few songs, but really downplayed. It might have been better to not have them sing in character and just have a couple of songs play over the scenes instead. A weird mix. not sure what it wants to be, just animated or a musical animated film.
Mandy Moore is good, and delivers vocally as Rapunzel and she is matched well with Zachary Levi who plays the thief, Flynn Ryder (not his real name, his real name is much less menacing, but cue the word of the day, CUTE!).
Tangled is a modern day take on the fairy tale of Rapunzel. In order to bring boys into the theatre, Disney switched up the trailers making it seem as though the main character would be Flynn Ryder, but don't be fooled. This is Rapunzel's story, and is good enough for both boys and girls. But don't be fooled again, because it is kind of girlie, but in a good way! Rapunzel isn't a damsel in distress in the traditional sense. She's got spunk and dreams and goes for it. Rapunzel was kidnapped as a baby from the King and Queen by Gothel (the villain, who could have been a bit more villainous) who wants Rapunzel's magical hair to keep herself young. So she tells Rapunzel that she is her mother and keeps her locked up in the tower for her own safety and makes the outside world sound horribly barbaric. She plays the guilt card to perfection. But Rapunzel wants to go out and see the Floating lights, which are set free every year on her birthday. She doesn't know that they are floating lanterns set out by her real mother and father in honor of their lost daughter.
Ultimately, Rapunzel finds out the truth and must battle her evil witch of a fake mother, and also save Flynn from certain death. It's not a Disney movie unless someone falls in love with someone! Maybe one day there'll be a leading gal who doesn't need a man to live happily ever after. She will sacrifice her own happiness and freedom if she can save Flynn, but Flynn has other plans. And let's just say that Rapunzel goes from a blonde to a brunette in record time! For a while there I thought this was going to be how great blondes have it, but brunettes do really have it better in the end!
I am also glad that Rapunzel didn't get married as a teenager, a creepy thing that happens a lot in fairy tales. I love Disney's The Little Mermaid, but my biggest issue with that movie is she gets married at 16 years old. Ewwww. With Rapunzel, she's a bit ahead of her time, and through voice over narration we know that Flynn (Or Eugene as she likes to call him) asks her to marry him for many many years until she says yes. Showing that this leading lady has a head on her shoulders that involves more than just hair.
Towards the end I did get a bit teary eyed. When a kidnapped daughter finally comes home to her parents after being missing for 18 years, the reunion is a sweet one with no words spoken. Sigh. Melt this cold spinster's dark, dark heart!
Overall, it's a nice film and I think it's a good addition to the Disney canon.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
If you've read the books, and or seen all the movies then Part 1 of the Deathly Hallows is a must see. If you haven't then it might be a tad on the boring side. (if you know nothing of the series then stop reading as there will be some spoilers, but nothing new to fans)
As with the book, the first part of this final installment is racked with a lot of camping, and for those who know me, they know I hate camping. But Wizarding camping, at least, entails magical sized tents that fit beds, but no toilets, so still on my NOT to do list! The film involves a lot of hiding out from Death Eaters, and finding, and figuring out how to destroy a horcrux (an object that a Dark wizard/witch has hidden a fragment of their soul for the purpose of attaining immortality). Something the evil Lord Voldermort has done 6 times over! Ack! Things are definitely going to get darker in Part 2.
And that's what Part 1 is, it's a giant build up to the epic battle between good and evil, and I for one, am revved up for its conclusion (next July 2011). I'm not the type of Harry Potter fan who rereads the books before the movies come out, so they tend to be almost new to me as I forget most of what has happened. People die, and I miss Mad Eye Moody's presence quickly and Dobby's death is a sweet and heartbreaking scene, but this is a war that takes no prisoners and more carnage awaits us.
Most of the film centers around our main three characters (Harry, Ron and Hermione) and the turmoil and teenage angst that they're going through while trying to survive. There is jealousy and quiet moments and looks of longing and fear that really make you feel for their predicament. These actors, who we've watched grow on screen, really showcase their acting chops. As always, I want Hermione's hair and wizarding skills (I also wouldn't mind Emma Watson's bank account) But alas, am too old for such dreams to come true.
I really enjoyed Bill Nighy's small role as Rufus Scrimgeour as he's new to the Potter universe. And as always, Helena Bonham Carter plays Bellatrix Lestrange with such excitement and craziness that she pops off screen. I look forward to returning to Hogwarts as it'll be a bitter sweet experience for all Potter fans out there. An end to a certain kind of era.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I wonder how such an obvious straight to dvd film makes it to the big screen. I wonder because the plot is thin, the acting bad, the pacing even worse, and the dialogue (the little that was) atrocious. As in really really unbelievable bad, and laughable. The saving grace, I suppose and why it's in theatres and not on rental shelves, is that the production value looks quite high. The alien ships look great, the weird vapor blood thing that happens to a human when they look into the light looks realistic and the space alien/monsters look great and scary.
One might ask why would I go and see such a film. I had a two for one coupon (so it was cheap) and I was in the mood for something bad, so I went in with no expectations. I also liked the first teaser trailer, thought it was really good and did a fine job of setting up the intrigue. The second trailer was terrible, and hinted at how bad it would actually be. Oh, and an added bonus was that we were the only two in the entire cinema so we got to talk back to the screen and each other and laugh really loud at the stupidity of the dialogue.
The basic plot, and I can't stress enough how basic it is, is aliens come down and start taking people. We follow a group of friends, who really don't know much about nor do we really care, so when people start getting beamed up, who the hell cares, right? We don't really know what's going on as we wouldn't know if we were the characters and this was happening to us, so I understand why the writers chose to do that, but when you have characters who are pretty much nameless then we have no vested interest in rooting for them. I was actually rooting for the aliens and why not! Ultimately, we realize that the aliens are taking humans for our brains (I think they'd skip out on Sarah Palin) and use them as fuel or something. Whatever, doesn't much matter. The thing that gets me though, was if these aliens who traveled light years to get into our solar system and are here only for our brains because they need it as energy/gasoline etc. then how the hell did they make it all the way out here in the first place? And how would they know our brains would work for them? Anyway, there's a silly ending up in the bowels of the mothership involving pregnant women and a brain that remembers. Let's just say that if we get invaded, we're all screwed!
