Wednesday, April 27, 2011

That circus picked me.

Water for Elephants

I recently read (and loved) Water for Elephants so I was anxious to see the movie but I had my reservations. Would it live up to the book? Was Reese too old to play Marlena? Why Rob Pattinson for Jacob? I found myself basically satisfied with Water for Elephants as a film adaptation to the book. There were some good changes and some pleasant surprises. Although the semi-cheesy script did give me some problems.

I still say Reese Witherspoon was a bit too old. Marlena is written younger and I think that works for the character. Though she and Rob Pattinson had good chemistry, she was fairly stiff. She looked kinda bored the whole time, like she wasn't fully committed to the role. Maybe she saw Marlena as low key but she just seemed bored.

Christophe Waltz was as great as I expected. Maniacal and charming, I loved him. He's so good at playing a bad guy and August is bad. Waltz definitely didn't bring a lot of sympathy to the role, unlike in the book. But again, I think that's the writing.

And then there's Rob Pattinson...who wasn't as bad as I thought he'd be. He actually captured Jacob's essence; sweet, melancholy, quiet, and gentle. He had a Kirsten Dunst Marie Antoinette thing going on; great with physicality, not so great with the words. It's pretty hard to deliver cheesy lines like, "You're a beautiful woman, you deserve a beautiful life," and he couldn't. I really wonder what an actor like Andrew Garfield would've been like in the role, but I'm ok with Rob. I could see Jacob shining through him.

I love how the movie developed Jacob and Marlena's relationship more. That was one of the few things I didn't like about the book, the love story didn't feel well developed. The movie definitely gave the love story room to grow and I could really see why Jacob and Marlena fell in love.

The soundtrack was stunning. Seemed very period but beautiful and romantic. James Newton Howard isn't one of my top five favorite composers but this score was stunning.

All the scene with Rosie the elephant were so well done. Her trainer is amazing and the camera loves her. She's so beautiful and moves so gracefully.

My main problems were the semi uninspiring acting and the script. There were Rob's cheesy lines, Reese saying the same dull thing over and over again to calm Christophe and the cheese factor continues.

Finally, I wish there would have been a little more focus on the circus itself and some of the other characters. Author Sara Gruen paints such a beautiful picture of the circus and its characters, I would've liked to have seen more. But the movie was already at 2 hours so some things have to go.

A solid B, maybe even a B+. It was probably the best adaptation you could get from the book but the dialogue certainly could've been better.

Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors

I love this gem of a movie and I don't care how obnoxious and out of touch with reality she is, I love Gwyneth. Here she's playing the same woman, in two different realities, with two different types of emotional baggage. She must distinguish between the women while keeping her essence. No easy task. She nails the British accent and succeeds with light comedy. Adore her always.


Rabbit Hole-Wanted to see this.
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2-Going to Greece made me want to see this again.
Arthur-Netflix Instant. The original.

Friday, April 22, 2011

You've created a whole new world.

Source Code

I had great expectations for Duncan Jones' follow up to his brilliant debut, Moon. This sci-fi thriller, about a soldier being used unconventionally to find a bomb on a train blended elements of Moon and Hitchcock, and was thoroughly enjoyable.

So basically Jake Gyllenhaal, a soldier, wakes up in the body of a man on a train, eight minutes before the train explodes. He must find the bomber and will continue to be sent back into the body of this man until he succeeds. Complicated? Yes. Jake Gyllenhaal is in good form as soldier Colter Stevens. I'm not the biggest Jake fan in terms of acting, I usually find his performances stiff and uninspiring (with a couple exceptions). But he did a good job in Source Code. He had a great sense of urgency and duty as soldier Colter Stevens and brought some good emotion to human Colter Stevens. Michelle Monaghan was basic as usual. Coupled with her awful styling, she was a bore and uninspiring. Though the role could've been written basic, Monaghan brought little life to her character.

