Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Release: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

We talked about this on the podcast last week with Rachel's mom, but I'm trying to remember to also post my reviews, so here goes.

First of all, this movie is really only for those who have either read the books or seen most of the movies, particularly the first part of the Deathly Hallows.  This movie jumps right in with just a short, short refresher of how we got Harry, Ron and Hermione to Shell Cottage and them burying Dobby and rescuing Mr. Olivander and Griphook.  This opening scene does a pretty good job of setting us back into the story, and then it's full speed ahead for the next 2 hours starting with the theft at Gringotts (I didn't think dragon would be an albino, but I guess it made sense) and moving on to the Battle of Hogwarts.  While the books definitely take more time getting you from place to place, the movie skims over the slowest parts and for the most part gets you right to the action without making it impossible for someone who hadn't read the books to follow along.

All of the main elements that had to be part of this movie lived up to my expectations, particularly Dumbledore's dream/heaven sequence and the way they made the whole Battle come through and feel well paced.  They used a very consistent Hogwarts from the other versions to stage the battle - blowing up the bridge was awesome (in part because I never liked that there was a bridge and mostly Neville's acting).  And the loss of various cast members was really emotionally well done.  I cried when I saw Harry walking through all the carnage and when Ron lost his brother.  I think it was helped by the very short scene between Fred and George when the battle is getting started that we lose one of them later.

And since people are whining about it, I'll add my dislike for how the epilogue worked - Harry's makeup wasn't good, Ginny had great "mom hair", but Ron and Hermione barely looked aged.  Overall, I think Rachel and Whitney (separately I believe) had the best idea - put the epilogue after the credits so it's not the last taste left in our mouths.  Still will give the movie a 5/5 lambs.  Great finish to the series.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesdays Movie Mashup No. 37

Rachel's moving up the leaderboard and got this on the first guess!!  Dylan liked the resulting title.

Last week's clue: A company man is hitting an existential crisis, helped along by an uppity young girl pointing out his flaws but at least he's not a basketball coach trying to talk to guys so much taller than he is.

Answer: Up in the Air Up There


Hatter - 15
Rachel - 6
James - 4
David, Nick - 3
Dylan - 2

Sebastian, Andrew, Andy, Keith  - 1

New clue: A man tries to save the last pregnant female on earth while sanitation workers attempt to solve a crime.  

The goal is to figure out the two movies who overlap in some words creating a new movie described by the clue.  Leave your answer in the comments. Good luck! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Releases: Horrible Bosses and Bad Teacher

This was a surprisingly apt double-feature, with lots of bad people doing bad things (killing your boss, smoking pot in the middle school parking lot, etc.) and lots of good people trying to get them to change their ways (by killing them or getting them arrested or falling in love with them).  Yeah, so one was kind of a romantic comedy and the others a bit more of a traditional comedy, they still had a lot in common.  

Horrible Bosses is a take-off on the Strangers on a Train concept where two unrelated people kill someone to help the other, thus removing the ties of motive.  It doesn't work quite as well in Horrible Bosses because the guys in it, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, are all friends from high school.  So I had trouble overcoming the idea that they would ultimately be caught if they actually tried to kill each others bosses.  However, this is where the movie becomes a comedy, and Strangers was made by Hitchcock - you don't need to believe they'll get away with anything because of course they will.  There were quite a few moments I laughed out loud, and for originality alone, I'd give this movie praise.  