The film stars, and use the word stars loosely, a bunch of television actors, some looking worse for wear. Brittany Daniel has not aged well, and I hate being mean, but, oh, who am I kidding! She looks ragged and haggard and bloated and tanned and it makes me realize just how old I have become and makes me think, do I think this ratty? Sigh. Back to the cosmetic counter!
I've just done some research and now I know why the film looked good because all involved are known for special effects, not directing or writing. Makes sense. But It's kind of annoying because movies need to have something more than flash. And as a writer, it's just another shot to the heart.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I picked up The Hunger Games and I couldn't put it down. It was an intense, page turner full of emotional turmoil. The plot is tight and well thought out, one can tell that there was definitely an outline and not written on a whim, characters were strong and developed, dialogue felt realistic and the description was full of visual imagery. This is how a YA novel should be written. This book, trilogy, is in fact, for all ages. Just because the protagonist is a teenage girl doesn't mean that it has to only be read by teenagers.
Out of the three, my favourite is The Hunger Games (the first book) followed by Catching Fire and then Mockingjay. All were books that I had to get through. I had to know what happened to these people in this futuristic Dystopia in the country of Panem. A country made up of 12 districts all under the iron clad rule of The Capital.
The Capital controls the 12 districts after a brutal war some 75 years prior, and to keep its people in check, every year, by lottery, they take a boy and girl from each district (ages 12-18) and throw them into a high tech deadly arena where it is a fight to the death. The person who lives is crowned the victor and is then allowed to have a life of luxury, or are they? It gets more complicated than that as we find out further into the series. just know that this game to the death is broadcast around the country and is a form of entertainment for those in the Capital.
What the evil President Snow doesn't realize is that this year's games will be different when our protagonist Katniss Everdeen, 16, challenges the game without even realizing it, which sparks the idea of revolution among Panem's people. Let's just say that for the 3 books Katniss is put through the wringer as she goes from the arena into the victor's village, back into the arena, then underground as the revolution begins, becoming a reluctant hero/rebel known as Mockingjay.
Katniss is our anti-hero. She has issues, and anger and deep rooted pain. Sometimes, it's difficult to like her, but that's what makes her real. She's human. And she doesn't like bullshit, and hates when she has to play not only the literal game, but the other kind of games that all humans play. Katniss is someone to root for because she's honest. Perhaps, to a fault. We also root for her because she loves her little sister, Prim. She would kill and, or die for her sister. This kind of love is what connects the reader to her, and allows us to forgive her foibles.
The narrative is told in third person through Katniss' perspective, so throughout the story, we don't know what's going on with other characters unless Katniss is there. We're thrust into this world through one set of eyes, and one set of eyes only. We see what she sees. We know what she knows. We feel what she feels. The only real drawback is that sometimes, as a reader, it's not fun being left in the dark, but that's the way it would be. If we're truly meant to be seeing this world through one character then we have to find things out along the way just as she does.
The story is a roller coaster ride and doesn't really let up. The first 2 books are so intense that my heart actually skipped beats. I was in this world. I felt as though I were inside this arena. Inside District 12. That I could smell the sinister breath of President Snow's. I haven't felt this excited about a book since Harry Potter. I believe that this series will be taught in schools, or it should be at least. The metaphors, the symbolism, the nature of war and peace, man's inhumanity to man are timeless. This book is violent, but not off putting (some of the violence in book 3 is over the top) and war is violent and doesn't need sugar coating.
The weakest of the books is book 3, Mockingjay, it's still very good and finishes off the series rather nicely and remains fairly true to the themes and tone. I felt that the action in the third book was overwritten and Collins could have used more editing on those sequences because after a while, the violence gets to be too jumbled and I could no longer visualize what was happening. It became a bit repetitive towards the end. There's also the issue that our protagonist becomes a bit passive and those moments stop the momentum, but then again, she's a teenage girl being told what to do by the adults around her. A minor criticism in an otherwise, excellent piece of literature. And I think this series will stand the test of time, and is meant to be known as literature.
The movie rights have been bought, and I look forward to seeing Katniss battle it out on the big screen. I do hope that these books catch fire and that everyone is reading them, young and old. I won't even compare this to the phenomenon that is Twilight because that would be insulting to the mockingjay because Suzanne Collins knows how to string words together, knows how to use verbs and nouns and paint a story that is intelligent and challenging to the reader. And that kind of writing is respected and much appreciated.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I went to see MEGAMIND for one reason and that's Tina Fey! If she's is involved with a film then I'm there. No question. I used to go to every animated film out there, but that's changed over the years and I'm much more picky. Pixar tends to win out most of the time, along with Disney depending on the story. So I was on the fence about MEGAMIND until the Tina Fey connection so I went. It's an okay animated feature. But not a film that will stand the test of time. It had funny moments. The voice work was excellent, but the dialogue rather dull. Nothing really jumps. At least, it wasn't referencing pop culture every five minutes like the Shrek movies do. Will Ferrell did a good job as the protagonist, the evil villian. Brad Pitt's work was rather forgettable. It took me a while to figure out whose voice it was. His character, the superhero, of MetroMan was bland and he's barely in the film, which is a good thing. This story belongs to Megamind and to some degree Tina Fey's character, Roxanne Ritchi. I also have to give a shout out to David Cross who plays the alien fish, Minion, with such glee that it had me smiling whenever he was on screen.
The story is simple, Megamind came to earth as a baby (as did MetroMan) via an identical origin story to Superman. They sort of grow up together, one the good guy (so annoyingly good that he was kind of a jerk) and the other labeled the bad guy. So Megamind did what any self-respecting alien with no real superhero powers would do, he became the best villain that he could be by using his megamind! He creates gadgets, and lairs, and kidnaps Roxanne on what appears to be a weekly basis. But when Megamind finally "defeats" MetroMan, something he's dreamed of doing, well he's bored. There's nothing to do for him now that he has everything he's ever wanted. So he creates a new superhero that he can fight, but this hero is an antihero and Megamind is forced to become the Hero, a thought that he's non-too pleased about.
The film forces Megamind to change and grow and to not pigeonhole himself. Something we all do in real life. It's only when Megamind takes the chance of being something else that he truly finds himself.
It's a cute film. But a rental.
Monday, November 8, 2010
It has laughs. Some gross out humor. Cute dog. Prancing Zach Galifianakis in acid washed jeans. But it also has a mean spirit to it. There was just something mean about the characters and their situations. That being said, I did laugh and I enjoyed it for the most part, but nothing really new was said. It's a road trip film. Nothing much more than that.