The music and the intrigue are certainly Hitchcockian. If he were alive and directing now, he'd have made this movie. Putting pieces of a puzzle together and solving a crime by reliving eight minutes over and over again, sounds like 21st century Hitchcock to me. While Jones was clearly influenced by Hitchcock, he made Source Code a Duncan Jones film. Both this and Moon are sci-fi thrillers with males at the center. These heroes are figuring out their place in a world where they are pawns and must take back their lives. While this is only his second movie, he seems to be coming into his own and establishing Duncan Jones characters and plots. I really look forward to watching his career continue.

Great shots of Chicago with fantastic lighting and vibrant colors. I don't know what technology they used but this film just looks great. Source Code is definitely worth checking out.

David Tennant on Doctor Who

I can see why people are obsessed with this man. His fast-talking and endless energy are intoxicating and he's quite charming as the Timelord. Tennant is Scottish but you'd never know because his English accent appears effortless and flawless. I started watching Doctor Who because I'd heard such good things about Tennant and now I can't get enough of him. I dread when his reign as the Doctor ends.


Tangled-Missed in theaters.
The Tillman Story-Supposed to be an intriguing doc.
Parks and Recreation-Netflix Instant. I see article after article about this show being "The Best Show You're Not Watching."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Look, it is just very hard to be away from the person you love for months at a time.

Going the Distance

Good romantic comedies are hard to come by these days; they're an endangered species. The bar's been set so high with classics like When Harry Met Sally or Love Actually. It's also so easy for a romantic comedy to feel done before or contrived or write unrealistic or stereotypical characters who fall into the category of annoying. You don't see a lot of quality romantic comedies these days which is why when there's a diamond in the rough, you have to see it. So when I see a good one, I get really excited about it.

Former real-life couple Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star as Garrett and Erin, soul mates separated by the United States; Garrett is based in New York while Erin lives in San Francisco. The two meet six weeks before Erin finishes her internship at a New York newspaper and must go back to San Fran. Not wanting to break-up, Erin and Garrett decide to try long distance.

Good romantic comedy aspect number one, realistic plot with comedy. Garrett and Erin's relationship faces many real trials and tribulations that long distance couples must go through: strained finances and expensive flights, missing your partner terribly, temptation to stray, not be able to relocate, and just wondering if the relationship is worth it. Garrett and Erin's relationship plays out in a very real and relatable way. We can feel how in love they are but how stressed out they are over the distance. We want them to make it, but we know how unrealistic it is that they will. While Garrett and Erin have a filmic happy ending, many long distance relationships don't and their relationship does address that in the film. Oh, and it's funny. Not laugh out loud funny but I was consistently giggling.

Good romantic comedy aspect number two, good characters with good chemistry. Garrett and Erin don't have any annoying character traits one finds in bad romantic comedies. They have realistic flaws and goals. Garrett isn't your stereotypical charmingly bumbly Hugh Grant and Erin isn't some fast talking unrelatable Kate Hudson. Furthermore, their chemistry is off the charts. Body language, repoire, everything; it's electric.

Good romantic comedy aspect number three, funny supporting characters. Charlie Day and Jason Sudekis are hilarious wing men to Garrett, providing advice and random one-liners along the way. Christina Applegate is supportive and intimidating as Erin's older sister. She takes on all the stereotypical qualities of an over protective dad and makes it her own as a sister.

Going the Distance hits the romantic comedy check list. It's cute, relatable, funny, and enjoyable. If you ever need a romantic and light-hearted break from reality, I'd recommend Going the Distance.

Steve Carell on The Office

Steve Carell has already shot his last episode of the award-winning NBC comedy and I am so sad to see him go. Michael Scott has been a consistent source of cringe-worthy comedy or frustration, coupled with genuine appreciation. Carell is great at playing a completely offensive and clueless character who still manages to get sympathy and have people rooting for him. I can't believe the show will continue without him; no one can replace Michael Scott. Definitely one of the more memorable TV characters.


The Fighter-Must see my bb Bale again.
Black Book-A WWII drama from the Netherlands.
Carlos-Netflix Instant. Award winning miniseries.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Bring Back Hugh.

Oscar Rundown

This year was More lows than highs in the ceremony, chuckles instead of belly laughs and predictable winners made this year's telecast a snooze fest.

