Monday, January 31, 2011
For those of you who know me, you know that I can't stand Monarchies in reality. I don't believe that a certain person is elevated above someone else just because they were born into a family. This blue blood mentality is a farce, and is a disservice to the human race. That being said, I enjoy a good story told well on screen, and monarchies should be left up there on film, and done away with in reality in this day and age. Anyway...
The King's Speech is the story of King George (whatever number that follows his name) and his struggle with stammering. King George is Queen Elizabeth's father, and was the voice of hope for many during WWII. The radio was all the rage, and King George, Bertie to his family and friends, is forced to speak in public and it has disastrous results. He seeks help from numerous sources, and nothing works, until his wife, played by Helena Bonham Carter, finds Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist, with unorthodox practices. King George, played by the ever charming and lovely Colin Firth (every Woman's Mr. Darcy!!!!) has a temper along with a stutter, but shows how scared and vulnerable underneath he truly is. King George is thrust onto the throne due to his brother Edward (Guy Pearce looking worse for wear) abdicating for love. This forces him to dig deeper into why he stutters, as it's not just a mechanical issue, but emotional as well.
The film is most definitely a feel good story, and one can't help but clap and cheer for all on screen. The performances are wonderful. I hope Firth wins the Oscar. But I felt that Geoffrey Rush was the best part of the film, his Lionel is a wonderful man, a commoner who butts heads with royalty in such a way that I couldn't help being drawn into his own story arc and life. The story has many funny, laugh out loud moments, and the look of the film is lovely. An historical drama/comedy that is a visual story is a breath of fresh air.
Go see it!
I enjoyed Blue Valentine, in large part, due to the raw and strong performances by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. They made themselves vulnerable on screen in a way that most actors can only dream of doing.
The story, a simple one, centers around a couple who fall in love and fall out of love, told in a non-chronological order. The main story takes place in a span of about a day and then we are witness to flashbacks of the characters before they met, and when they met, and when they fell in love. I found the story itself to be a bit weak in its originality. But there were scenes throughout that were very powerful due in part to, of course, dialogue that rang true, but mainly because of the actors. They were fully present in every scene and it showed.
I had an issue with some plot elements that felt too tacked on and put there for dramatic effect, a minor quibble really. But my biggest issue against the film would have to be Gosling's choice of wardrobe and hair styles. We see him at one age, in flashback, and then 6 years later when the marriage seems to be falling apart. And I, for one, don't buy that the character would have aged in such a way. It felt too extreme, and he looked like a child molester. As though he wanted to ugly himself up, which would make it easier for his wife to make the choice of leaving him if she had to. Williams, on the other hand, six years later, looks a bit haggard and beat down, but she still retains the realism of how one would age in that scenario. I wish Gosling and the director had made another choice.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I grew up watching westerns and ninja movies (with a father and an older brother in firm control of the television dial, I had little choice), so I am familiar with the western genre and at times a fan. The Coen Brothers return to the big screen with an adaptation of the book True Grit (and apparently not a remake of the film that starred John Wayne), and it's a very well made film. I enjoyed it. I found it to be intelligent, visually well filmed, and intriguing. I got sucked right into this world where outlaws, gunslingers and quoting the bible ruled.
We follow Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) as she hires a Marshall (Jeff Bridges) to track down the man (Josh Brolin) who shot and killed her father. Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful as the teen out for revenge. She is a tomboy, smart, rough, and ready for justice, no matter what. I was riveted by her performance. She should receive an Academy Award nomination as best actress. Bridges and Matt Damon are well suited in their roles as well.
The movie is doing exceptionally well at the box office. Perhaps it could be the catalyst for a Western resurgence. I'm sure Hollywood will jump on this bandwagon. Let's just hope that the quality is as high as this one.
It took me a while, but I have finally gotten around in seeing Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I had every intention of seeing it on the big screen when it was first released, but I just never got around to it, and the guilt has been eating away at me. Guilty feelings due to the fact that the film is set in Toronto, and filmed in Toronto, and showcases Toronto in all its "Torontoness". It was nice to see a Canadian city on screen as the actual city it is. Toronto and Vancouver tend to pretend to be New York City, or Chicago most of the time when a big Hollywood movie comes into town.
The film is fun. I enjoyed it. I laughed more than I thought I would. I found the characters to be well drawn out for the most part. I did question the actual world/reality of this film as it jumped around from a real Toronto setting into a computer game tone with special effects to match. (which I'm sure is a comic book thing, a comic I've never read. I stopped reading comics when I was 12 and I only ever read Archie anyway).