Robert Downey Jr's Peter Highman gets kicked off a plane due to Zach Galifianakis' Ethan Tremblay. Without a wallet or money, Peter can't rent a car so he has to hitch a ride with Ethan as they're both heading to LA. Peter, to get home to his pregnant wife, and Ethan, to make it in Hollywood. And like all movie cliches, chaos ensues!
There's a pit stop for pot, a pot stop, Juliette Lewis making a pretty good cameo as the pot dealer. Then there's most of the money being spent on said pot, no motel money so they sleep in a car where the only thing that makes Ethan fall asleep is masturbating before bed. You get the gross out humor part, right? A shot of his dog masturbating could have been cut. Not sure why masturbating animals are funny. Anyway, more stuff happens. A car wreck. A gun shot. Truth is 2 days later, I don't remember much more.
The film fills you up in the moment, but like msg filled food, it's forgotten hours later. The saving grace really are the two leads. If it weren't for them this film would not have been made or even enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, I laughed and a couple of times I laughed hard, I just can't remember the scenes.
The issue might be that there are 4 writers credited on the film, one of which is the director. Too many writers means too many cooks in that cliched kitchen. This film needed John Hughes because it's a poor man's Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (a movie I need to rent asap)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Not only was it RAINING MEN when I saw this musical, but it was also raining confetti! I love confetti (environment be damned!). Priscilla, based on the film, and now a successful musical in its native Australia, has travelled across the world and hunkered down in Toronto, before it makes its Broadway debut next year. And this "fag hag" is happy, well ecstatic, that I saw it. What a Deeeelightful night at the theatre.
I don't remember the movie very well, it's been ages since I saw it. It slowly came back to me in tiny pieces during the musical, but overall it was fresh and new to me. The plot's the same, pretty basic, a gay man travels to the outback to finally meet his son, and he takes along two drag queens with him so they can do a show! It's a road trip! How does one show a road trip on a single stage? By having a bus that rotates on wheels and a conveyer belt with passing road signs, and roadkill! (RIP Purple Teletubbie).
The musical is nonstop action from start to finish. I don't think I've ever been to a show with such energy. It starts off with the 3 Divas as they descend from the rafters, singing. They're like a modern day chorus via pop/disco songs. I won't go over the plot point by point because well, who cares! Because the plot, although there is one, is minor here. This show is about the COSTUMES and the MUSIC and the DANCING, and the rock hard BODIES on stage. Dear God! The bodies. The muscles. The abs. The asses. The legs. I could go on and on. These performers are intense. They are disciplined actors and singers and dancers and they transform into these wonderfully crafted characters who just pop and fill the theatre with excitement. I could feel their passion with every step they took and every note they sung.
I tapped my feet, clapped my hands and bopped my head along to the classic anthems of "I will survive," "We belong," and "Go West" (naming just a few), and screw the old fart behind me who gave me a glare at the end of the night. It's not my fault that I am tall and like gay singing drag queens! Stay home, old man if you can't handle this "fag hag's" enthusiasm.
Remember to buy your beverage and pastry separately. You'll save yourself money due to our crazy tax system. For example. If you buy a Tall Chai and get a banana Choc. cake, it comes to $6.05. BUT, if you purchase them separately, you pay 3.57 for the drink and 2.05 for the cake, which adds up to 5.62. So you save .43 cents. It adds up! So don't give away your money to the government, keep it in your pocket :) peace.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The Walking Dead premiered this past Sunday night on AMC. It's the first of its kind. A show about zombies, or rather about humans battling for survival against a zombie apocalypse. It's based on a comic series. And here I thought comics were only about the exploits of Archie and his gang.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln, the cutie from Love, Actually), a sheriff's deputy, wakes up in an abandoned hospital, after he was wounded at a shootout. His awakening is reminiscent of the opening of 28 Days Later. He wanders through the hospital, confused, the chaos surrounds him. A dead body, no longer bearing intestines, shocks him, and yet he continues on. He wanders towards a locked room marked "Dead Inside. Do not Open." A pair of pale death-like hands tries to break through. It's all rather creepy and set up nicely. We are in this world, and death is at its door.
Eventually, he makes his way back home to find his wife and son gone. He's then befriended by a father and son, who are hold up in their home. He receives information on what has happened. Not all of it. Just that a virus came and now the dead walk. The basic elements that make up most zombie stories are there. Noise and light attract them, and don't get bit or scratched.
Rick makes his way to Atlanta in search of his family, but unbeknownst to him, Atlanta is a dead zone. The Walking Dead "live" there. It was meant to be a place with military protection, but it was overrun by the dead. Rick's family are alive and live in the country, away from the city, with a group of fellow survivors. But when will Rick find them? It's safe to say that for the first part of the season, they'll be separated and battling their own zombies. But once they reunite will it be a happy reunion? Not so sure.
The premiere episode ends with Rick trapped in the city, but not all hope is lost as a distant voice from a CB radio calls out to him. It's a good hook and definitely makes me want to watch more as I'm a fan of post apocalyptic stories. Finally, a new show that I'm actually excited about. I think post apocalyptic stories intrigue most people because it allows us to think "what would I do?" "How would I behave/react?" "Could I kill?" "How would I survive?"
It airs Sunday nights at 10pm on AMC.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Lisbeth Salander returns for the final installment of the millenium trilogy and this is the weakest of the bunch. That doesn't mean it's not good, but could it have been better? Yes, or maybe not. I haven't read the last book so I am not sure what's been taken out.
The film's issue is that Lisbeth, a character who doesn't talk much anyway, is pretty much mute in this film. She spends much of the film healing from being shot and buried alive in the last film and then it becomes a court case movie. It's meant to be a thriller, but it's sort of obvious where it's all going to end up.
More of the focus shifts to Mikael Blomkvist played by Michael Nyqvist (perfect in his role) and his journey out to prove that Lisbeth has been treated horribly by the very institutions that were meant to be protect her. There's a coverup, and a conspiracy, not to mention rape and torture as well. Lisbeth has had pretty much every horrible thing that can happen to a girl, happen to her. We understand even more why she is the way she is. That kind of betrayal stays with someone, and no wonder she has walls built around her that are made out of steel. I would too.
