Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How do you Burlesque?

I was excited to see Burlesque when I watched the trailer for the LAMBcast back in September.  I mean, what's not to love - Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, etc.  Plus, there's singing, dancing, and did I mention Cher?  However, I'm pretty sure this movie isn't for everyone, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.  So what I thought I might do, rather than just sing the praises of this film, and talk about what I loved about it, I thought I'd predict whether my fellow movie bloggers would like this.  This is just meant to be fun, if I'm way off, I apologize.  The percentage following their name is the how likely I think they are to enjoy the movie.

Nick (Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob) - Since Nick told me he was excited about this movie, I'm pretty sure he'll love it.  He's a big musical fan, and is a devotee of group dancing (a la "So you think you can Dance" and "America's Got Talent").  This has a lot of music (not all of it vintage Aguilera, so that's nice) and tons and tons of dancing.  So I'd give Nick a 90% chance of loving Burlesque.

Andrew (Encore's World of Film and TV) I foresee Andrew finding this one of the best movies this year.  He's a big fan of dramatic scenes, particularly those involving lots of costumes (which this show has aplenty, sort of a mix between Chicago and Moulin Rouge) 95%.

Sebastian (Films from the Supermassive Black Hole) - This stems from Hatter's enthusiasm about Moulin Rouge, since he sent a copy to Sebastian, who was really excited to see it.  He also is a huge Glee fan, so I imagine the singing and dancing as part of the plot will appeal to him, though he might have issues with there being little action. 75%

Mad Hatter (The Dark of the Matinee) - I did my research a bit on this one.  His favorite musical is Moulin Rouge (thanks Movie Meme in One Day) so I doubt he'd be opposed to the genre.  In addition, he can be pursuaded by movies that aren't super happy can still have a lot of merit.  So I'd give his chances of enjoying it about a 65%

Kai (The List) - I think Kai just enjoys boobs, and there are tons here, and he's an optimist, so the fact that it's a story about a mid-west girl who comes to LA (his hometown) and makes it big will appeal to him.  55% of loving it all, 100% chance of loving the boobs.

Rachel (Rachel's Reel Reviews) - Rachel loves Glee, but it wasn't an instant love.  She also isn't a huge fan of romantic comedies (which this steps into on occaison - the weakest part of the film in my opinion.)  However, there's a Twilight tie-in for the love interest, so the self-referential nature might appeal to her.  I give her a 50/50 chance of enjoying it. 

Jason (Invasion of the B movies) - There are a LOT of semi-nude girls in this movie.  They do a ton of suggestive dancing.  Also, I know Jason loves Showgirls (which this definitely channels, except Aguilera is a MUCH better actress than Elizabeth Berkley) so Jason might enjoy this, but overall, it probably isn't his style.  30% chance of liking it

Fletch (Blog Cabins) - I think Fletch will only like this if his secret Cher-love is allowed to come out (Okay, I don't know for sure he loves Cher, but he's a child of the 80s, so something might have stuck). 1% chance of even seeing this movie.

What do you think your chances of liking it will be?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 24 - Jake Gyllenhaal

This week we discussed the young career of Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as some TV talk (yes, I'm a dork, Hatter), and movies we've seen lately.  Also, an explanation of my Harry Potter experience now that I've seen it all.

Movies watched for the first time with Jake:

Prince of Persia - I have to say I had no previous knowledge of the source material for this (a video game? maybe?) nor really any concept of what it was about.  Considering that, I really enjoyed it.  It's not good, there's some ridiculous plot holes and it's heavy on action scenes.  Oh, and I don't really think Gemma Arterton can act.  It's sort like why I liked National Treasure - it's pure popcorn entertainment with a bit of a mythological fantasy story thrown in and presumes no foreknowledge of anything.  It's all spoon fed, but still pretty fun.  Ben Kingsley was amazing in Ghandi and in Schindler's List, but should stop playing bad guys - he's just not built for it. 2.5 stars/lambs

 Love and Other Drugs - see my review here.

Zodiac - I stayed away from this movie because I'm generally not a fan of scary movies, particularly serial killers, though I do find them fascinating.  But, with three stars I adore - Jake Gyllenhaal (Love and Other Drugs really changed my opinion of him), Robert Downey, Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, I decided the time had come to check out this David Fincher movie.  And while, I might have cut 20-30 minutes of the story, I really enjoyed the overall experience.  It's not terribly scary as it took place from 1969-1991, and is more menacing rather than thrilling.  It combines the police investigations across many different jurisdictions with the news media because that's a big part of what the Zodiac killer did - sending messages and cryptic codes to the newspapers who then have to discuss events with the police.  Gyllenhaal is fascinated by the story and tries to coordinate all the different accounts of the many murders and witness accounts to solve the mystery, which was never solved.  Great story.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

New Release: Love and Other Drugs

While I saw this movie because it was Jake Gyllenhaal week at Reel Insight, I have been excited about this movie since I saw it was coming out.  You can hear my other most anticipated movies on Episode 38 of the Lambcast from September.  And thankfully, I wasn't disappointed, it was as good as I expected it to be - and much sexier.  A movie deserving its R rating is a welcome distraction from relatively innocuous rom coms dramas of late (I'm looking at you, Eat, Pray, Love, The Bounty Hunter, and Killers).  

