Wednesday, July 30, 2008

LAMB Action Hero Roommate: Round Two

Thanks to all your support, dear readers, Lara Croft and I made into Round 2 of the LAMB Action Hero. We're up against John McClane from the Die Hard series of films. The idea is to argue who would make the better roomate. Go check it out if you have a chance, and of course vote for Lara!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 1991

Year: 1991
Film: Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Box Office Gross: $204,843,350
Awards: Won 4 Academy Awards for effects, make-up and sound
Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

This movie is iconic in so many ways, at least in my mind. "Hasta la vista, baby" was so common when I was in middle school. And Linda Hamilton's totally ripped arms paved the way for all skinny, muscular women. Also, if I remember correctly the CGI technology was really cutting edge at the time, and for the most part still stands up as unique and innovative. The liquid metal bad guy was a wholly new character that has been mocked, repeated, and parodied many times. Anyway, Terminator 2 is more of the story of John Connor and the Terminator series from the future. It's a battle between humans and technology, but trying to alter the future by changing the past. John Connor sends back in time a Terminator (Schwarzenegger) to protect his teenage self. Sarah Connor has been locked up in a mental hospital because she kept telling people about the first Terminator (who tried to kill John) and the future of computers taking over the world. The new Terminator returns and he meets up with John (Furlong, in the only terrific role he ever played) and vows to protect him. They break Sarah out of the hospital and try to change the future by stopping the computer guy who invents all the bad computers. I'm sure there's some sort of time-travel paradox going on, but they don't explain it, and those problems make my head hurt. They spend a lot of time being chased by the bad Terminator 1000 (Patrick), the liquid mental guy. The chase scenes are pretty standard for an action movie, but the little nuances are pretty great - like the hubcap-like injuries the T-1000 gets, and the fact that they use mack trucks to chase each other as if they're sports cars. The final scene in the factory with lots of molten metal and sparks and such is very Die Hard-esque. I still like this movie, and even like the TV version of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The acting is not terrific throughout, but it's definitely perfect for the movie it's trying to create.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon)

I saw a preview for this ages ago and was intrigued. I generally like foreign language films and am a sucker for stories about kids triumphing. So I was definitely not disappointed by La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon). It's the story of Carlitos, a 9-year-old Mexican boy with the heart, personality and wisdom of an adult. He lives with his sick grandmother in Mexico while his mother works 2 jobs in L.A. sending money home. She calls from a payphone every Sunday morning and her little boy gets all dressed up to wait for her call at his own payphone. Everything falls apart in Mexico when the grandmother dies, and Carlitos decides it's time to get himself to the U.S. and be with his mother. He has met some "coyotes" who are willing to bring him across the border at El Paso in a hidden compartment in their car (America Ferrara from Ugly Betty is one of them, very disappointing performance). While they don't get caught at the border, Carlitos ends up on his own, but on the U.S. side. His many adventures include meeting a bunch of migrant workers and picking tomatoes, hitch hiking with a mariachi band, and working washing dishes in a diner. He meets some people who are willing to help him, and more than a few wanting to hurt him too. His mother's story is interwoven with Carlitos adventures, and her story is the one of illegal immigrants we've seen several times before (the only good storyline in Babel). However, the actress is good, convincing, and plays a strong woman working for horribly wealthy people (some nice, some not) in an insecure job and trying to take care of her family back home. It's a wonderfully sweet story and the personality of the lead character, Carlitos makes the whole story work. It's not overly sappy or saccharine, and bad things you'd expect to happen, do find their way into the story, but the triumph of the human spirit wins out in the end. Great film, highly recommend it.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dark Knight wasn't as scary as I thought...

Don't get me wrong, I jumped in my seat a few times during The Dark Knight, but I only had to actually look away once when they showed "Two-faced" and his new face. Overall, I really liked the movie, and was totally blown away by Heath Ledger and his Joker. He was definitely aware of Nicholson's version of the Joker, but created his own character and held it perfectly. He had an affected voice that worked to make him scary but not ridiculous. So much fun. I won't go through all the plot because knowing the story would give away too much. My big criticism would be that Christian Bale seems to growl all his lines as Batman, and his upper lip doesn't move because of the mask. But the other actors were all terrific - I LOVE Gary Oldman. And Maggie Gyllenhaal was an excellent replacement for Katie Holmes. You could follow her attitude and understand when she was pissed at Bruce and why. And as supporting characters Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine shone. They were memorable without being distracting. I highly recommend this one. 4 of 5 stars.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 2001

Year: 2001
Film: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Box Office Gross: $317, 557, 891
Awards: Nominated for 3 Academy Awards
Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane

Five of the top 50 highest grossing movies are the Harry Potter series, but only one was the highest grossing movie of its year. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in the series and the highest grossing. I doubt there are any people who haven't seen the movie, or read the book, or at least know who Harry Potter is, but I like writing so here it goes. Harry Potter is an eleven-year-old, orphaned British boy who lives a fairly tortured existence with his aunt, uncle and cousin. On his birthday letters start arriving that freak out his family such that they run away to a cabin. The cabin door is knocked down and Hagrid, a half-giant, appears to wish Harry a happy birthday and make sure he received his letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is of course a wizard. He arrives at school to find out his whole life is known to all wizards as he managed to survive an attack from the worst wizard ever - Lord Voldemort. Harry meets friends, Ron Weasley (Grint) and Hermione Granger (Watson) and they learn magic and attempt to survive Voldemort's return.

I love the Harry Potter books, and the movies do a terrific job of capturing the spirit of the world of Harry Potter. The first one has the optimism and hope that the first book is about, and as the books got darker as Harry grows up and the danger increases. There is of course debate about the two Dumbledores - Richard Harris (for the first 2 movies) and Michael Gambon (for 3-7). I think Harris captured the older grandfatherly role of Dumbledore better, but I'm not sure Harris could have pulled off the powerful wizard Dumbledore needs to be in later books, so perhaps its a fortunate coincidence that Gambon was able to take over the role. I think these movies won't be the epitome of film making that perhaps the LOTR series will be, or even the genre changing that the Star Wars movies are, but they're wonderful family movies that will definitely stand the test of time. Which of the 5 so far is your favorite movie? I love the 3rd one, Prisoner of Azkaban, with Gary Oldman as Sirius Black!
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: delayed

Sorry, abdominal surgery yesterday has put me behind a bit. This will be posted sometime this week. Hopefully tomorrow! Plus, reviews of the Dark Knight and Mamma Mia this weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Swimming Upstream

I generally enjoy sports movies: the excitement, the underdog coming out victorious, overcoming obstacles, etc. There's a lot to like. So when Netflix recommended Swimming Upstream and I saw that it starred Jesse Spencer (from House), Geoffrey Rush, and Judy Davis, I thought I'd probably enjoy it. Oh, and did I mention I swam competitively for 6 years and can't wait for the Olympics. Swimming Upstream is the story of an Australian family with an abusive macho father (Rush) and 4 sons. The father is continually pitting his boys against each other, letting one box the other unfairly. Eventually, he sees his 2 middle sons (Spencer and Tim Draxl) racing in the local pool, and turning his attention away from his eldest son, he begins training the two swimmers. They train together for years, advancing through the ranks in Australian swimming competitions - luckily in different events, Spencer in backstroke and the other in freestyle. Because Rush seems to only have capricious affection for even his children, he devotes his training to the younger freestyler. However, he doesn't have the heart to compete that Spencer has and fails to live up to his father's expectations. You'd expect the father to turn his attention to the winning Spencer, but he doesn't seem to care, and returns to drinking and battering his family at home. Spencer begins to train on his own, and ultimately makes the Australian Olympic team to compete in Tokyo. There are many ups and downs along the way, but as it's an autobiographical story, it was easy to see that the ending would come out okay.

The acting is superb. Spencer plays a loving son, devoted to his mother, who works hard to succeed, and strives to lead a better life than his father did. He tries repeatedly to gain the approval of his father. Rush deftly denies all affection, while always holding out hope that it might be attained. It's a sad, strained relationship, but Judy Davis as the mother is terrific at making you believe there was enough love and hope in the house that the family would stay together. Most dramas like this of families lack that reason and thus you can't really believe the story. It's a terrific movie, particularly if you like swimming. Even if you don't, you can cheer for the winners.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 1994

Year: 1994
Film: Forrest Gump
Box Office Gross: $ 329,691,196
Awards: 6 Academy Awards, Best Picture, Best Actor for Tom Hanks, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing
Actors: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise, and Haley Joel Osment

In 1994, I was in high school and many of the historical references in Forrest Gump went right past me. It's one of the reasons it holds up so well. It doesn't spend much time carefully explaining historical events, but rather explores how they affected or were affected by a single person. So as you learn more about history yourself, Forrest provides another glimpse at something you didn't notice before. It starts in the early 1950s, with a young Elvis Presley staying at Forrest's mother's boarding house and learning his signature move from Forrest dancing with leg braces. With the help of his best friend Jenny, Forrest navigates high school, and even college since he could run really fast on the football field. After college he joins up to fight in the war in Vietnam, and given that he only does what people tell him to do, he fits right in. He knows right from wrong and saves a whole bunch of people, including his CO, Lt. Dan (Sinise). There are a lot of effects where Forrest gets to meet with various president's too, from JFK, Johnson, and Nixon. Since social niceties escape Forrest, he doesn't notice much about them other than they're "nice young men". During his stint in the Army, Forrest meets Benjamin Beuford Blue "Bubba". Bubba teaches Forrest all about shrimping. And even though Bubba doesn't survive the war, Forrest goes into the shrimping business with Lt. Dan. Through all his adventures, Forrest thinks about Jenny. Finally, Jenny calls to Forrest to come see her and they end up together raising their son.