Lisbeth is charged with attempted murder of her father, Zalachenko, the scum of the earth. It's not really clear as to why Lisbeth is singled out when she's the victim. But through lost records, or rather hidden records, the truth is eventually revealed. But not before Lisbeth, who has felt she's never been heard, arrives in court with a kick-ass mohawk, piercings all over her face and leather. It's her way of saying "fuck you" to the court system. To the governmental system that put her there in the first place, who destroyed the little girl's trust.
However, the movie isn't over after the court case. There is one last physical battle to be fought. The battle is predictable in its approach, but satisfying nonetheless as Lisbeth has her final revenge.
I grew to care for Lisbeth Salander, played wonderfully by Noomi Rapace, and I hope that in her fictional world, she has found some kind of solace and trust and most of all, love.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Death affects us all. Each of us experience it from the one side, the life side, but one day we'll experience it from the other side. Nobody can avoid it. It's part of life. Hereafter, written by Peter Morgan (The Queen) explores death, but not so much the grief of losing a loved one, but the idea of life after death. Is there life after death? Or does it all turn black?
Three stories from three countries explore this theme. In San Franciso we meet George Lonegan, played by Matt Damon, who can speak to the dead. "A curse," he calls it, while his brother, played by Jay Mohr sees it as a "gift" that can make money. In France, we get to know Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) who survived a tsunami that opens the film, and through her near death experience, she begins to question life and what she felt. And when she asks questions she is met with walls as nobody wants to talk about death. And finally in England, a young boy, a twin, dies, and his brother, Marcus, is left alone, lost and confused without him.
Eventually all stories will connect at the end, and I liked how they were told. When I felt tired with one story line, it would then jump to another one. Good timing and editing. Could it be slow? Sure. But this is a film that you have to pay attention to. It's not the best film about death and the after life. It's slow and methodical. I did go in with low expectations because of previous reviews, so that perhaps is a reason why I liked it. I didn't have anything to lose. I was also pleasantly surprised by Damon's storyline and how it plays out with Bryce Dallas Howard's character. I won't give it away, but it doesn't turn out the way you'd expect. I liked that. I also think that Cecile De France is wonderful and I hope to see her in more films.
I didn't know much going in when I went to see this film. I wanted it that way. I find, too often, that I know way too much about a film before I even see it. I'm glad I had fresh eyes for this one. It's Kind of a Funny Story tells the story of 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist, looking a bit like a young Keanu Reeves) who suffers from depression and voluntarily checks himself into a psych ward in an involuntary kind of way. Before he knows it, he's locked up in the adult ward, due to renovations in the other ward. He just wanted some drugs to feel better and maybe stay a few hours, but soon realizes that he's there for a minimum of 5 days since he's suicidal. In the ward, he meets a cast of characters ranging from an Egyptian roommate who won't leave his room, a teen girl who cuts herself, a Hasidic Jew with uber-sensitive hearing, and of course his sort of mentor, Bobby, played with subtle charm and sorrow by Zach Galifianakis.
It's a coming-of-age tale set in one location but feels larger than that. Craig learns that his problems are not as bad as others, but they still need to be dealt with. His journey is relatable and connects to an audience, at least to me. The movie isn't laugh out loud slapstick funny. The humor comes from the characters being real and that's what makes this film likable. It doesn't talk down to us. I think the reason for that is the film is based on a true story, a memoir by Ned Vizzini who, as a teen, spent time in a psych ward.
Zach Galifianakis really does a great job with his role. He isn't his funny, over the top self. He's understated in a good way. He made me really believe that he's mentally ill, and filled with sadness, the kind that just won't ever go away no matter what the outside situation is. I felt for him, without feeling sorry for him.
It's a sweet, little film. Catch it in the theatres, if not then rent it one day. I think it's worth a look.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I came across this movie via friends, (Yes! Even this old spinster has friends whom she hangs out with sometimes) and they raved about this movie. The title alone made me think of a bad B movie with porno connotations. Boy! Was I wrong! This film is campy, funny, with high production values, and a whole lot of fun! It might be considered a poor man's "shaun of the dead", but it has its own merits.
The plot is silly, and sort of inconsequential. There's something about a blood line curse, virgins, on their 18th birthday in a particular village who turn into lesbian vampires, a guy who gets dumped by his bitchy girlfriend and hot German tourists, oh and stopping the resurrection of the head lesbian vampire who was killed hundreds of years ago. Like I said, the plot is inconsequential, but still needed to kind of understand to enjoy the silliness of it all. We pretty much follow Fletch and Jimmy as they head out of London (it's a British film so right off the bat, it's been elevated in status, accents have that affect) and head into the country, to get away from it all as Jimmy, has once again been dumped. Anyway, once in the village, they meet some hot german gals in tight clothing and head into a cabin. Then, well, stuff happens, and Jimmy and Fletch have to fight off the vampires. And they do so with comic flair and a foul tongue.
For a film entitled, Lesbian Vampire Killers, I expected more boobs. There wasn't much. Lots of heavy breathing, kissing here and there, but nothing offensive. It just adds to the ridiculousness of it all.
I'm now a fan of the director, Phil Clayton, and screenwriters, Stewart Williams & Paul Hupfield, who share a similar sense of humor with me. I look forward to seeing more of their offerings.
So just in time for Halloween, go out and rent, Lesbian Vampire Killers, you don't have to be gay or straight, or even have a pulse to enjoy it, you just need to know that a vampire killing sword with a handle the shape of a cock is funny!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Why I won't go see the film, Life as We Know It (I'd rather let Fergie punch me in the face with her shoe)
There is poop on her face. Baby poop on her cheek. That scene alone keeps me away. If that's the kind of humor that this film is showcasing then I say "no, thanks!" and this coming from a poop and fart joke kind of spinster. Sigh. How can an intelligent character not know she has poop on her face? And how is this in anyway original, it's in every freaking movie that involves a baby and inept parents.
The title is boring and unoriginal. It's a song lyric, an old tv show, it says nothing about what the film is about. The trailer has nothing new about it. There wasn't one original line of dialogue or scene. Every cliché ever created for that genre was evident. And I like clichés when they serve a purpose. This film is for the Mini Van Majority or are they a Minority? I do not fit into that demographic. It looks like those Soccer Moms got a babysitter last weekend and had a girl's night out to see some eye candy (Josh Duwhatever) and laugh at their own baby predicaments (hence the #2 position at the box office). Which is fine, I suppose. I just wish they get a babysitter when indie movies come out.