Scott is a 22, a slacker, a hipster in a band without a job, who shares a tiny apartment with his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), and they share one bed (don't ask, it's funny). He continues to nurse a broken heart from a year ago. He ends up dating a highschooler in the beginning of the film, an absolutely delightful Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. Ellen is great and I hope she has a very successful career because I, for one, would love to see her again on screen. Anyway, Scott's dating life is platonic and childish and the basis for much ridicule. The relationship doesn't last long as once Scott sets his eyes on Ramona Flowers, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) the girl who colours her hair every week, it's all over for Knives (much to her hearthbreak). Scott falls for Ramona hard, but must battle her deadly exes in order to win her heart. The strongest thing about this film is the actors. They are all perfectly suited to their roles. I really enjoyed all the supporting players. The standout being, of course, Ellen Wong as Knives Chau. However, the weakest link is probably Scott Pilgrim himself, Michael Cera. And not because he doesn't do a good job, he does. It's just the same character he's always played and that's boring. I really hope Cera can break out of the slacker geek roles and create something new and fresh, otherwise he'll be left behind and forgotten.
See this movie if you're in the mood for some lighthearted silliness with a bit of comic special effects. It has its heart in the right place, and a cast of characters who are memorable, and actors who obviously enjoyed filming this movie. And with that kind of energy, it's definitely contagious.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Once upon a time, Jane was a celebrity journalist and got to interview such intellectual beings as Ashton Kutcher and Nichole Ritchie, and write riveting stories about their fitness routines and how many dogs they owned, and the nature of God coming from their refined Hollywood perspective.
Jane's an atheist, so no wonder she was about to lose her mind.
Her memoir about those times is pretty funny and who'd have thought Uganda and diarrhea could be funny. And really what's a British comedy writer who writes about celebs doing in Uganda in the first place? Jane had a crush on a well known American activist and thought he'd fancy her if she did a story about Africa so she basically followed him to Uganda on his sort of invitation. Sounds shallow, right? But it's really not. It's quite endearing because she's not full of shit. She lays it out on the line in this book, and holds nothing back. I, for one, am curious about the latrine situation in Africa and I love that she goes there with gusto and lets us know that she went from peeing several times a day to only two so she could avoid doing it.
It's important to note that Jane went to Uganda and John had to cancel going there, so she was alone, and did her best to make the situation not as crappy as it really was. So what better thing to do than to investigate a decades long war involving child soldiers and sex slaves.
Jane is funny. She's a gal who I can root for, and I want her to be a genuine foreign correspondent. I don't much care if the man she fancies, a handsome John Prendergast (friend to George Clooney), fancies her back (he doesn't and is clueless to Jane's unspoken schoolgirl crush). What I care about is her transformation from a clueless celeb writer in Hollywood to a woman who is pissed off at a war in Uganda that should have ended 20 years prior. I feel like I am her. She is relatable. She's a fish out of water in her real life, and also in her short lived life as a foreign correspondent. I think most of us feel as though we're fish out of our own waters as well.
If you like funny Brits stuck in LA amongst hedonistic celebs and can only find solace and escape in the harsh heat and blood soaked plains of Uganda then this book is for you!
One more note: Her memoir doesn't end at Uganda. We learn about Jane's successful one woman show based on her experience, and the notice Hollywood took in making it into a movie. But for the Hollywood execs too many Africans in a movie set in Africa wasn't their thing. It's two years later, and no word on a movie. I hope some British production company makes it though because a comedy set in Uganda about a gal with a crush, and diarrhea, and corrupt politicians, and death and destruction is something I have never seen!
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Sigh. Here we go again. A great way to start off the new year with yet another "celeb" or reality star who thinks she can write a fictional novel . In the past we've had the likes of Nicole Richie, Lauren Conrad, and Pamela Anderson. And in 2011, we get Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, a girl known for being short, orange and showcasing the bumpit hair style that you see on late night infomercials, and who has been quoted as saying that she's only read two books in her life, one of them being "Twilight" (should I even finish this blog entry? Sigh again)
I won't go into details about her reality show or why she is famous. Even those of us who don't watch MTV still know about her as we are inundated with it everywhere. There really is no escape unless you live under a rock (and I don't like the under side of slime creeping over my skin, so I'm screwed!) Even writing about this gives me pain. The pain I feel when I see the word AUTHOR next to a name like "Snooki". It gives me pain realizing that talented writers out there are being bypassed for crap like this.
Even the synopsis of this book isn't well written, and you'd think the editor or publishers could have at least jazzed that part up a bit. Before July ends, the bonds of family and friendship will be stretched to the breaking point. Will the haters prevail, or will Gia and Bella find love at the Shore? Can't you just feel the tension and conflict????
Don't get me wrong, I love my chick lit. Good chick lit. Well written chick lit is just a romantic comedy on the page instead of on the screen. Celebs who think they can write, or who hire a ghost writer and pass it off as their own just deadens the literary world a little bit more. The only hope, we, lovers of books and writers of prose or poetry or screenplays, have is that the book doesn't sell, because if I see best selling author beside "Snooki" I may just have to poke my eyes out and pour lemon juice into them as that would be a better option that reading any sequel that would come our way.