Kevin Spacey is Bateman's horrible, selfish boss who takes Bateman's promotion for himself.  He plays a shmuck really well and is easy to hate.  Colin Farrell is the coke-head son of Sudeikis' boss Donald Sutherland.  When Sutherland dies, Farrell is in charge and wants to fire all the fat people.  The movie does a good job showing that Jennifer Aniston's serious sexual harassment of Day isn't in fact funny and what all men secretly want, but she's still probably the funniest (and most bizarre) of the horrible bosses.  They eventually find solutions to all their problems, but in pretty creative and funny ways.  Listen to the Jason Batemen episode of Reel Insight to hear more about Bateman's character in particular.  3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Bad Teacher, however, doesn't attempt to be quite as original, ironically since it's not based on another movie.  However, it's still a funny movie.  Cameron Diaz is a middle school teacher who intends to marry rich and quit after one year.  The marriage falls through (he figures out what her real motives are) and she has to return to teaching.  She has no actual interest in educating the middle school class and shows movies for weeks.  A new teacher, Justin Timberlake, shows up and she knows he must come from money (though other than an expensive watch they don't explore his wealth at all) and thus she wants to pursue him.  His old girlfriend had big tits so Diaz (in the infinite wisdom of this odd character) decides she too must get big tits.  She saves up for it, and when she finds out the teacher whose students test the best gets extra money she decides she can start teaching and win the bonus.  Since she's basically immoral, she steals the questions (though we don't know if she actually uses them).  Meanwhile, the gym teacher, Jason Segel, has been getting to know her better (but he's poor so she's not interested) and of course has more chemistry with her than Timberlake.  Since this is a romantic comedy, they eventually end up together.  

The longer its been since I've seen this, the less I actually like it, but I remember really enjoying watching it.  Watching Diaz torture her fellow teacher, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch - Hattie from Ella Enchanted) is worth the price of admission.  And Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from "The Office") is terrific as another teacher who is actually interested in being Diaz' friend, but doesn't want to be a bad teacher.  Watching her waffle when Diaz proposes skipping meetings is hysterical.  Overall, it's a fun movie, but I guess Diaz' character is just irredeemable and doesn't have a great arc, but the movie does.  3 of 5 star/lambs

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comments on the Emmy nominations

I was away on vacation when the Emmy nominations were announced, and they didn't make a huge impression on the news pages I read besides the acknowledgement of my favorite "Friday Night Lights" for Best Drama.  However, going through the actual nominees today there were quite a few I was surprised by and others I was particularly happy to see.  I'll just go in the order they appear here on IMDB.

First, for it's final season (though rumors abound about a continuation), "Friday Night Lights" was nominated for Best Drama.  It also seems like a year it could possibly win - with "Dexter" and "Mad Men" and "The Good Wife" coming off solid, but hardly spectacular years, though "Game of Thrones" might throw a wrench in things, but as it's still airing, it might not have the votes this year.   And the Emmys do tend to award shows that have been solid, but are no longer on the air.

For a very strange coincidence I've already seen more than half of the Miniseries nominated this year, and another is in my DVR queue to watch.  Just odd that I've seen those this year.  Wish I'd caught Kate Winslet's "Mildred Pierce."

I honestly can't believe both Johnny Galecki AND Jim Parsons are both nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy series for "The Big Bang Theory" but since I adore the show, I'm happy for them both.  Parsons won last year, so I doubt he'll repeat and I don't think Galecki stands up to the other nominees, and it's Carell's last year.

The Lead Actor in a Drama is totally a toss-up with several newish nominees including repeat Kyle Chandler and first-timer Timothy Olyphant for "Justified" which is only improving with time I'm told.  Very big year for the men.

In the Lead Actress in a Comedy two big and welcome surprises - Melissa McCarthy for "Mike and Molly" and Martha Plimpton for "Raising Hope".  Both are the hysterical centers of their respective shows and have been creating some terrific TV.  I caught a bunch of "Mike and Molly" and "Modern Family" on my flights and they're terrific.

In Lead Actress in a Drama, not really surprises, but happy acknowledgements of very strong work for Mirielle Enos in "The Killing" (though her style of acting bothers me, she stares a LOT) and of course Connie Britton for "Friday Night Lights" in probably her strongest year.

Last year, the Supporting categories were full of terrific nuanced performances, and this year the four men of "Modern Family" were all nominated for good work, but really, no Neil Patrick Harris?  Seriously?   And for the women, yeah it's great that Betty White got nominated for "Hot in Cleveland" but no other surprises.
But men and women in a Drama had some good showings with Michelle Forbes from "The Killing" and Peter Dinklage from "Game of Thrones" and Josh Charles and Alan Cumming from "The Good Wife".