This was an incredibly creatively done movie that doesn't really try to judge history, but show funny intersections that might have happened. The performance by Hanks (one year after Philadelphia won him his first Oscar) is terrific. He's consistently innocent, polite, informative, loyal, and non-judgemental. The Oscar nominated score gets me every time. I love the intro and conclusion of the movie following the feather with the great music by Alan Silvestri. This is also one of the best soundtracks ever. It's strange to look back at 1994 and see that Forrest Gump competed with The Shawshank Redemption (No. 2 on IMDB's top 250) and Pulp Fiction (No. 5) with Forrest only making it to No. 51. Forrest Gump only outgrossed another 1994 movie, The Lion King, by $1million. It just goes to show how high-class 1994 was. The catch-phrases from this movie have also held up pretty well, "Run, Forrest, Run" and "Life is Like a Box of Chocolates" are pretty common around my house. Also, the Bubba Gump Shrimp company is now a franchised seafood restaurant. Not sure what that says about the movie itself, but the movie's definitely ingrained into our consciousness.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, July 13, 2008

WALL E and Robot Love

Everyone's been writing about how great the new Pixar movie Wall-E is, and I won't be any different. It's sort of the animated love-child of Star Wars (only Episode 4) ET: The Extraterrestrial, that was raised by 2001: A Space Odyssey. Our hero Wall-E is left on Earth for 700 years to help clean up garbage left by a Walmart-esque explosion of consumerism. All the humans have left to tour the galaxy in a luxury space ship until all the WallEs are finished cleaning. Wall-E creates massive buildings of garbage and finds little treasures along the way (reminded me of Ariel in The Little Mermaid collecting her human thingymabobs and whatchamakalits). He particularly likes a video of Hello, Dolly and his greatest aspiration is to hold hands with someone he loves. Since he's alone on Earth with only a cockroach, he just continues dreaming. However, a space probe lands on Earth, and EVE gets out. She seems to be searching for something, and she and WALL-E meet and try to communicate (though in the constant struggle that is technology upgrading, they don't quite speak the same language). However, WALL-E falls for our giggly EVE. He shows her his treasures (a light bulb, a Rubik's cube, etc.) and even a plant he discovered. She shuts down and waits for transport, because she's obviously been looking for plant life again. They end up on the human space ship where people have stopped walking (they are carted around all day and waited on by robots). The robots haven't quite taken over, but you can feel HAL wanting to reprimand Dave from time to time. Of course since the movie is Pixar all things work out well, but the climactic fight scene is awesome. You want humans to figure out they've lost something, and you want Robots to find love. It's a great movie that everyone should see. Little kids will love it. My heart nearly melted toward the end when a very little kid in the theater wondered aloud to his mom, "Will WALL-E be okay?" It's a testament to the heart-warming qualities of the movie that I didn't want to kill the kid for talking at the theater. No special circle of hell for me...WALL-E saved me. 5 LAMBS/stars

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hancock is an original

There was a dilemma at the movieplex last night and my boyfriend won, so we saw Hancock. I'd been swayed by the mixed to bad reviews, and my own dislike for I Am Legend so I was pretty sure I wasn't going to bother with Hancock in the theater. I'm really glad I did. There is a lot more, for a change, to the movie than the previews even begin to reveal. The story becomes complicated, without becoming overly action based. I don't want to spoil the twists because not knowing what to expect actually made the movie that much better. Basically the previews reveal the first 20-30 minutes. Hancock is a rough, drinking, damaged super-powered a**hole. He resents having to take care of people and not knowing where he comes from. He damages more things than he saves when helping police and citizens. Then he saves Jason Bateman from a train. In the process of saving him, he derails the train. Bateman is in PR and decides he can help improve Hancock's image if he can make the people want him again instead of resenting him. Hancock spends some time in jail and of course crime increases and they want him back. There are quite a few laugh out loud moments. Lots of fairly standard superhero tricks, but since it's Will Smith, they're not quite as cliched as usual. It's also a love story of a sort with a little magic and history thrown in. I liked it and was surprised by its originality and the boyfriend really liked it. 4 of 5 stars from us.