First the good.Predictable yet deserving winners. King Colin was crowned Best Actor (still think he should've won last year) for his moving performance in The King's Speech. Natalie Portman was awarded Best Actress for her physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding role in Black Swan. I found her speech to be very sweet and I got a little choked up. She's been one of my favorites for a long time so it was great to see her win for such a deserving performance. My husband won Best Supporting Actor. Very, very long overdue but there was no competition. Christian Bale owned that role. And now, Batman has an Oscar. Melissa Leo collected Best Supporting Actress for her infuriating performance in The Fighter. There were others I would've rather seen win and when they called her name I was ok. But dropping the F bomb? I don't care how excited you are, you're on television and Kirk Douglas is standing next to you.

The King's Speech took Best Picture which I was more than happy with. I had other favorites but the film was moving and told an incredible story that spread across many genres. The film also collected Best Original Screenplay. Inception swept special effects, cinematography and sound categories and rightfully so. I'm glad the film got something. The Social Network got Best Score and Best Adapted Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin's speech was not what I expected. The ego was curved and he seemed genuinely appreciative.

Biggest upset, Tom Hooper winning Best Director for The King's Speech. Should've been David Fincher. Creating and filming a story about the creation of a website and making it compelling and tense takes creativity and talent. The film was edgy and generation defining. I think in years to come this mistake will be acknowledged. Personally I think The Social Network got pretty robbed.

The bad.
The performances were shortened even more than usual! Randy Newman's acceptance speech were longer than the Mandy Moore/Zachary Levi and Florence Welch/A.R. Rahman performances.

There were some seriously unnecessary time wasters that included auto-tuned musicals and a "look" at the first Oscar telecast. To be fair, this may have been an excuse to bring out worthy host Billy Crystal.

Corey Haim omitted from the In Memoriam. This is something that irks me. If you're going to have an In Memoriam, then include everyone. Corey Haim was in the iconic The Lost Boys and Lucas. His passing deserves to be honored.

The ugly.I think we all know what the worst part of the night was. Marisa Tomei's dress? Wasted time acknowledging the renewed contract between the Oscars and ABC? False to both. James Franco and Anne Hathaway were just rotten. Hathaway seemed nervous and overcompensated with giggles and pretty outfits. She did the best she could with her poor material and less than stellar co-host. It's a shame because she is a stunning and talented woman. Franco was asleep with his eyes open. Their were comments about Franco's state of mind, if he was high and so on but I don't think people realize that that's probably how James Franco actually is. He's incredibly talented, but he's weird. The Academy should've known what they were getting into. The fact that he was nominated probably didn't help his state of mind; talk about nerves on top of nerves.

No. montages. Are you kidding? You want to appeal to a younger audience? We love montages! We didn't even get a teaser trailer of each nominated film throughout the night. I cry foul. This killed the ceremony for me. Two Oscars ago, they had these great montages of films from different genres like romance and comedy. It was amazing. People young and old eat that stuff up.

My advice, bring back the montages! Do something clever with presenters. Fozzie and I imagined reuniting famous movie couples or duos as presenters. That'd be great! And I think the title of this post speaks for itself.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The dream is always the same.

Risky Business

I recently went through Risky Business overload, having to write a five page (single-spaced) paper on its structure. But all this work made me love and appreciate Risky Business so much more. The 1987 film about a naive high school virgin turned pimp extraordinaire is an interesting look at business and stars Tom Cruise when he was good Tom Cruise...Tom Cruise at his finest.

Tom Cruise isn't jumping off couches in Risky Business, just dancing around in his underwear to Bob Seger. He's very believable as Joel, a guy who just wants to get into college and get laid. He's got the boyish innocence and politeness that can be associated with that age and position, learned mostly from having such strict parents. One of my favorite Joel moments is when he's sitting down to dinner and sucks on the icy Salisbury steak from his TV dinner and pours himself a whiskey and Coke, not knowing the proper proportions. Hilarious.

