Friday, March 28, 2008

In Her Shoes, good girly movie

I caught a movie on TV the other day that I sneaked into when it was first in theaters and thus have still never paid to see. In Her Shoes (2005) is worth paying for though. It's not a typical movie, given that the love story is barely secondary to the relationships within a family, particularly two sisters. Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette are sisters raised by a father they adore and a step-mother they hate. The mystery behind their mother's death is kept hidden for a long time. We see Diaz's character falling apart, unable to hold a job because she never really learned the things in school you need to actually hold a job (like reading and math). Thus, she's always ending up at her parent's or sister's house drunk and stealing from their dressers. They finally kick her out and she finds a long-lost grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) living in a retirement home in Florida. However, MacLaine won't take her crap (she obviously recognizes the personality from her deceased daughter) and helps her get a job and actually supports her. MacLaine is perfect as the grandmother who has resigned herself to accept what life has given her and taken away - she's not bitter, but calm and accepting, very unlikely role for MacLaine. Meanwhile, back in Philly, Collette has quit her high-powered lawyer job to walk dogs (her sister sleeping with her lawyer boyfriend soured her on the law?), but a lawyer at her firm (a nerdy, self-assured guy) keeps pursuing her and finally wins her over. However, she keeps the secret of her sister's insanity a secret. Her little speech about why she can't tell him about her sister is terrific and explains family devotion pretty well, that no matter how awful Diaz is, she'll always help her and take her back, and she can't bear it if her boyfriend hates her sister, so she's kept Diaz a secret. Collette finds out Diaz has gone to Florida and they reunite at MacLaine's house and learn the secrets about their mother and how she died and why MacLaine was kept from her grandchildren. It's a touching movie that never goes too far with its family love, and makes real relationships appear normal and yet the movie is fun, interesting, well crafted, and worth watching repeatedly.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Parade

I was finding it hard to summon the requisite spring-like feelings this Easter Sunday as there are still a few feet of snow on our porch. However, I was flipping the channels and Easter Parade just started on Turner Classic Movies, and Fred Astaire and Judy Garland have done just what movies do - bring us into a world we remember and long for. Check it out again soon - just a cute spring-in-your-step kind of movie.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jane Austen Book Club

I read the book first, and hated it, so I was a little wary of seeing this movie too. The book had all kinds of details that lept out at you without warning (a rape, abuse, lesbian relationships with people you weren't aware were gay). These details made it hard to follow the lives of the 6 main characters of the book club. However, the movie, The Jane Austen Book Club totally washed over all the annoying and surprising details to create what I hoped the book was going to be. The movie starts with Jocelyn (Maria Bello) mourning the loss of her top breeding dog. Her friends decide that what she needs to get over the loss is to belong to a new book club that reads the 6 novels of Jane Austen. The concept that a monthly book club can help you get over a loss is more than a little silly, but it still works as the premise for the rest of the movie. The oft-married Bernadette (Kathy Baker) is the matriarch of the group and brings in Prudie (Emily Blunt), a disillusioned high-school french teacher who's never been to France and can't relate to her husband anymore. Jocelyn's best friend Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) and her gay daughter Allegra (Maggie Grace from Lost) also join the group. Sylvia's hot husband, Jimmy Smits, has just left her, and to cheer her up Jocelyn has invited cutie boy Grigg (Hugh Dancy - who was so cute in Ella Enchanted) to join the group. He's never read Jane Austen, but his enthusiasm for Jocelyn makes up for his lack of feminine experience. We see how the elements of each Austen work (Northanger Abby, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and Emma) are revealed in the lives of our characters. There are moments of humor, lots of girl-power drama, and friendly banter about Austen's books. If you have read a few of Austen's books (or seen the movies or Masterpiece theater versions) you'll enjoy this movie too. If not, some of the subtle references to the book will go around you. Either way, I enjoyed it very much - 4 of 5 stars.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sirens of the LAMBs

Over at the Large Association of Movie Blogs, SOME AWESOME AND CREATIVE GUYS have put together a March Madness-type battle between 15 femme fatales. The first one was posted today - a show down between "The Bride" from Kill Bill and "River Tam" from Serenity and Firefly. Very cool writing already, and I'm sure it's going to continue to be awesome. Check it out. I was away when the decisions were made and passed on this showdown, but I'm sure I'll be part of the next one! Being part of the LAMB is awesome and if you're a movie blogger - go join.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

DVD Vacation Extravaganza

I confess, I did not work last week and went on vacation. I saw 3 movies in the theater (as mentioned below), but I also saw 3 movies on DVD, all recent releases too. Two were very good entertainment, and one we actually turned off and didn't finish. First was Death at a Funeral. A British farce that's centered around the death of a patriarch. The two sons have returned to bury their father. The elder, Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen, Mr. Darcy from the recent Pride and Prejudice), lives in the family home with his fiancee, and the other, Robert, is a successful author living in New York. Daniel is distraught and trying to figure out how to eulogize his father, while everyone arriving is disappointed that Robert won't be doing the eulogy. Their cousins arrive, one complainingly bringing Uncle Alfie in his wheelchair, and the other bringing her fiancee (Alan Tudyk - from Firefly) to introduce to her father. They stop to pick up her drug-dealing brother (Kris Marshall from Love Actually) on the way, and a mix-up in drug bottles occurs. Ultimately, Alan Tudyk ends up really high on ecstasy, convinces people the coffin is movie, and then is naked on the roof. and Peter Dinklage shows up to blackmail the brothers with photos of him and their father in compromising positions. They fight with Dinklage, who is hysterical fighting for his rights to the inheritance and he ends up in the coffin. I won't give away the rest, and believe me there's a lot more and it's a constant chase between scenes to figure out who lives, who dies, and who gets away with what. It's terrific, and I highly recommend checking it out. 4 of 5 stars.