Finally, for the Reality stuff, it's nice to see "So You Think You Can Dance" thrown into the big prizes after winning lots of choreography and costume awards already.

Any thoughts from others?

Reel Insight Episode 55: Harrison Ford and Rachel's Mom

We've been hoping to cover Han Jones a few times now (doesn't have the same ring as Rachel's Indiana Solo does it?) and our Quoteable Quotes winner for June chose to join us in this discussion.  First, of course we do a pretty great back and forth on Harry Potter 7.2 with Monica (aka Rachel's Mom).  Some more Twin Peaks discussion - have we bored you completely yet?

New movies with Mr. Ford:
Crossing Over (2009) - The cast, including Ray Liota, Ashley Judd and lots of character actors you'd recognize promised a pretty interesting movie about the varied immigration policies in the US.  From a father being naturalized but maintaining old world ideas about his American daughter to a sweat-shop mother being deported and trying to get back to her son to a young Korean boy figuring out what this country might really be about to an Aussie actress who wants a green card to achieve her dreams.  Harrison Ford as the immigration cop ties all the stories together well.  As a movie about a topic covered extensively, I was pleasantly surprised by the originality and diversity of the cases of immigration.  Ford plays a softie cop who actually cares about some of these cases which makes the viewer care too.

Hollywood Homicide - This is the flipside version of his good cop in Crossing Over - he doesn't care about anything except his sideline real estate deals and the fact that his partner, Josh Hartnett, really wants to be an actor and is already a yoga teacher on the side.  Based on a true story, I'm just glad I don't live in LA and have to rely on these particular detectives to protect me.   Also, it's really terrible to watch Josh Hartnett pretend to act.

Blade Runner - I've tried watching this many times in the past and just never got into it.  I made myself pay attention to it all the way through and still didn't really get the love for it.  However, as a fairly complicated movie about lots of different topics, I'm sure I need to see it again.  If you love this movie, PLEASE encourage me to see it again and tell me why you love it. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

DVD Roundup: Top Surfer movies

I was recently on a bunch of planes and got to see some recent movies I missed in theaters.  In addition, one inspired me to think about the best of the other surfer movies out there, and sadly there just aren't enough others, so this is a short list with a recommendation to Hollywood to make more surfing movies.

3.  Surf's Up - A surprisingly good animated movie about penguins who surf, I watched this when it was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2008.  It's told in a documentary style, following a penguin from Antarctica, Cody (Shia LaBoeuf) who wants to make it to the big surfing tournament to follow in the footsteps of the legendary Z who died there.  Complications arise and Cody loses confidence, but finds help from an old surfer - the not-deceased Z (Jeff Bridges as a surfer "Dude").  The documentary keeps interviewing various surfers and getting the different opinions on how the whole competition will happen.  Surprisingly cute and heartfelt, and I'm sure completely forgotten.

2.  Soul Surfer - This was the new one I saw on a plane recently.  It's based on the true story of Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton who has her left arm bitten off by a shark while training for a competition.  She's just on the rise and has a sponsor when tragedy strikes.  The movie of course is about overcoming adversity and finding your way back to what makes you tick, but for airplane entertainment, it made me cry and laugh out loud once.  AnnaSophia Robb plays Bethany (with the real-life Hamilton doing the one-arm surfing stunts) and Helen Hunt and Dennie Quaid play her laid-back surfer parents who argue over what it means to help their daughter recover.  It's definitely off the shelf of "Christian" movies with Carrie Underwood playing Hamilton's spiritual advisor and head of the volunteer group Hamilton follows to Thailand after the tsunami, but they keep the God-talk to a minimum beyond the inspirational.  Plus, watching her figure out how to surf with one-arm will make any couch surfer feel like getting outside.