The controlling idea of Risky Business is quite extraordinary: corrupted youth will become the future leaders of America. The film ends with Joel learning he's going to get an incredibly high recommendation from a Princeton alumnus, Rutherford; he's basically already in. He may take everything he's learned as a pimp and put it to use in his studies and future business endeavors. The film is saying the future leaders of big business are pimps and that customers are the prostitutes. Perhaps Joel went on to work for Lehman Brothers, AIG or other investment firms that profited from ill-gotten gains. Cruise's boyish innocence portrayal makes the controlling idea that much sadder, that this kid could go on to contribute to the fall of our economy. But the film can be interpreted as ending on a hopeful and uplifting note. So maybe Joel will not become a future business pimp. We just don't know.

The soundtrack is phenomenal. Very 80s, but very dreamlike and hazy. Tangerine Dream creates a foggy daze around the audience with their music, much like Joel must be feeling at times. He probably can't believe he's been doing the things he's been doing, that all these things keep happening to him. He may feel like he's living in a dream and the music definitely enhances that feeling.

There's something incredibly special about teen films from the 1980's. People can connect with at least one of the iconic teen characters, whether it's Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink or Anthony Michael Hall in The Breakfast Club; they speak to us. Whether it's a desire to make a connection or stop feeling lost or stuck, 80s teen characters had such a profound amount of heart. It's hard to articulate, but I have a serious soft spot for 80s teen characters, Joel included.

Ben Mendelsohn in Animal Kingdom

What an emotional, terrifying, roller coaster ride of a movie! The Australians certainly know how bring the tension. While all the hype is around Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of a crime family, she didn't do it for me as much as Ben Mendelsohn, the quiet yet completely unstable oldest son. Weaver was fantastic, but she didn't show her true colors until towards the end; I was scared of Mendelsohn the entire time. He's very quiet, reserved and controlled, even when he kills someone. You never see him coming. He hides behind a facade of caring about his family, but is really just out for himself. Never has hearing someone say, "I just want you to talk to me. You can tell me everything, I just want to know," been so scary. He's chilling.


Away from Her-Supposed to be a brutal and honest look at a devastating disease.
You Don't Know Jack-Definitely wanted to see this HBO film.
Fright Night-Netflix Instant. Talked about this in my vampires in film and television class.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Texas Forever.

Friday Night Lights

On Wednesday, the final episode of one the most well-reviewed, natural, well-written, and well-acted shows in television history played its final game: Friday Night Lights. I haven't seen the finale yet; I'm just delaying the inevitable. I am not ready for this show to end. Friday Night Lights' story has not run its course. There is still so much to be told about Dillion Texas and the Taylors.

Throughout it's five seasons, FNL has created memorable, fully-realized characters who could be your neighbors, your football coach, your quarterback and so forth. They have tangible hopes and motivations; I don't think I've seen a show with more believably written characters than Friday Night Lights. There's been no melodrama; everything that's happened, it makes sense characters would do those things. I totally bought that Landry would kill Tyra's assaulter, even if the show kind of forgot about that weird storyline. I definitely believe that Tim Riggins would take the fall for his brother's chop shop. These plots may seem out of the realm of ordinary, but they are real and believable in the FNL world.

Not only where these character well-written but the acting was over the top phenomenal. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton had the most amazing chemistry. If I didn't know better, I'd say they were married in real life. They fight like every other couple and they work through their troubles like every other couple. Their marriage has been so beautiful to watch. I've even seen them grow closer as the show progressed. They are one the most functional and one of the best TV couples out there...ever. They may never be able to be topped.

Other actors really grew into their characters and got better as the show went out. Taylor Kitsch went from being a broody, mumbly character to a character who really used physicality well. Those eyes...speeches were being spoken with those eyes. And his comedic timing got better. Zach Gilford began taking on seriously heavy story lines and ran with them. Who could forget "The Son?" Or even the pilot? Adrianne Palicki grew her character out of a stereotype into one of the strongest female characters on the show, next to Tami Taylor of course.