I am not a fan of Katherine Heigl or Josh Duhamel, in fact, they are two actors that I try to avoid as much as possible. Even the alluring and lovely Christina Hendricks can't make me go see this movie.
I'll be blunt, this film looks Freaking STUPID! Dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. I highly doubt the script, written by Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson, has any insight into the human experience or condition. Then again, does it have to? Is it just a mindless romp in the world of domestic bliss? A couple of hours to leave the brain at the door? I'm not against movies like that. I've seen plenty. But for me, for some reason, when it's this genre, that is geared towards women, I take a bit of offense to it because I want more for us, regardless of marital status, career or where we stand on procreation. I want us to not only be entertained, but challenged as well.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Most films that have been adapted from a book tend to not live up to the book experience. And Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is no exception.
I finally read the book a few months ago, and it is slow, and layered and rich, and quite methodical in its pacing. And it's worth the read. Getting inside the head of Kathy H. and her memories of childhood is a haunting journey. Kathy has no future and therefore, can't look ahead, so all she can do is look back. Kathy is a clone. A donor. Created for organ harvesting in an alternate reality timeline where cancer is extinct and people live into their 100's. They live this long due to "people" like Kathy H. and her friends Ruth and Tommy. They are raised at an alternative school instead of in a cold hospital. They are taught to read and paint. Then one day they will donate their first organ, and usually by about their 3rd or 4th donation, they will complete. Not die, as death is never really mentioned. Even the word, "complete" has a haunting and mysterious quality to it.
It is, however, difficult to connect sometimes with these characters because they come off as robotic. As if they're playing human, which I supposed is what they were taught to do at school. The big question of this story is do they have a soul? Do they? They lived. They experienced. They loved. They cried. They walked this earth among us. What makes a soul? What creates consciousness?
None of the characters really challenge their lot in life. They know as young children sort of what they are, but they don't really comprehend it. But they don't cling to life necessarily. Nobody runs away. Nobody fights the good fight. Kathy and Tommy attempt, briefly, to try to get deferrals, to hold off on completing so they can live together and love one another. But there are no such things for these "creatures." I kept wanting someone to scream at the doctors, at anyone really. To truly question the ethics of what they're doing. Then I ask myself, why? It's who they are. They were created to also be docile. To accept their path unconditionally.
The book gets into Kathy's mind in great detail, even though we're inside her thinking, there is still a bit of distance, which is what makes her a good character. However frustrating at times it can be. The luxury of that kind of intimacy is lost in the film. Carey Mulligan does the best she can with the role, with Kathy's silence. But I think without reading the book, things get lost. I could feel what she was thinking on screen because I remember reading what she was thinking. Without that knowledge, I think she comes off as cold. The movie is cold despite the haunting and melancholic cinematography that suits the mood of the story. Keira Knightley plays a pivotal role in the film, but she's not in it a lot, which is fine because this is Carey Mulligan's movie.
There's something missing in the film. Things get skipped or glossed over, or not fully developed, which I believe would have made the film richer. I'm not saying I didn't like the film because I did. Very much. I cried. But was I crying because of what was on screen, or was I crying because I was remembering information from the novel, which then brought more poignancy to the film? Not sure. This film isn't for everyone. If you like slow British films, like Remains of the Day, then this could be for you. I loved the musical score by Rachel Portman. One of my faves and an oscar winner for a reason. Her music brings about a lot of the emotions that the screenplay by Alex Garland leaves out. I do recommend reading the book first, or even reading it afterwards, but it's not something that you can rush through. It forces you to stay with it at its own time and pace.
We all complete. Just some of us complete sooner than others.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
With so much talent behind this film, one would think that something with substance would be made. Something new would be said. That Oliver Stone is going to make a statement about money, greed, materialism, family, and government. Instead, we get a film about tired cliches and boring scenes and relationships.
The film begins in 2000 when Gordon Gekko is released from jail for some kind of money fraud. There's some bullshit voice over narration by Shia LaBeouf. I can't remember what was said, but it was meant to probably be profound, philosophical or poetic. But who knows! Within a few moments, we are then transported to 2008, the year Wall Street imploded upon itself. We get a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the money types, one scene at a charity party lingered on the giant baubles worn by socialites for what felt like 5 minutes. We get the point, Stone! These people wear their money on their lobes, but do we need a badly edited sequence to get that message across?
It was a ridiculous film with a ridiculous cameo by Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen should be embarrassed (not only for being a terrible husband) but by his acting in this film. Why is he even in this film? And why would Gordon Gekko even look at him, let alone have a superficial asinine conversation with him? Anyway, not only is the script weak, the editing and actual film itself is amateurish. It's just a mess. A rich mess. You've got long lost fathers with estranged daughters, accidental pregnancies, cracker jack engagement rings, forced redemption and a pretty Hollywood ending with a nice tiny bow all tied up.
I don't know why this film was made. I don't know what the message was meant to be. Truth is, I don't care. And when a movie makes you not care at all then it's a failure.
Monday, September 20, 2010
The Princess Bride is a classic. That's what I've read, it's what I've heard through the fireswamp vine, and it's what I believe whole-heartedly. But is a twenty-three year old movie allowed to be a classic? Or does it need more time to steep in our pop culture psyche? Maybe on its silver anniversary it'll be honored with not only being a bona fide, respected classic, but one that will stand the test of time long after most of the original fans are gone. I know this because the film to this day, is still quoted almost everywhere, especially amongst my group of friends: "Have fun storming the castle", "What I wouldn't give for a holocaust cloak", "I only dog paddle", "Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! "Inconceivable!" "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die", and of course "As you wish."
I love The Princess Bride. I've loved it ever since I rented it on VHS. I never got the chance to see it on the big screen when it came out in 1987, not sure why I didn't go to the cinema. I think I was more interested in Corey Haim movies at that time. And what a mistake that had been! I've been rewatching this film countless times over the years and I tend to always catch something new about it. This time around, I finally noticed the "empire strikes back" glass behind the grandson's (Fred Savage looking adorable) bed.