1. Point Break - Could there really be any other movie at #1?  And if you haven't seen Point Break (cough, Keith!) go out and rent one of the best movies you'll ever watch.  Keanu Reeves is an FBI agent (stop laughing) who has to infiltrate a surfing community (I mean it, stop laughing) to find a group of bank robbers called the Ex-Presidents because they wear masks while robbing banks (okay, that's funny) led by Patrick Swayze (yeah, now you feel bad for laughing, don't you).  Seriously, just check it out.  It's awesome.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hometown Blog-a-thon: Frozen River

Rich over at Wide Screen World is hosting a blog-a-thon July 18-23 on movies that take place in your hometown.  He is in the lucky position of many movies taking place in his hometown.  While I can take a little credit for many many movies taking place in my home state, a few years ago there was actually a movie filmed within 50 miles of my home.

Here is the commentary I wrote at the time I saw the movie on DVD:  The movie that got Melissa Leo an Oscar nod, Frozen River, takes place less than 50 miles from my house. I look out on the St. Lawrence River daily. The movie is a perfect representation of much of the life of people who live in relative poverty in this area. "Rent-to-Own" is huge, Dollar stores are in every town and every space between towns, and a double-wide trailer really is the epitome of safety and assurance that your house will stick around. The River does freeze across for less than 6 weeks a year, and gambling and safety on the Mohawk Reservation are always a matter of concern. It's a good movie, with moving performances, but yes, it can be that dreary living the lives portrayed.

In case you haven't seen this, I'll give you a little more information about the movie itself.  Melissa Leo plays Ray Eddy, a mother of two sons who works at a Dollar store and has been saving her money to get a double-wide trailer to replace the crappy place they've been living.  However, he deadbeat gambling husband has run off with her money just in time to pay for the final delivery of the double-wide.  This makes her desperate enough (it's almost Christmas too!) to partner with Lila Littlewolf (Misty Upham), a Mohawk who lives on the nearby Reservation and is part of a group that smuggle people across the St. Lawrence from Canada to the US on the Mohawk reservation during the time it freezes all the way across and can be driven on.  Ray has a car and signs on to be a driver to make the money she needs.  As anyone could guess - the tension of driving across what might or might not be a frozen river will have you on the edge of your seat, along with the fear of being caught on the Reservation.  The desperation of nearly all involved in palpable and the discussion of the racism inherent at the borders of the three cultures involved (American, Canadian, Mohawk) while incomplete or occasionally shallow, definitely hits home.  The other issue that really resonated with me the first time I saw it was how well director Courtney Hunt captures a slice of real-life in the North Country.  I know people like these characters, I went to school with them, work with them, and read about their bigger problems in the newspapers.  Oh, and they made it into a pretty damn fine film.  Check out Frozen River.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Random Update

I usually tell you (my seriously disappointed readers) when I'm going on vacation and will be away.  But alas, I forgot!  I'm returning to the land from whence I come on Thursday, but until then you'll have to settle for just being jealous of the vacation I'm on. No Reel Insight this week.   No Wednesday Mashup this week either.  However, I'll put this out there and y'all can hold me to it - reviews of Harry Potter 7.2, Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher all coming out next week.  And perhaps a few catchups (Pirates, X-Men, Bridesmaids, etc.).
The view from the house I'm staying in!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesdays Movie Mashup No. 36

With a few wrong guesses, Keith finally got on the Leader board with a right answer.  Welcome Keith.  

Last week's clue:  A UN agent gets caught in international espionage shenanigans by almost causing nuclear holocaust using the equivalent of a self-aware ATARI.  

Answer: The Art of WarGames


Hatter - 15
Rachel - 5
James - 4
David, Nick - 3
Dylan - 2

Sebastian, Andrew, Andy, Keith  - 1

New clue: A company man is hitting an existential crisis, helped along by an uppity young girl pointing out his flaws but at least he's not a basketball coach trying to talk to guys so much taller than he is.

The goal is to figure out the two movies who overlap in some words creating a new movie described by the clue.  Leave your answer in the comments. Good luck! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reel Insight Episode 54: Jason Bateman

We had a pretty great time figuring out that Mr. Bateman has had a pretty strange career.  First, though, Rachel and I discussed Horrible Bosses and happythankyoumoreplease and get to the murder of Laura Palmer in "Twin Peaks" finally.  Though in true Lynchian spirit, we actually know nothing.  Then on to the career of Jason Bateman from child star to leading man, kinda.  Check it out!