And then there's Michael B. Jordan...he and his crew had to come in season four and be the new cast as the kids we'd grown to love moved on. They weren't "pale imitations...but worthy replacements," as Alan Sepinwall so eloquently wrote. They were new characters with new story lines...not better, just new. It's really hard to change a cast and keep the story lines good and the audience interested. The FNL writers are just that good, probably because one of their fearless leaders is Jason Katims, the creator of Roswell.

Friday Night Lights is inspiring and heartwarming, as seen in the episode "Mud Bowl" or heartbreaking, leaving you crying and feeling lost as a viewer, like in the "Pilot". The writers have done such a great job making this show about much more than football or your run of the mill teen drama. FNL is about family, town, team, culture, love, commitment and so on, powerful themes that make for fantastic story lines. This show's writing has been so consistently strong, with a few holes, but there are some episodes that no matter how many times I see them, it's like the first time.

I just can't say goodbye to this show. I imagine I'll be doing a lot of crying during that final episode, especially when the theme starts. I look forward to seeing the actors move on to new projects but they will always be residents of Dillion in my heart.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snubs 2010

There are Oscar snubs every year. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jim Carrey know that all too well. But found there to be some pretty astounding absences from the nominations this year. And they include:

Chris Nolan, Best Director Inception

I mean, Inception wasn't a critical and artistic success with an intricate story line, admirable performances, and mind blowing special effects. It didn't kick start a slow 2010. And all that didn't require impeccable direction. Inception proved that one can make a smart movie and the masses will go see it; audiences aren't as dumb as we think. Chris Nolan consistently turns out money making masterpieces and has yet to be rewarded with a nomination. The Dark Knight omission was bad enough but not a nod for Inception? Blasphemy. Especially choosing the Coen Brothers over Nolan for a mediocre film.

Danny Boyle, Best Director 127 Hours

It's no easy task to make a one man show compelling for an hour and a half. Poor choice Academy...poor poor choice.

Mark Wa
hlberg, Best Actor The Fighter

Yeah Christian Bale pulls the Al Pacino scenery chewing card and is utterly brilliant. But Mark Wahlberg gives a quiet, internal performance. The performance is textured and it's a true change from Wahlberg. Too bad he lost his spot to Jeff Bridges, a performance that was funny but hammy.

Ryan Gosling, Best Actor
Blue Valentine

Thank goodness Michelle Williams got nominated but it's completely ridiculous to ignore Gosling. He's a catalyst for Williams' performance. The role called for love, misery, humor, depression, weakness, strength. Though I haven't seen Biutiful and still want to, I hear Javier Bardem (who I love) is basically required to be miserable throughout the film and his role is far less complex than Gosling's. This and Nolan's snub are the biggest nomination injustices.

Jim Carrey, Best Actor I Love You Phillip Morris

This was barely even a possibility but it's horrible that Carrey got overlooked, again.

Andrew Garfie
ld, Best Supporting Actor The Social Network

The Social Network
had some strong male performances and it's a shame only Jesse Eisenberg got recognized. I wasn't totally shocked that Garfield got ignored and I think he has a lot more great performances in his future, but Mark Ruffalo over Garfield? Please. Any recognition for The Kids Are All Right is undeserved. The fact it got nominated for Best Picture is horrifying.

Mila Kunis, Best Supporting Actress Black Swan

Kunis gives a truly supporting performance. She supports and feeds Natalie Portman's performance. Her performance is generous and serves as a great contrast to Portman. This reminds me of James McAvoy in The Last King of Scotland or Christina Ricci in Monster, truly generous performances that help make the lead's performance that much better. And those supporting roles aren't recognized.

Barbara Hershey, Best Supporting Actress Black Swan

I don't know why there wasn't more of a push for her too. She balances the sympathetic and love with the overbearing and psycho. She also adds fuel to the fire that is Portman's performance. Plus, wouldn't it be cool to see two awful mothers square off at the awards (Hershey and Melissa Leo in The Fighter)? The Academy went with Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom as Psycho Mom nomination #2.

I am pleased John Hawkes got nominated for Winter's Bone. He's a fantastic character actor and it's great he got recognized.