Love & Other Drugs stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jamie Randall and Anne Hathaway as Maggie Murdoch in the late 1990s.  Jamie is the screw-up of his over-achieving family - his younger brother Josh just sold a company for millions (played by Josh Gad - in a role that showed me Jonah Hill better watch his back as I liked Gad MUCH better than any role Hill's done in a while).  He gets a job in pharmaceutical sales just before Viagra is released during the time Prozac is being challenged by Zoloft.  Side note - I found it weird they didn't feel the need to explain what any of these drugs were because everyone already knew them, it seemed to be a small commentary on the fact that the commercialization of drugs directly to consumers is a massive change that people have somewhat overlooked.  Anyway, Jamie cons his way into a doctor's office and meets Maggie, a young woman looking for a refill on her Parkinson's drugs. 
Yes, she's a 27-year-old Parkinson's patient - and while the rest of the movie does deal with the complications of dating someone who will be sick the entire time you know them, and the fact that someone's illness does not define them any more than their hair color or height, the movie is actually about Jamie figuring out that he's a good person and doesn't really know what love is.  He was given a particularly privileged upbringing, but rebelled against it for a long time and never really knew how to love someone - have sex with them, but not stick around.  So it's a cheesy romantic comedy at it's heart, with a thoughtful background question that must be dealt with.  And man, is it sexy.  Yes, they have sex a lot, but it's also sexy in the way its filmed - long smiles and suggestive close-ups.  It's also funny, without using dirty humor - Jamie having one of the side effects of Viagra, and shlubby Josh getting caught watching a sex tape.  Overall, funny and touching without being too schlocky or cliched.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Belated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows review

*Spoilers ahead*
Since I originally missed the first 12 minutes or so of the new Harry Potter, I wanted to be sure I saw the rest before I wrote my review.  And it turns out I was right to do so (I'm biased, I know).  My first opinion of the film was that it was much funnier than the first 6, with dark parts.  This was because I walked in just as the funnier parts were starting.  Yes, there was action, but watching lots of people transform into Harry was pretty funny - and Fred and George's humor was hysterical.  However, after seeing the very sad and then scary scenes that actually show before the humor, the movie is set up to be very dark, with few moments of levity to lighten the load.  Watching Hermione erase her parents' memories, and then watching the DeathEaters at Malfoy manner kill the Muggle studies teacher, you know you've been set up for a very dark film. 

My opinion of the rest of the film was well talked out in Episode 23 of the Reel Insight podcast.  In summary, I thought the acting was much improved over the previous incarnations, particularly Emma Watson's Hermione.  This could be because she wasn't forced into false laughter (which always bothered me) and the seriousness between all the characters made for better acting.  There were jump in your seat moments when the snake appears in Godric's Hollow, and what were they thinking moments with the silver body paint in Ron's nightmare, but overall, the movie flowed fairly well from moment to moment (with a slight dragging section in the middle, but I didn't mind that part, the good acting helped).  I did have a problem with the ending - it didn't feel even a tiny bit complete, but nor did it feel like a cliffhanger (the only acceptable Hollywood ending without resolution).  I think they needed to do a bit more with Dobby's funeral to give a feeling of completeness, but since the story was already running so long, they just stopped.  Oh well, I'll enjoy watching it again in preparation for Part II.  My score remains as previously stated 4.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest post - eating art history!

I was recently in New York City, and was describing one of my adventures to my godmother and she thought it would make a terrific guest post on her blog - Buttercup Counts Her Blessings.  Go check it out.  Here's the text though:

One of the amazing things I got to do in New York City on my recent visit is the kind of thing that makes the City worth the visit every time, because these kinds of adventures simply can't happen everywhere.  My terrific friend Alexa found out about this "workshop" and signed us up.  Three girlfriends and I got to "cook art history".  This is the tagline of ArtBites (www.artbites.net).  Maite, an art historian who decided to go to culinary school, took us around two sections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - the French Enlightenment and early American sections.  The connection was Thomas Jefferson.  When he was the minister to France for the last 5 years before the French Revolution, under the court of Louis XVI, he got to experience the luxurious customs of the French court, and see the enormous disparity in wealth.  Specifically, he got a chance to see how food played a role in everyone's life (most of the riots leading to the revolution were about food, and led to Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" statement).  We got to see the luxury of the few remaining royal silver serving dishes (most were melted down during the revolution) and Maite talked about how these things influenced Jefferson when he returned to Virginia and then the White House.  As a man of contradictions (he was opposed to slavery yet never freed his own slaves) he was able to integrate some of the luxurious uses of fresh ingredients and herbs he saw at Versailles with his farm in Virginia.  We moved on to see a Baltimore dining room circa 1800, and could see the connections between the French luxury and the new American simplicity. The simple use of gold leaf edgings invoked the french luxury but were done without excess.   
After soaking up all this culture, we were taken to a professional kitchen and given several of Jefferson's actual recipes - written in letters to friends back in the States.  We were turned loose in groups and assigned a portion of a Jeffersonian meal.  Herb salad with Mustard Vinaigrette (he LOVED Maille mustard, still available today), Spring peas with mint (this simple dish was wonderful), roasted potatoes, roasted green beans with olives and tomatoes, dill crusted salmon, and Chicken Fricassee.  My group made the chicken and we had a lot of fun cooking for the rest of our group.  The dessert was a perfect combination of Old World and New - Apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  The apples were from New York, but the first American recipe for vanilla ice cream was written in Jefferson's own hand.  
Overall, a wonderfully stimulating day - smart, yummy, and once in a lifetime.  I think Maite travels around the country - using other museums and other kitchens, so check out her website. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Friends" on Thanksgiving

I originally posted this two years ago, but I think of it every year and wanted to share it again.  Rachel also loves Friends - maybe that's why we're friends (insert gag here).

There were many reasons to love "Friends" and this week I'm thankful that they always had a terrific Thanksgiving episode. I like it when a TV show acknowledges that it doesn't live in a vacuum and realizes that it exists on Thursday nights and Thanksgiving is always a Thursday, and the producers at "Friends" always made unique Thanksgiving shows. Most series do a Christmas/holiday episode of some sort, but with the current schedule of episodes, Christmas shows often appear the first week of December with no new episodes until well after the holidays.  Without further ado, here are the reasons I'm thankful Friends was an awesome show. 

Season 1 - "The One Where Underdog Gets Away" This episode brings all the friendless Friends together when they're supposed to be celebrating elsewhere. They pretend that Wonderdog escaped from the Macy's parade and ends up down in the Village near their apartments, getting locked out and missing dinner. Not the best, but a classic example of Friends.

Season 2 - I don't know why, but there's no Thanksgiving episode this season.

Season 3 - "The One with the Football" None of the Friends are dressed well throughout this episode, and it always bothers me. They decide to play football in the park, it becomes really competitive and dirty tricks abound. Joey and Chandler fight over a hot girl, but as they learn, most girls don't want to be told who they get to go out with. The episode ends with Monica and Ross still in the park holding onto the football waiting to see who wins The Gellar Cup.

Season 4 - "The One with Chandler in a Box" This is one of the all time best episodes of Friends. Joey won't forgive Chandler for kissing his girlfriend Cathy. To make up for it, Chandler spends Thanksgiving Day in a box. Monica gets ice in her eye and goes to see the eye doctor - Richard's son (hot Michael Vartan) who she invites to Thanksgiving Dinner. The whole thing becomes kinda weird, particularly with Chandler sticking his fingers out of the hole in the box, but it's got one of the best lines ever from Monica yelling at the others for judging her crush on Richard's son:

"Fine! Judge all you want to but, [points to Ross] married a lesbian, [points to Rachel] left a man at the altar, [points to Phoebe] fell in love with a gay ice dancer, [points to Joey] threw a girl's wooden leg in a fire, [points to the box Chandler's in] live in a box!"

Season 5 - "The One with Thanksgiving Flashbacks" All the Friends flashback to Thanksgivings they remember. The show always did this well, with Monica in a fat suit, Rachel with her old nose, Ross and Chandler's 80s hair. They flash back to the 2 Thanksgivings when Ross brought Chandler home from college. The first year he calls Monica fat behind her back, so the next year she's back to her normal size. She says she hates him, which parallels to their real time affair, deciding they love each other. There's a great moment when Joey has the turkey on his head.

Season 6 - "The One where Ross Got High" This is another of my all time favorites. The Gellars come over for Christmas and Rachel makes trifle but accidentally adds beef with peas and onions. Phoebe dreams about Jack Gellar fighting Jacques Cousteau. And Ross and Monica out each other on all the secrets of their childhood: porn, broken porch swing, pot smoking. They find out they've been blaming Chandler for lots of things which is why the Gellar parents have always hated him. When they find out the truth, they thank Chandler for watching out for their kids. Joey comments on Rachel's trifle: "What's not to like, Jam:good, Custard: Good, Beef: Gooo-od"

Season 7 - "The One Where Chandler Doesn't Like Dogs" This episode didn't really fit into their Thanksgiving canon. Phoebe has a dog she's been hiding in the guest room even though Chandler hates them and says he's deathly allergic. Not too much goes on beyond Rachel flirting with Tag and he finds out she likes him.

