Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random round-up!

Last weekend, it was snowing and cozy by the fire, so I watched a bunch of movies, the first from a Netflix DVD, and the others from the Netflix Watch Instantly feature on Roku. All were surprisingly good movies, perfect for a quiet weekend.

Away We Go stars SNL alum Maya Rudolph and The Office's John Krasinski as expectant parents. They've moved to be near his parents for the birth of their baby, only to be told his parents - Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels - are moving to Belgium. Untethered by either family or jobs, they decide to find a new place to live near people they know. Thus begins a journey of some of the most extreme characters ever. Allison Janney is a vulgar ex-boss in Tuscon, Maggie Gyllenhaal is an over the top mother in Wisconsin, and Melanie Lynsky is a perfect mom of lots of adopted kids in Montreal. We watch Rudolph and Krasinski's voyage to find a place to live, as well as discover what kind of parents they want and DON'T want to be. Their dialogue provides most of the humor of the movie, quick and sharp, as they discuss the crazies they thought they might want to live near. I thought it was a really good, very original movie, carefully constructed to avoid cliche, but almost misses the mark. It could easily have been really boring, but the strength of the cast makes the movie thoroughly enjoyable. 4 of 5 stars/lambs

The next movie we watched is How About You, a movie Netflix recommended to me and they were right and I enjoyed it. It's about an Irish assisted living facility run by Kate. She's struggling to keep it together when her long-term residents scare off any potential new clients coming to visit. Her ne'erdowell sister Ellie, comes to mooch off of her and gets a job helping clean the home. When their mom gets sick at Christmas, Kate has to leave to take care of her, but can't find a place for 4 residents who have nowhere else to go (they've been banned from other homes). Ellie says she's stay and take care of them for the holidays. The residents are a hoot. Vanessa Redgrave plays an aging actress who remembers a terrific career that never was, and dances around demanding more olives for her martinis and making people jump to her whim. Two sisters - Imelda Staunton and older sis Brenda Fricker - live at the home to escape their childhood struggles (slowly revealed during the movie) and harp on any perceived slight from the staff. Fricker even makes Staunton wear an eye patch after Ellie throws a piece of toast at her. The final person to complete their holiday quintet of lonely hearts is well known British actor Joss Ackland (I spent most of the movie trying to remember where I'd heard his voice before), a widowed, former alcoholic judge. None of them are friends and none of them will give an inch to make life easier for Ellie. Ackland insists on breakfast in his room at 6 am, the others want specific foods at the regular breakfast time. They all run around making life hard for Ellie, but as it takes place at Christmas, you can figure out that all will end well, and it does. A small heartwarming movie with lots of character. 3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

To follow up this sweet charming movie, we watched a French film about a former prisoner trying to find her way in the world after her release. I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime) stars Kristin Scott Thomas as Juliette, just getting out of prison after 15 years and moving in with her sister's family. I won't spoil anything about what she was in prison for, which is slowly revealed throughout the movie, as other people reveal what they think they know about what happened and how they treat her because of their misconceptions. However, the movie isn't really about her reintroduction to society, but to her family and friends. She has been silent for so many years that they don't know her or anything about what happened to send her to prison. The movie is terrific - you'll just have to believe me. The story they tell will sit with you and make you think a lot about what you might have done differently if you'd been in Juliette's situation. 4.5 stars/lamsb

The final movie I only saw to try to prove that Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter) can act. Sadly, she can't act any differently than Hermione's personality allows, even in a non-Harry Potter movie. Ballet Shoes is based on a children's chapter book that follows three orphaned little girls who grow up in 1920s London and to help the family that raised them they join a theater academy and each go on to different fields, acting, dance, etc. It was a decent movie for little girls, but not terrific acting or a good story. 2.5 stars/lambs

Ballet Shoes
I've Loved You So Long
How About You
Away We Go


The Curmudgeon said...

I LOVED the book Ballet Shoes when I was little - it's fantastic. sorry to hear the movie's not up to par but I'll look for it anyway!

Jess said...

I loved Noel Streatfield's books too. I think they did a good job recreating the story of the book, but VERY little of the magic the little girls found in performing. I chalk that up to the poor acting.