Second, I also liked a straight to DVD movie, I Could Never Be Your Woman, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd, and recent Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan as Pfeiffer's daughter. Pfeiffer is a screenwriter for a Saved by the Bell-type TV show, using language her daughter says in the script. She meets Rudd when casting the "geek" character, but because they hit it off so well (and Rudd is a really terrific comedic actor) the character becomes to popular he gets a spin-off. Pfeiffer and Rudd play back and forth, calling it off because of their age difference, getting back together because it doesn't really matter. Jon Lovitz plays Pfeiffer's ex-husband in the least annoying role he's EVER played. He's convincing as the man-child she dumped who's constantly getting plastic surgery, but never actually getting the younger girl he craves. There's a bit where he constantly tries to steal something from her house whenever he picks up their daughter. Anyway, Rudd helps Pfeiffer realize she's not as uptight as she thought, and she helps his career really take off. It's a fun little movie, nothing particularly amazing, but it does show the Hollywood scene with humor. And there's a great scene where they're comparing themselves to Ashton and Demi, and Lovitz walks in and says that would make him Bruce Willis, and everyone turns to stare in disbelief. It's very funny. Oh, and Ronan is a wannabe guitar player and re-writes all the pop songs with stupid lyrics that are infinitely funnier. Good fun, and great entertainment. 4 of 5 stars.

And the movie we turned off, 2 Days in Paris. Perhaps it got a lot better, but I doubt it. Adam Goldberg plays Julie Delpy's American boyfriend. They've just returned from a tour of Italy and are visiting her parents in Paris. Basically he's an idiot, xenophobe who can't be bothered to learn his girlfriend's (of 2 years) first language, so there's lots of misunderstanding of the parents crass behavior and his stupid comments on their lives. He's annoying and the movie didn't suit the entertainment we were looking for. Any comments that prove this was a good movie would be appreciated.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

There were lots of things I liked about The Other Boleyn Girl. The two lead actresses - Natalie Portman as Anne, and Scarlett Johansson as Mary - are terrific. They have the right amount of sisterly love and competition going throughout and it's easy to see why one wins over the other (competition more often wins over sisterly love until just at the end). The movie as a whole shows a terrific "bodice-ripping" period with just the right amount of intrigue and "bodice ripping". Anne and King Henry VIII (without his ruddy historically painted looks) are meant to be together to lift up the status of the Boleyns. However, Anne is a little too kooky and powerful for the King, and he takes a like to Mary. I believe they actually had a long relationship with several children produced, but it's very condensed in the movie to less than a year. Then Anne returns from being punished and has acquired lots of feminine wiles to charm the King while in France. This is understated in the movie, as she's basically the same before and after, but with a new green dress (from the movie posters) and a new hairstyle. Ultimately, as history recorded, Henry accused her of treason - most likely because she couldn't produce a male heir, and he wanted a different woman, and since he'd already split from Rome it was possible to just get rid of Anne - and she was beheaded. Overall, it's a movie that fudges the edges of history to tell an interesting story that's often kept in the background. However, I'd recommend Showtime's The Tudors if you're actually interested - it's much more graphic and detailed (since it's a series it has the time to tell a better story), and the actress who plays Anne, Natalie Dormer, is much more subtle in her portrayal, you believe she might have some witchcraft going on (which is what she's later accused of along with treason). Finally, the thing about The Other Boleyn Girl that drove me nuts was the costumes, specifically the women's headdresses. They changed too frequently to be accurate for the rest of the timeline, and were incredibly distracting. Kristin Scott Thomas, who is pretty terrific as the mother watching her daughters be moved around like chattel, wears the same one throughout the movie and in one scene it even catches the light and looks like a complicated electronic birdhouse displayed on her head.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First Impressions

I don't have time right now to post my reviews of the movies I've seen this week, but here are my first impressions:

Fool's Gold: 3 of 5 stars. Not terrible, fun treasure hunting story, pretty bad acting, and little chemistry between the stars.

The Other Boleyn Girl: 4 of 5 stars. Very well done, excellent acting, great story, very distracting costumes, and terrible cinematic quality (they keep shooting through holes or behind screens, every thing was out of focus).

Definitely, Maybe: 3.5 of 5 stars. Not wonderful, but good entertainment. The storytelling is excellent, but not funny enough for a romantic comedy.

I'll write more about these movies, but wanted to record my first impression.