Season 8 - "The One with the Rumor" This was when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were still married. Pitt guest starred as a friend of Ross' from high school who used to be really fat. Rachel spends most of the episode trying to figure out who he was and flirting. But he and Ross had a club in high school called the We Hate Rachel Greene club. Rachel is pissed when she finds out considering she is pregnant and having a kid with Ross. Pitt applauds Ross for knocking up Rachel. It's a really funny episode with lots of Thanksgiving cooking.

Season 9 - "The One with Rachel's Other Sister" Christina Applegate shows up for Thanksgiving and spouts her narcissistic opinions on how to raise Rachel and Ross' new baby Emma. She assumes she'd get to raise Emma if Ross or Rachel die, but they've already planned to ask Monica and Chandler. This causes all kinds of discussions about why certain people would or would not be good parents.

Season 10 - "The One with the Late Thanksgiving" Monica reluctantly agrees to cook Thanksgiving dinner again, but Ross and Joey go to a hockey game, and Phoebe and Rachel enter Emma in a beautiful baby contest so everyone's late. They spend a lot of time talking to Monica and Chandler through the door with the chain on, floating heads. Joey of course gets his head stuck. It's a really funny classic Friends episode of fighting, but no one being really upset. Great finale to the Thanksgiving series.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No.3

It's going well - so I'll keep going.  Last week:

Clue: "Two men have terrible adventures while they travel across the country so one man can enjoy an evening out with his wife that also goes awry"

Answer: Due Date Night

Leader board:
David -2

Clue: " A famous porn star goes on vacation on the North Carolina coast and falls in love during a hurricane"

If you know the answer, leave it in the comments.  Good luck!

Harry Potter review delayed

If you've listened to Reel Insight Episode 23 (and why haven't you?) you'll know that I had a horrific time trying to get into NYC to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  While we talked about it and such, my review will wait until I've seen it in its entirety.  However, my rating is 4.5 of 5 Lambs/stars, just so people know how I found the overall flick. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 23: Harry Potter

Rachel and I decided to do things a little differently and we just chose the three main characters from the Harry Potter series, and after discussing the new movie (which I raced 8 hours to try to see and missed the beginning - I'll see it again this week I'm sure) we discuss their potential future careers.  TV Talk and other movie discussion will resume next week.  Yes, I watched "Community".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Who Played with Fire: Some Spoilers

Salander with her evil Guardian
I feel like I've discussed this series a lot with quite a few different movie geeks, and I haven't actually written a review of anything.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire are the first two films based on books in The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson.  The third Swedish film was just released in theaters here in the States (though I'll have to wait until Netflix gets it).  The first two movies are intense drama/thrillers with many murders and violence thrown in.  They're definitely some of the best story-telling to have come out recently.  Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander, a petite bad ass computer hacker who had an epically terrible childhood.  She's required to check in with a "Guardian" (kind of like a probation officer here in the States), and when her former Guardian has a stroke, she's stuck with a terrible guy who does unspeakable things to her (one of the most violent scenes on screen I've ever seen).  She does get her revenge, thankfully.  But you can't unring a bell.  So that's the understory.  The overarching story involves Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has been found guilty of libeling a megamogul.  Since he's heading for jail, he gets hired by a wealthy guy, Martin Vanger, to investigate a family mystery - the disappearance of his niece.  Salander and Blomkvist cross paths after she investigates him for Vanger before he hires him.  She hacks into Blomkvist's computer and watches as he tries to find the niece.  Eventually, she has to join him to try to find the truth.  Again, they find some unbearably disgusting facts from decades ago and the whole mystery does get solved, but man is it way out in left field.  At the end, Salander does her computer genius thing to prove that the megamogul actually did the things Blomkvist said he did, clearing him.  She steals a ton of the guy's money -secretly of course.  And this leads us to the next film.  Brilliant first entry - amazing acting by Rapace, and terrific thriller action sequences.  Once I got around the extremely violent scene, it's a wonderful movie all around.  5 of 5 stars/lambs

Blomkvist coming to the rescue, but Salander has it in hand
In The Girl Who Played with Fire Blomkvist is back at his magazine and a fellow journalist and his assistant are killed.  As is Salander's "Guardian".  She is accused of the crime, but since she has tons of money now, she moved and can't be found.  Blomkvist, who has a soft spot for Salander, knows she didn't do it and goes about trying to figure out who might have.  He stumbles upon a den of human trafficking, prostitution and murders going back a long time, with links to Salander's terrible childhood.  Not nearly as thrilling as the original, but still a brilliant story told with great acting and an interesting plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Less violent, but more mystery and a few gory scenes that almost make you want to look away.  Less edgy, but an excellent return to terrific characters.  4 of 5 lambs/stars

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No. 2

Thank you to people for guessing.  It even inspired a twitter feed so you can follow my blog @In_Entertain if you want to try to get notified as soon as this is up.  Last week's clue:

"An Irish couple come to America to seek their fortune, but she eventually gets Alzheimer's and can't remember his name"

Answer:  Far and Away from Her
Leader board:
David - 1

This week's clue:

"Two men have terrible adventures while they travel across the country so one man can enjoy an evening out with his wife that also goes awry"