This year at The Toronto International Film Festival, they had a free screening of it. On the big screen. In its original film format. And it showed. The film was choppy and recut and had glitches throughout, causing some scenes to end a tad earlier. Lucky for me, I know all the scenes and was aware of what was missed. Despite the film's age and I'm sure countless viewings over the years, it was a wonderful experience seeing it on the big screen for the first time. I was giddy with excitement! I got our tickets 2 hours in advance and patiently waited for it to start. And once it did, I was transported back in time. My heart filling with nostalgia. I was eager to see it on a large format scale because a television screen just sometimes isn't the same. I fell in love with the movie all over again. The attention to detail is just brilliant. Everything looked and felt like it was in a magical world and time. Princess Buttercup, played by the luminous Robin Wright, was a delight to watch. Her costumes took on a whole new look for me. I've always been a secret fan of wanting to dress like a princess, and no princess throughout cinematic history has a better wardrobe then Princess Buttercup (suck it, Anne Hathaway!) Her pale blue gown seen in two scenes was once my childhood dream wedding dress. My tastes have since changed. I'm also not looking for a Westley (Cary Elwes) type anymore. Well, for the most part I'm not. Sigh. Then again the course of true love never runs smooth.
The audience were a bunch of fans who were also eager to see the film. We laughed, we clapped, and I heard a few people whispering lines (me included). The final battle between Inigo Montoya and Count Rugen (Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest) was met with applause and cheers. I got goosebumps. (am showing my mega nerd colours now). And I am not afraid to admit that at the end when the grandfather (Peter Falk), after spending the day with his grandson, reading him the story of The Princess Bride by (the fictional) S. Morgenstern, says to him, "as you wish" that I got a little teary eyed. There is so much subtext and character revelation in that one line delivery that it's pretty much one of the most perfect endings to any film I've ever seen.
William Goldman wrote the original book (I reccomend reading it and comparing the two. I'm partial to the film version, because Princes Buttercup is very annoying in the book) and adapted it into the screenplay. He said it took years to make it to the screen. Goldman is a genius, especially in the screenwriting world. I am forever grateful that his imagination and talent created such a rich world and that he allowed us a chance to live inside that world for a while.
This is a film that every screenwriting, author, filmmaker needs to watch, and a script that needs to be read and studied. This film captures the imagination. It can't be duplicated, but it can be honored by staying true to its message. Love. Movies are meant to be an escape, but The Princess Bride is more than an escape. It's a transformation.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Let's just get down to the basics. Is this book, One Day by David Nicholls, worth a read? Yes! Yes! Yes! It's a quick read, but don't lump it into the chick lit pile or think it's just a beach read because it is so much more than that. It's layered and complex and emotionally engaging. It beautifully captures the 20 year relationship between a man and a woman, and not all of it is romantic. It's about a friendship that goes through the wringer and somehow survives.
Each chapter takes place on the same day of each year from 1988 to 2008, jumping back and forth from Emma Morley's perspective to Dexter Mayhew's narration. I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to know what happens to them. I could relate to Emma's experiences and feelings as she navigates life from a young adult to a woman nearing 40. I also wanted to punch Dexter in the face on more than one occasion. Nicholls does a wonderful job in getting into these characters' heads and making them come alive and pop off that page. The ending, although I felt something coming for some reason, left me raw and vulnerable. I haven't had such an emotional reaction to a book in quite some time. It felt heavy in my hand towards the end for two reasons: I was sad to have the book end as I grew to care for these characters and their lives, and it was heavy also due to my heart breaking in a way. It is a very satisfying book as it makes you laugh, cringe, and probably cry.
Certain books are created, hopefully, to give us a look into the human experience. To connect us. To make us feel alive when our own lives sometimes feel mundane. Unaware that the mundane parts of life are what make up our lives.
A film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess is in the works. I can't wait to see it, but I will have to ready myself emotionally and bring lots of tissues.
Monday, September 6, 2010
It has taken me 19 years to get my ass back to New York City and see a broadway show. I chose one show to see (I could have seen more, but the city has lots to do), so I chose the Tony award winning and Pulitzer prize winning musical, Next to Normal, and I am glad that I did.
It's a rock musical about a family dealing with secrets and heartache and battling manic depression and what that does to the whole family, from marital relationships, to parental and child relationships all the way to our relationships with prescription medications.
I wasn't prepared to be hit emotionally by this musical. It left me raw and vulnerable at the end, but also optimistic without having a nice pink bow wrapped around it and forced down my throat. I had to stop myself from sobbing too much as I didn't want to disrupt the others around me :) and I also had plans afterwards and didn't bring makeup to freshen up my face. Looking in the mirror at the end, there was definite puffiness and redness around my eyes. Sigh! And I'm glad there was. This is what a musical/theatre/art should do to someone. It should connect with us on some level. It should make us feel something within or even outside of ourselves. I think there's a part of all of us who feels like an "invisible girl".
PS. It made me want to write.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I don't have a photo of what the actual dish looks like. It's a concoction I ate as a child before I realized what it was made out of it. I just thought it was gray Jell-O. I was wrong. Oh, so very wrong.
It's boiled pickled pigs' feet, garlic and gelatin. I used to eat the jelly parts. I loved the sound of my spoon scooping up the jelly. It sounded like a suction cup. Then one day when I was probably 6 or so, not sure on the age, I found out what was actually in it, and I quit it cold turkey, never to be eaten again. I gotta say that I don't miss it. It wasn't until 20 years later I really understood what even gelatin was made out of. Sigh. Why must ingredients ruin food? Why does knowledge destroy the ignorance? Is ignorance truly bliss?
Monday, August 16, 2010
At the dinner table. As a child I ate dinner at the table and wasn't allowed to leave my chair until I ate everything because as everyone knew back in the day, "there are starving children in Ethiopia", which meant I had to clear my plate even if I was full. What my father failed to realize was that the plate he served me had as much food on it as his did. How could an 8 year old skinny girl eat as much as a man in his 40's? We clearly had different stomachs and tastes.
So there I was, sitting across from my brother, picking at the bean stew or poking the brussels sprouts and waiting until my father left the table where upon my brother and I could slowly clear our plates by chucking food out the window, or in my brother's case by stuffing it in between the fold of the chair, which would eventually be discovered by my mother. He was much more barbaric than I was.