New Movies watched with Jason Bateman this week:

Love Stinks - This was sooo terrible.  French Stewart stars as a TV writer (Bateman is the star of his show) who is a commitment-phobe.  Enter Bridgitte Wilson who desperately wants to marry.  The worst cliches of all bad romantic comedies.  

The Ex - Zach Braff and Amanda Peet are married and having a baby.  They relocate with Braff taking a job with Peet's dad (Charles Grobin).  Peet's high school crush, Chip (Bateman) also works there and of course Braff is intimidated by him and his relationship with Peet.  Oh, and he's a total douche who is completely trying to sabotage Braff and he's in a wheelchair.  It's a pretty strong departure for Bateman and it pays off.  Braff gets to shine as the crazy one and Bateman takes on the horrible guy rather than the straight man to others humor.  Not a terrific movie, but a great Bateman performance. 3/5 stars/lambs

The Switch - This one could have been really really terrible (see previous Aniston work), but it's actually pretty charming, mostly due to Bateman and Thomas Robinson as the kid.  They have great chemistry and strangeness and do a terrific job selling the concept.  The movie spends a LOT of time trying to sell the idea that Bateman switches his "jizz" with Patrick Wilson's donation.  However, Bateman was drunk and doesn't remember doing this.  Totally unbelievable.  But it still works as a movie.  3.5/5 stars/lambs

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Ode to Rachel

I feel I haven't given enough praise and proper credit to my podcasting partner-in-crime, Rachel from Rachel's Reel Reviews.  She does all of the technical things required to produce our podcast, and has done them every week for a year, without complaint (at least to me).  I love what she does with our show and I know I couldn't maintain the level of quality she achieves every week (yes, I listen to my own show most weeks).  So in her honor I thought I would give you the Top 10 Rachels of the world.  Some are real and some are fictional, but all do a good job of honoring the name, in my opinion.   (PS - Rachel's the hot one on the left in this photo!)

1. Rachel Thuro - Rachel's Reel Reviews - She's been blogging for over four years now, and has been the shepherdess of the LAMB for more than 6 months already and doing a terrific job.  At every turn she ups her influence and creativity through her blog.  Oh, and she makes me look like a valley girl/hyena every week with terrific editing of Reel Insight.
2. Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) - "Friends" - Probably the only one on this list to inspire a country to cut its hair in a ridiculously difficult style to manage if you don't have full-time help, Rachel Green launched Jennifer Aniston's dubious career (or convinced the world they wanted to see more of Aniston, but little did they know she wasn't Rachel).
3. Rachel Berry (Lea Michelle) - "Glee" - The self-professed diva who intends to make it as a triple threat someday, Rachel Berry has two dads, a heck of a singing talent, and if we believe the hype, the intention to head to Broadway after high school.  She's developed a bit as a character over two seasons, but it's still hard to like her every week.
4. Rachel Ray - "30 Minute Meals", "The Rachel Ray Show" - I love her because she really taught me to cook.  I'm pretty bad-ass, I won't lie.  And it's all because Rachel Ray taught me to do it in 30 minutes, and I figured out that it's only a starting place.  She doesn't take herself too seriously so she's fun to watch - though I know a ton of people hate her or her voice, I'm not one of them.
5. Rachel McAdams - Sherlock Holmes, The Notebook, The Family Stone - She's already a huge star, but usually keeps her private life pretty private.  She didn't end up in rehab after The Notebook and she keeps getting the chance to work with huge actors (Russell Crowe, RDJ, etc.) and I love seeing her on screen.
6. Rachel Maddow - "The Rachel Maddow Show" - I don't watch this show every day (The Daily Show gives me most of my news) but I think Rachel Maddow is freakin' amazing.  She's one of the only news people on TV who seems genuine and authentic talking about almost any topic.  She rocks the glasses that probably wouldn't work on the hottest man on TV, but somehow she can pull off.
7. Rachel Weisz - The Constant Gardiner, About a Boy, The Mummy -  The former Ms. Aranofsky and current Mrs. Daniel Craig, Weisz makes strange choices in her movies, but she's captivating on screen or on the red carpet.  Oscar-winner for The Constant Gardiner while playing a total bad-ass who breaks the hearts of those around her while trying to fight for justice and equality.  But sadly, I still prefer her nerdy Egyptologist in The Mummy.
8. Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) - Rachel Getting Married - This movie still haunts me and really makes me want to see more of Rosemarie DeWitt.  She's a kooky character having a very strange wedding, and a lesser character would have been completely upstaged by her recovering sister (Anne Hathaway) attending the wedding, but Rachel manages to stand out and hold her own (plus she rocks a sari).
9. Rachel Dratch - "Saturday Night Live" - She plays some intensely annoying characters, but she's also gotten really good at being a stock character in any movie also starring a SNL alum.
10. Rachel Marron (Whitney Houston) - The Bodyguard - I think this might have been a stretch, but since I harbor a secret love of The Bodyguard I couldn't really leave out the Queen of the Night.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Reel Insight Episode 53: Kate Winslet