If you think you know it, leave your guess in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Release (Kind of): Winter's Bone

Jennifer Lawrence - keep an eye on her.
Every Monday, a theater about an hour away shows very second run indie or foreign flicks.  It's usually the only way those kinds of movies make an appearance in theaters.  However, they pay no attention to the DVD release date, so I've often already seen the movie by the time it appears on the big screen.  Winter's Bone was released on DVD recently, but thanks to the encouraging comments by Scott and Whitney at Frankly, My Dear and The Mad Hatter during our podcasting this weekend, I trekked to the theater to see it on the big screen.  They were right - this is a movie that was meant to be seen in a dark theater with no distractions. 
The story is simple: Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) takes care of her younger brother, sister, and infirm mother.  Her absentee father has been arrested and in order to get bonded out of jail, put up their house and land for collateral.  Now he's missed his court appearance and the bail bondsman wants his due.  Ree decides she needs to find her father to be sure she doesn't lose the house.  Basically, this was what I knew when I went into the theater, and was the better for it.  The only reference in the movie to where it takes place is near and Arkansas border, so the Ozark mountains likely.  Ree is related, in some fashion, to all the people she goes to to try to find her dad, but that doesn't mean they won't kill her if she crosses them.  There are obviously family feud's going on, and since they're all part of illegal meth operations, it's not surprising they fight to the death (either by blowing up their houses, or actually dumping them in a 'holler').  Lawrence is amazingly bad-ass trying to stay strong.  The gender roles among the families are strong - only women can beat up other women, men shoot other men.  They govern their own, and at least at a minimum level take care of their own.  There are moments of levity from the tension building as we find out the level of difficulties Ree faces, but mostly they continue to build tension throughout the film, with a few OMG moments, a few "jump in your seat, this is going to end badly" moments.  One thing that struck me in particular is the relatively unknown status of the actors.  There were a few I recognized, but only in a very general sense, and it added to the tension of who would survive or help our heroine.  Overall, the pacing, cinematography, and design of the movie are terrific - award worthy in almost every aspect.  5 of 5 lambs/stars

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reel Insight: Episode 22 James Franco

We have our second guest, winner of October Quoteable Quotes, winner of the Lammy for 2010 best podcast for The Matineecast, as well as the author of "The Dark of the Matinee", and a good friend.  Known in Blogland as The Mad Hatter, we have a lot of fun talking James Franco, podcasts,The Walking Dead, "Glee".  Check it out.  Send feedback (since Hatter can't comment on himself, we need more) to reelinsight [at] gmail.com

The Valley of Elah - This came out at the same time as a few other war movies, which made people think (at least me) that it was about the war in Iraq.  Also, with a title from an obscure Biblical reference, I didn't have any real desire to see the flick.  However, since it was listed as a movie in which James Franco appeared, and I happened to purchase it when my local video store went under, I was excited.  It turns out to be a terrific detective, murder mystery, and the main characters are only peripherally connected to the military.  Tommy Lee Jones is the father of a soldier who has gone missing.  He decides to go investigate himself, since as a former MP he knows the capabilities of the military.  The local police, Charlize Theron among them, can't help him.  Eventually, they do partner up and battle the military codes of silence and internal cover-ups to find the truth.  While there are stereotypes of the military and cliches as well, mostly it's a refreshingly well done flick that does show the horrors of war, but again, not as the main idea like The Hurt Locker.  4 of 5 lambs/stars

HOWL - A recent movie, telling the story of an obscenity trial from 1957 about importing copies of Allen Ginsberg's poetry, specifically a poem called "Howl".  It follows bits of the trial and the testimony of literary experts trying to argue the merits of the poem.  Interspersed are pieces of James Franco as Ginsberg being interviewed about the trial and telling his life story.  The third frame is Franco reading his poetry in black and white at a coffee shop (or somewhere) and then the poem being animated.  The visuals aren't particularly appealing, but the poetry they chose and how they weave Ginsberg's story together does make for an interesting biopic.  It does makes you want to know more about Ginsberg and his poetry. 3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Camille - Wow, I don't even know where to start with this wackadoo, romantic comedy meets The Sixth Sense movie.  The description on Netflix doesn't do it justice - trying to be coy about the fact that just as you're wishing Sienna Miller's character Camille would just shut up and die, she actually does, well she doesn't shut up.  Franco is her parolee husband who hates her when they marry but really likes her after she's dead.  The whole movie is a set up for "ba-dum-bump" type jokes or cliches, but strangely, it's so bad, it turns into a lot of fun.  Franco seems to be constantly waiting for the movie cliche to appear, and it never does. 1 of 5 stars for actual achievement, 5 of 5 stars for so bad it's good.