Being forced to eat liver or plum dumpling or boiled meat made me the bitter woman I am today.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Okay, here goes...I liked The Expendables for its pure ridiculous nature. It's silly and fun, and action packed with no discernable plot. But who cares! Does this film need more character development? Perhaps. But why ruin action with such trifling things?? I am joking because ultimately if this film had all those elements and a strong plot then it'd be an awesome ride. It's not a perfect action film, but it has heart to it. I really felt that those involved gave it their all and wanted to bring back some old school 80's action.
Sylvester Stallone and his ragtag group of mercenaries shoot 'em up and blow 'em up and save the girl without barely getting a scratch. Most of the cast are indeed expendable. We catch a glimpse into Stallone's character and it's cliched, but works within the walls of this film. Mickey Rourke, who is a retired mercenary, gives a poignant speech about why he left and the loss of his soul in a way. It's a bit cheesy, but at the same time, I actually believed him and found it to be a true moment in film jam packed with action.
The fight sequences are fun with lots of things being blown up or ripped into shreds (body parts included). I wasn't a fan of the unrealistic cgi blood splatter. That sort of thing works in a film like 300, but just doesn't lend itself to this world that is meant to be based in some sort of reality.
If you're a child of the 80's or anyone who remembers the 80's and those Action packed films that filled that decade then The Expendables might be a ride you'd like to take.
THE OTHER GUYS, a buddy cop movie starring Will Ferrell and Mark Whalberg starts off on such an unrealistic note that it threw me off for the rest of the film. By taking the comedy, at times, to an unrealistic level, it takes the audience (me) out of the story. The older I become the more I realize and want, comedy to come out of situations and not one liners. I want comedy to be organic to the story and the plot. If you asked me what the plot of this film was I'd have no idea. That being said, I did enjoy the film here and there. I probably would have enjoyed it more if the tone wasn't all over the map.
The charm of the film comes from its two leads who have wonderful chemistry. The best being while inside Ferrell's prius car. But is that enough? Last week I had a similar experience with Dinner for Schmucks, where the plot was weak, but the chemistry between its two male leads was its saving grace. But I can't help feeling a bit cheated because of that. Perhaps, these films are falling into the pattern of casting as the focus and throwing story and character development out of the window because as long as they have names attached they'll get bums in the seat.
If the film had been left to simmer in a realistic setting such as, say, Beverly Hills Cop, I think it could have become a comedy classic. But by making so many of the elements so over the top and unbelievable, it hurts the film. It feels like a cheap gimmick. The film also feels like many writers had their hand in the rewrite process despite it having only two credited writers on it, one who is also the director (Adam McKay and Chris Henchy).
Overall, it's a fairly fun time at the movies, but it could just as well be a fun time at home when it is available to rent.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Dinner for Schmucks takes a while to get to the dinner, where the comedy takes it up a notch. The journey to get there is okay, but it feels a little long at times. The saving grace for the film are its two leads, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, who give genuine comedic performances and have great chemistry. Without their talent and our willingness to follow their journey, the film would be just another comedy with no heart.
Paul Rudd plays Tim, a guy determined to get to the 7th floor at work and be one of the suit guys. He makes his move and is recognized for his determination. He receives an invitation to an annual dinner party where they are required to bring an "idiot" to the dinner. I don't think the word "schmuck" is ever uttered in the actual film. Tim, a good guy, isn't sure about doing such a thing, but when Steve Carell's Barry shows up, via a head on collision, Tim can't help but think it's fate. His girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak who is a real find ) disagrees. And before Tim knows it, Barry has infiltrated his life, destroyed his relationship, his apartment, his job, revved up his crazy stalker and so on. Barry is a sweet guy with a love of mouse taxidermy, but the man is a walking bomb. Carell walks a fine line between making Barry annoying and likable without turning us off. It gets close sometimes, but he pulls it back just in time.
The script is what falls short. It's written by David Guion and Michael Handelman , whose other credit is the film, THE EX, which wasn't all that funny. I don't blame the writers because who knows how many drafts it went through with dozens of fingers at it over the course of its inception. It's more so that potential was lost here.
Overall, the film is harmless and doesn't insult the audience. However, I want more for my comedies. I want to laugh out loud. It's what I paid for.
Friday, July 30, 2010
The Kids Are All Right is a slice of marital and family life that feels real. And it feels real because there isn't a neat bow tying everything together, which is good. However, I somehow felt that something was missing.
The performances are stellar with the entire cast holding their own. Mark Ruffalo is strong as the man-child sperm donor who comes between a family headed by same-sex partners, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Their kids, 18 and 15, decide to reach out to their biological dad and he's accepted into the family for the most part. And that part is a little bit too close for comfort. Sexual lines are crossed wreaking havoc in the family that is in a rut. One mom likes her wine a bit too much, and the other one is a bit of a new age flake.
Ruffalo plays an "interloper" (as pointed out by Bening's character) and she's right. He's a guy lost in his womanizing, hippie lifestyle and wants a family that ultimately isn't his. But he's a likable loser. The kind of guy you really should stay away from until he grows up, which will probably be after the kids are grown. Ultimately, the problem with the film, despite it being a good film, is that there is too much focus on Ruffalo's character, and that takes away from the heart of the film, the family unit.
I'm still left wondering why Julianne's Moore's character has an affair with a man when she identifies herself as gay the entire time. She never questions that. Is being in a rut with the one you love enough to suddenly become "straight"? I felt that there is more needed to understand her motivation. Then again, sometimes people do stupid things just because they're bored. I think this movie deserves more than someone being "bored" though. It's smarter than that. However, this is all a minor quibble when in the presence of such great actors.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
The poster asks, "Who is Salt?". Who is she indeed. After spending about an hour and forty minutes with her, I don't think that it's answered.
SALT is a ridiculous movie. Plot holes. Plot issues. Character arcs that don't really exist. Cliches. But despite its flaws, and there are many, it's entertaining for the most part. But is that enough? Seeing SALT a week after INCEPTION has made me realize that I want more out of my films. I went in thinking that maybe this would be a smart action flick, but the premise is rather silly. It tries to create mystery and intrigue, but it just comes off as unbelievable storytelling. With INCEPTION you have to bring your brain to the cinema, with SALT, you can leave it at the door.