PS - for Friday Night Light fans, you'll see two prominent characters in small roles.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 2005

Year: 2005
Film: Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
Box Office Gross: $380,262,555
Awards: Hayden Christensen won a Razzie for worst supporting performance
Actors: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz

I didn't intend to review 2005 and 2006 back to back, but this year's movie was on TV in the past week and I was able to tape it rather than review from memory. The movie that linked the new Star Wars trilogy with the old was hugely anticipated, as it was hopefully going to show how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. It starts with Obi-wan and Anakin trying to rescue the Chancellor and defeat General Grievous (a coughing robot leader). They do rescue the Chancellor, but Anakin is told to kill Count Dooku rather than prosecute him. Anakin starts to go over to the dark side and follow more and more of Chancellor Palpatine's (Darth Sidious) evil plans. Of course along the way we find out that Anakin's secret marriage to Padme has produced a child (children). They can't tell anyone or Anakin will get in trouble with the Jedi Council and Padme might get kicked out of the senate. Unfortunately, Anakin keeps having nightmares that Padme dies in childbirth and becomes obsessed with finding enough power to prevent that from happening, all leading to becoming Darth Sidious' apprentice and being known as Darth Vader. He has to initiate killing all the Jedi to remove the threat to the Republic. He kills lots of kids and eventually has to fight Obi-wan to the death, and he nearly dies in a lava field. The Emperor saves him, and gives him new arms and legs and such and the breathing mask that made him the Darth Vader we all know and love.

Overall, this movie doesn't disappoint as part of the series. It's leaps and bounds better than Episode 1, and though it doesn't quite reach the level of the original trilogy, it's close. The major problem I have with it is still Hayden Christensan. He's a dreadful actor throughout the movie. He doesn't play either the loving husband and future father nor the power hungry Sith with anything approaching real emotion. Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits do a good job with occasionally schticky dialogue. Natalie Portman also suffers trying to act opposite Christensen and it makes her emotion seem overdone. Oh well, it was still a good movie and worth watching. There's a moment where a robot kicks R2D@ and he falls over. It's just a tiny little scene, but cracks me up every time.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Lara Croft is a better roommate than Batman!

Hey all, check out the new superhero roommate battle at the LAMB! Be sure to vote for Lara Croft!

Monday, July 7, 2008

This is just cool...

A friend put the post on her blog, so I thought I'd share with you all too. Check out this video - my favorite part is the scene in India. It's just amazing to watch.

Then, after you've seen the movie itself, check out its outtakes on YouTube.

It's even made an appearance at the New York Times!! This article describes more about it than I could ever have found out. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tuesdays Top-Grossing Reviews: 2006

Year: 2006
Film: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Box Office Gross: $423,032,628
Awards: Oscar and BAFTA (Best Achievement in Visual Effects), People's Choice, Teen Choice,
Actors: Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightly, Orlando Bloom, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy, Stellan Starsgaard, Tom Hollander

In the second week of this feature I watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the highest grossing film (in the U.S. - clarification that I'm only using U.S. highest grossing, rather than global gross). I loved the first in this series, Curse of the Black Pearl, and was really excited for both the second and third installments. However, rewatching Dead Man's Chest was a little disappointing. It's just not as much fun as the first one. We meet up with our main characters as Knightly's wedding to Bloom is destroyed and they are arrested for trying to help Depp's iconic Jack Sparrow (sorry, Captain Jack Sparrow) escape from prison. In exchange for their freedom they have to track Jack down and retrieve the compass he carries and bring it back to the Dutch East India Company who are trying to rid the seas of pirates. They find Jack, but he's trying to remove a curse put on him by Davey Jones (Nighy). He's trying to find Davey Jones' heart. This involves looking for a key to unlock the chest that holds it, then finding the chest. Meanwhile Davey Jones is trying to kill Jack with the Kraken (a mythical octopus type sea creature that can destroy ships). They chase around for quite a while and ultimately we find out Jack has been sent to hell of a sort by jumping into the mouth of the Kraken to save the other ships. The rest of them mourn his loss with the crazy sorceress lady in the marshes. And in the last seconds Captain Barbossa returns and they all swear to get Jack back At World's End. There's also a subplot where Bloom is trying to free his father, Bootstrap Bill (Skarsgaard) from servitude to Davey Jones. Confusing and distracting for most of it, but building up for the final film. There was just too much set up in this film and not enough humor and careful plot direction. I liked it, and expect it grossed the most in 2006 because the first film was so good, and this continued the characters in a respectable, if not superior, way. Definitely didn't hold up to the high standard the first one did upon rewatching.
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