James Dean - I knew Franco had won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of James Dean so I figured I had to see it.  I didn't realize until I was watching it that it was a made for TV movie, so I'll call SHENANIGANS on myself.  But I watched it anyway.  I've see Rebel Without a Cause and didn't really get why after only 3 movies James Dean was an icon.  This movie goes a long way toward explaining it.  And explains why he might not have maintained his icon status had he lived, but definitely would have gotten a few more Oscars.  Franco is crazy and grins a lot instead of acting.  His own acting skills have improved a ton in the 10 years since this was made.  Not a great flick, but he deserved his Golden Globe.

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Release: Megamind 3D

I've complained many times about the rural movie theaters in my area, and how when I actually have time to see movies in the theater, there's not a lot worth seeing.  However, I do get to see a lot of random stuff that way.  Which is how I ended up at Dreamworks' Megamind in 3D yesterday celebrating Veteran's Day.  There were 4 kids in the theater, my friend and me.  I love when there's no one there, but this was pretty close. I'm sure Megamind would have been improved by listening to the giggling of more children, but I have to say it was still a pretty funny flick.  It parodies all superhero movies, from The Incredibles to comic book movies and even Austin Powers and such.  Will Ferrell voices Megamind, a blue-skinned, large-headed alien who arrive on earth with his side-kick "Minion" at the same place and time as another alien who can fly and has great hair.  Well, Megamind and the boy who grows up to be his arch nemesis, MetroMan, fight - because that's what they're good at.  I think the plot tickled me most when it reaches that point of thinking about "what would happen if the bad-guy actually won".  They've done it in other movies, exploring how the Joker would run Gotham, etc. but this movie did a terrific job pushing that really far.  Megamind realizes that he was good at being evil, and he's not so good at running a city (Metro City - which he always pronounces Metrocity - rhymes with atrocity).
Brad Pitt is wasted voicing Metro Man, and Tina Fey voices the female news reporter who is constantly kidnapped by Megamind in order to be rescued by MetroMan.  The movie takes the next step again and asks what would happen if the bad guy got the girl - would that even be possible, how would that work?  So Megamind decides he needs to Frankenstein himself another hero to fight - which doesn't go well (and Jonah Hill was perfect because I don't like him anyway).  Anyway, I know I'm reading a lot of meta-analysis into this kids movie, but I'm not a kid so that's what I do at kids' movies.  It was fun, the animation was really good - giving Megamind some terrific facial expressions, and I'll enjoy watching it again later.  Oh, the 3D was well used, but totally not necessary.  When big fights were going on, they'd throw things around and they'd come at you - the flying robots would hover around your head and such, but it didn't really matter.  What the 3D was AWESOME for was the Kung Fu Panda 2 trailer.  Just imagine this in 3D - awesome!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No.1

I've had this game in mind for a while, it was inspired by an episode of "Cougar Town" a few weeks ago.  They play this game, similar to the "Before & After" category on Jeopardy where you mash two titles together based on a description.  I will try to incorporate the articles (A, An, The) in a title, but sometimes the mashup won't work with them.  I know it's not a new concept, but my descriptions of them will be.  Really, I still want to see if I can keep a regular feature going, and if people will play.

The example from Cougar Town:

Clue:  "A killer whale gives out golden tickets to see who will inherit his candy factory"
Answer:  Free Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

This week's clue is:

"An Irish couple come to America to seek their fortune, but she eventually gets Alzheimer's and can't remember his name"

If you think you know it, guess in the comments and I'll keep a running leaderboard.  I have about 10 banked, so this should go through the end of the year if there's interest. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Release: Due Date

My love of Robert Downey Jr. is well documented here.  And I enjoyed  The Hangover last year, though can't say I loved Zack Galifiankis (aka Beardo - I think Rachel started calling him that on a past episode of Reel Insight, but I can't be sure, but it stuck) who is RDJ's costar in Due Date.  While they should have just come out and said it was a modern version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, since most of the travel issues, from not being able to take a plane to sharing a rental car are nearly identical.  However, for me, that's where the positive comparison ends.  This was such a missed opportunity to make RDJ the straight man to Beardo's bumbling, but heartfelt, idiot.  RDJ is MUCH funnier than this movie ever lets him be.  Steve Martin was the funny man to John Candy's bumbling, but heartfelt, nice guy, and they created comedy TOGETHER.  Due Date hits that mark only a very few times, instead relying on gross-out humor (a dog masturbating, really?) and Beardo's effeminate walk for laughs.  The screenplay is really uneven, never really knowing where the story is going to turn, and then all of sudden, after getting high together, RDJ, who previously (and rightly) hated Beardo, suddenly loves him.  Then there are the myriad ways they break the law or their bodies and just get away with it, and nothing negative ever follows them around, beyond a single broken arm.  They "accidentally" drive into Mexico, and get detained.  Beardo walks away, and RDJ is in a trailer being questioned (still stoned) that Beardo rips off the stand and drives away with, but the police just stop chasing them? Odd.  And, RDJ gets shot, and still manages to drive 300 miles without bleeding to death.  What a great immune system?   Okay, those are most of the major rants and problems I had with this movie.  By the end, most of them didn't bother me much - you kind of like Beardo, RDJ has finally figured out how to be funny again, and it's an "aw shucks" moment when they're friends now.  Overall, didn't like it, and was definitely disappointed, but probably moreso from high expectations.  2 of 5 stars/lambs