Sorry this is late, but the holidays got in the way (we enjoy the Canadian and American Independence Day celebrations this close to the border so that's a lot of independence).  Rachel and I talk about an actress from our favorite movies, I sing a silly little song, you get some crazy out-takes, we still don't quite get Twin Peaks and we basically just had a ton of fun.  So will you, check it out!

New movies watched with Kate Winslet:

Heavenly Creatures - This is a crazy movie.  Melanie Lynsky is really a New Zealander!  Kate Winslet doesn't get naked, but does commit murder.  Peter Jackson's first feature film is a sign of greatness to come - the story of two crazy young women who become obsessed with each other and the dream world they create that leads them to kill in order to protect it.  Nutso! Oh, and Kate Winslet's character is currently a best selling author, Anne Perry.

Quills - It was fairly inevitable that a movie would be created about the Marquis de Sade.  He was completely f&*'ed up.  The level of violence in the sexual novels he writes prevents him from being a literary or particularly creative person, but mostly just screwed up.  The movie follows Winslet, a maid in a mental institution housing the Marquis.  She passes his writing outside the prison and flirts with him.  Meanwhile Joaquin Phoenix is the administrator of the asylum and also in love with her.  Really screwed up movie that I just couldn't get behind, though the acting is pretty fantastic.

Iris - Really really sad story, also a real person, Iris Murdoch.  Kate plays her as a young woman flirting with Hugh Bonneville, while Judi Dench plays Iris as she's falling into Alzheimer's as her husband, Jim Broadbent turns in an Oscar-winning performance letting out a lifetime's worth of pent up anger.  Really terrific movie that is as good as it is heartbreaking.  Wonderful performances, particularly about a relatively unlikeable woman.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesdays Movie Mashup No. 35

Well, it's finally happened.  I usually post at least twice a week - sometimes it's as little as posting an update about the podcast and posting this game.  Well, it finally happened that the previous post to this one is last week's game.  I'm so embarrassed.  I'm going to blame the holiday and the fact that I've been working a lot and not watching as many new things lately.  Hopefully next week I'll have such a relaxing vacation I'll be motivated to start writing a ton of new things.  Perhaps creativity will return.  But for now I'll congratulate Hatter for winning and extending his lead

Last week's clue: A crazy scientist is sucked through a vortex and emerges in the time of the dinosaurs where he meets a young married girl, unhappy to be stuck in Japan while her husband takes pictures.

Answer: The Land of the Lost in Translation


Hatter - 15
Rachel - 5
James - 4
David, Nick - 3
Dylan - 2

Sebastian, Andrew, Andy  - 1

New clue:  A UN agent gets caught in international espionage shenanigans by almost causing nuclear holocaust using the equivalent of a self-aware ATARI.  
The goal is to figure out the two movies who overlap in some words creating a new movie described by the clue.  Leave your answer in the comments. Good luck!