Angelina Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA operative. She is revealed to be a Russian Sleeper agent, but is she? We follow her as she acts guilty, but doesn't really ever kill anyone along the way, or does she? Did she love her husband? Is he her only motivation? The movie wants us to believe that love changed her in some way, maybe it did, or maybe it didn't. Get the idea here, it's a lot of twists and turns, but nothing is ever really that twisty when it's Jolie in the role. We sort of already know the truth of her character before the film even begins. But Jolie plays an anti-hero with the best of her abilities. It's just too bad that the backtory and characterization isn't really there for her to work with.
And on a superficial note, her wigs were obviously fake and looked terrible. We are introduced to her as a blonde in a bad frizzy wig then she colors her hair black (another wig) and then a boy's wig. With the boy's wig we're not really sure if it's meant to be a wig or if her character cut her hair off camera. Anyway, it's distracting.
The movie tries to be a Bourne Identity with a female lead, but the main issue is that the Bourne films feel realistic. As if this all could happen. But with Salt, it's pure fantasy, and predictable along the way with an "ending" that really isn't an ending at all. It's set up for a sequel before it's proven its audience appeal or box office returns.
Overall, despite its problems, SALT can be a fun time if you don't think. But maybe it's time we're given films with strong female characters that are part of an intelligent action film that challenges us. I will say that at least there isn't a sex scene thrown in for good measure. I'm hopeful that the sequel (which I probably would see, based on my fondness for Jolie) will be a solid story first with realistic motivations and a bunch of kickass action sequences that don't make me bust out laughing in unbelievability.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I am not a journalist or a critic. I write like a moviegoer with perhaps a bit more interest in plot points, character acrs and overall story development. So when reading my reviews, don't look for genius or words of wisdom or flowery prose, maybe just read it and decide if the movie is right for you or not.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Inception is a summer film that doesn't condescend to an audience in order to get bums in the seat. It's a thinking person's film, and, I for one, am happy about that. It's the kind of film that challenges you and forces you to pay attention and you can't leave your brain at the door because if you do then you'll be lost in this reality dreambending landscape that Christopher Nolan has so meticulously created.
Leonardo Dicaprio plays Cobb, a man on the run who is a master of extraction, meaning he gets to you in your dreams and steals your secrets and ideas for a price. But what he really wants is to get home to his two children, but he's wanted for murder and that keeps him running. That is until he meets up with Saito, Ken Watanabe, a powerful and wealthy businessman who has a proposition for Cobb. A proposition that he can't pass up because it could lead him back to his family. The plot is complicated and well thought out and twists and turns in a way that keeps you on your toes, so much so that I highly suggest that you go pee before the movie starts and do not leave until it's done.
It's the kind of film where the rules within the world make sense, but if we take our own reality and try to make things logical then it might fall apart. However, our reality shouldn't have any barring on this film's reality as it's built within its own walls and works on that level. There are dreams within dreams within dreams that can lead to limbo. Sometimes, we're not sure what is real and what is a dream. Characters use totems to keep themselves grounded. A totem is a physical device such as loaded dice or a spinning top. Without a totem, one can get lost within their dream and forget that they're dreaming. As an avid moviegoer and sometime reviewer, I think it's a disservice to get into too much of the plot details, so I'll stop here. Go in with fresh eyes and remember to just pay attention and enjoy the mind-bending ride.
Overall, the film is intriguing and makes you think about what's going on or what's not going on. It has an emotional throughline for me via Cobb's love for his wife and his motivation. Without Cobb's personal journey, the film wouldn't have been as satisfying. It's more than just action and science fiction ideas. It's ultimately about love and letting go. Marion Cotillard provides the link to love and family and she does a wonderful job, and Ellen Page does a good job as the voice of reason and Cobb's conscience.
The story keeps you guessing and the visuals are stunning and look very real. The editing is seemless and makes for a film that has it all. I'm glad it's not in 3D and I don't think it needs to be viewed in Imax. A regular cinema does a great job at capturing the world that Nolan has created. Here's hoping that this smart and engaging film becomes a summer blockbuster that forces Hollywood to make more films that challenge us visually and intellectually and also emotionally. A cinematic trinity. I can only dream, can't I?
Monday, July 12, 2010
The Girl who played with Fire, is part 2 in a 3 part series. We pick up about a year later from where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo finished. Lisbeth, the heroine or rather anti-heroine, is now rich and living a rather mysterious life. She's cut off ties with her former lover, the journalist Mikael Blomkvist. He tries to find out where she is as he is still rather fond of her. The movie doesn't go into detail that much about the year that Lisbeth has been away traveling or why she's cut Mikael out of her life. You have to read the book in order to get those kind of answers. As most people know, books tend to bring an added dimension and more layers to characters than cinema can do.
I don't think it's necessary to read the books in order to enjoy these movies. (I've only read a quarter of the second book and I've enjoyed both films) But I do think it's absolutely necessary for you to watch the first film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, in order to understand and follow this second film. Things are sometimes glossed over or taken for granted that the audience would just know these elements, which some people won't.
The Girl who played with Fire gets more personal this time around as we find out more about Lisbeth's background and her family life and how her past connects to her present. Although, I enjoyed this film, I can't help feeling that something was missing. I prefer the first one as I felt more invested with the characters and unravelling the mystery of that plot. This time around, I didn't much care for how things came together and I felt that it was too convenient and much too much of a coincidence. But it's a minor quibble when dealing with one of the freshest and most unique female characters to come to the screen in a long time. Noomi Rapace is riveting as Lisbeth. She has so many layers and is fascinating to watch. I can't help but root for her. She makes no apologies for how she leads her life because ultimately, the way she lives her life is about survival. Under her tough exterior, there really is a little girl in there who has a full heart and just wants to love and live a normal life. Her interactions with her sometimes girlfriend are tender and sweet without being sentimental at all. Don't be fooled, Lisbeth is still tough and nobody will penetrate that because even when they're close, as Blomkvist was, she shuts them down without hesitation. Again, it's about survival, physical and spiritual.
As for the plot of The Girl who played with Fire, it almost becomes secondary because it is about Lisbeth's journey and coming to terms with her past the only way she knows how and that's through violence. However, the plot details are this: Blmokvist and his magazine are investigating a sex trafficking ring in Swedan that is lead by a mysterious Russian. People are killed and the finger points to Lisbeth who Blmokvist believes is innocent. Blomkvist sets out to prove her innocence, while Lisbeth sets out to exact revenge, leading to a bloody showdown.
Rent The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one night and then head out to the cinemas the next night for The Girl who played with Fire. It's worth it.