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 21: Diane Keaton

We had a great time talking about things OTHER than Diane Keaton this week.  And for the first time, we conceded on the Top 3 to general consensus, rather than coming up with our own choices (what can you do when someone is in the Godfather flicks?) and just did TWO BOTTOM 3.  Turns out we just don't care for her movies very much.  However, it also turned to ZOMBIES, with discussion of the new AMC mini-series The Walking Dead and a Jesse Eisenberg love-fest for The Social Network and Zombieland.  Check it out here or on itunes.

Manhattan - This was one of Woody Allen's early movies I'd heard of, but never seen.  I think when it came out in the 1970s it would have been unique and controversial, but Allen's personal life is just a bit too much "life imitating art" when you see Manhattan now.  He of course stars as a bumbling New Yorker, divorced from a gorgeous Meryl Streep, dating a 17-year old Mariel Hemingway, just mirrors his own real life too much not to be distracted by it and put the creepiness on the character.  He ends up dating Diane Keaton, who was having an affair with his best friend.  It doesn't end well and he goes back to Hemingway.  The soundtrack is terrific with lots of classic music about New York or falling in love and the cliche of the city being a character in the film cannot be ignored - it's right in the title.  But perhaps because it's been 30 years, this movie doesn't stand out as anything special.  Keaton is good as a strong, educated woman doing whatever she wants, but I confess I just wanted to know more about Streep's character.  Check her out here. 

Crimes of the Heart - What was it about the early 1980s that somehow told movie makers that they should layer all their movies with lots of music to create a mood?  With something like Crimes of the Heart, it only distracts from the actually powerful story.  Three sisters, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek, are reunited when Spacek shoots her husband, in the suburban South in the 1980s.  Keaton has been watching after their aging grandfather who took them in when their dad left and their mom committed suicide (which needless to say screwed them all up).  Lange has been trying to make a life as a performer, but it hasn't gone well and she just pretends to be successful.  And Spacek was doing all she was supposed to, be a good wife, but her jackass husband has been ignoring her, beating her, etc. so she found someone who liked her and shot her husband.  It's a complicated story that is really well put together, though the final "moral" they all learn about their mother's suicide is too cheesy and painfully delivered so the ending robs this movie of a lot of its powerful storytelling.

Town and Country - what a terrible flick.  Great cast, lots of marriage cliches and cheating.  Stupid concept.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Every Creation Myth Needs a Devil": The Social Network

I'm slow to get a review done, but I wanted to be sure to add my opinion to the noise about this movie.  It was a well-made movie that showed a really terrific story that may or may not be completely accurate about the founding and development of FACEBOOK.  Mark Zuckerberg (played BRILLIANTLY by Jesse Eisenberg) was obviously an extremely awkward college student (he's fairly clearly some version of autistic or Asperger's) who doesn't care a lot about the niceties of friendship or business.  He allegedly partners with a group of guys to create a website for Harvard that would be exclusive.  The movie makes it seem like he took a kernel of their idea and created a much better one with the investment from a friend.  Eventually he squeezes out the investing friend and makes himself a bajillion dollars. The Social Network flashes between the two court cases when these guys sue him back to the actual events.  It's very well composed and the acting is superb.  If they continue with 10 Best Picture nominations, I predict this will definitely get one.  And so far, Jesse Eisenberg has done of the best acting performances of anyone this year, and will deserve a good look come awards season.  There will definitely be a writing nomination at some point too.  Not really anything new to add to the many other reviews of The Social Network, but I saw Zombieland the next day and now have a new-found respect and admiration for Eisenberg that nearly wipes away Adventureland.  4.5 of 5 lambs/stars

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Demented Podcast: Doorknob Entertainment!

Recently I had the distinct privilege of being the first guest on Nick Jobe's new podcast, The Demented Podcast.  It's a very engaging experience - you have to act, play games, come up with a title, discuss whatever you want, and have a great time.  Check it out - you'll definitely want to subscribe to this one, which you can do, right from this podomatic page until itunes gets their act together to post it.  And then e-mail Nick to find out when you can be the guest!

DVD Roundup: Sleepers and That Evening Sun

I went back in my Netflix queue and decided to watch a movie I'd always meant to see and had never gotten around to it.  There's a gap of movies rated R that came out before I was old enough to see them that have mostly slipped by me.  Sleepers was one I got mixed up with Sneakers for a long time and thought I'd already seen it, but now I know I have and that there's a huge difference. 
Sleepers is the story of 4 teenagers from Hell's Kitchen (the west side of Manhattan kind of between Times Square and Lincoln Center) in the 1950s.  They have tough upbringings, abusive/absent parents, lots of Catholic guilt, and actually a good relationship with Father Bobby (Robert DeNiro).  They plan a prank to steal hot dogs, and end up sending the hot dog cart down subway stairs hurting someone.  They're sentenced to a year in a boys juvenile facility, Wilkenson.  The movie is narrated by Jason Patrick, he's one of the boys grown-up, and he tells about the horrors the boys faced at Wilkenson at the hands of Kevin Bacon's guard, Nokes.  They're horribly abused, beaten, and traumatized, but survive. 
Ten years later, two of the boys, now mob hit men (played by Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup) run into an aging Dokes in a bar, and do what they do best - put 5 bullets in him, in front of witnesses.  Patrick is now a newspaper reporter and the last boy, Brad Pitt has grown up to be a district attorney.  They've drifted apart, but Pitt has been planning something like this - he wants to use Eldard and Crudup's trial to expose all the abuse at Wilkenson.  The movie plays out following their trial.  They tap into their roots in Hells Kitchen and the mob boss and his attorneys who are willing to be manipulated to do exactly what Pitt wants to ensure other former guards get called to testify and expose the abuse.  Overall, the acting is pretty terrific by an amazing cast.  The story is difficult to watch at times, and Kevin Bacon is so over the top leering and looking so disgusting, but you hate him as much as the boys do.  Since the story is told through their eyes, there isn't any back story on the other characters, but it makes for great story-telling.  Overall, I'm glad I caught up with this one.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

That Evening Sun is an indie flick starring Hal Holbrook.  From the trailer it seemed to be a movie similar to The Straight Story with Richard Farnsworth about an older man taking back a little control of his life.  That Evening Sun is not as good, either from a cinematic or story perspective.  Holbrook decides he's had enough time in the old-folks home and starts walking back to his farm in Tennessee.  He arrives to find his son has rented the farm to the son of a man he hates.  He fights it for a while, hurling insults at the guy, Choate, to get him to leave.  Since Holbrook is just an old man, Choate (played by "that guy" Ray McKinnon) knows he's harmless and lets him stay in the shed.  Holbrook has designs on getting his home back and attempts to get Choate arrested, which he does when he catches Choate beating his daughter and wife.  The movie overall is uneven and it's hard to really like Holbrook's character.  He has dreams about his deceased wife (played by real-life wife, Dixie Carter, also now deceased) and feels guilt over her death that isn't explained much, but given as the reason he's a mean old coot.  The movie builds to a climax that doesn't deliver and you don't really care about them when it's over.  2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Monday, November 1, 2010

Reel Insight: Episode 20 - Damon/Affleck

This week we did a two-fer to catch up after missing last week.  Ben Affleck and Matt Damon began their careers together and continue to be the longest lasting romance in Hollywood.  We discussed the season finale of Mad Men, Rocky Horror Glee, and Live vs Documentary style TV episodes. Oh, and we announce our October winner.  Mad Hatter, c'mon down!!!   It's a long episode, but enjoy. 

This was actually a pretty interesting week catching up on the few movies they're in that I haven't seen.

30 Rock: Season 4, beginning of Season 5 - This was for Matt Damon's performance as a pilot who becomes Liz Lemon's boyfriend.  I'm sure this will play out in more episodes, but as of now, he's a hysterical character who just shows up on occasion.  The season overall was terrific and I was excited to catch up.

Gigli - Yes, I watched this.  It deserves ALL of it's bad reputation.  Here's an early quote from Mr. Affleck that sums up how much this movie sucks.  He's explaining to Jennifer Lopez why he's in charge.  "If by some fuckin' miracle long shot you haven't heard of my reputation let me tell you who the fuck I am! I am the fuckin' Sultan of Slick, Sadie! I am the rule of fuckin' cool! You wanna be a gangster? You wanna be a thug? You sit at my fuckin' feet and gather the pearls that emanate forth from me! Because I'm the fuckin' original, straight-first-foremost, pimp-mack, fuckin hustler, original gangster's gangster!"

Boiler Room - It's been a while since I've seen Wall Street but this movie felt just like it but missing Gorden Gecko.  Affleck plays one of the higher ups bossing around all the trainees (particularly Giovanni Ribisi who is terrific).  I actually saw an episode of Burn Notice recently that summed up the entirety of this movie in about 48 minutes.  And Jeffrey Donovan is MUCH cuter than Ribisi

Extract - Sooooo boring.  I think the director was trying to recreate his success with Office Space and fails miserably.  Affleck is wearing a curly longish wig that all I wanted to do was snatch off his head!

Changing Lanes - This movie makes you feel uneasy for almost all of it.  A random collision on the FDR brings together Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck.  Jackson's trying to get to a custody case, which he's late for and misses so loses his kids.  Affleck accidentally leaves behind a brief that he needs for court too.  Basically this sets in motion a series of RAGE events that escalate and then they calm down, and then escalate.  It's hard to tell who wins, but they're friends by the end.  Very odd.