Saturday, January 31, 2009

Superbowl Commercials

There's a place to go to vote for the Superbowl's best commercials. However, none of my favorites were actually on there. So, since I have a blog, here are my favorite Superbowl commercials.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Well, it's a pretty fast turnaround for a sequel review, but I saw Hellboy II: The Golden Army to participate in the LAMB devours the Oscar event coming up soon. So I figured I could write my own review in addition to writing up my summary of Best Achievement in Make-up. So the sequel picks up soon after the original. Our hero Hellboy has been pursuing his relationship with Liz (the fire-starter who has learned to control it) and they're into the standard mid-relationship fighting stage except that when Liz gets really mad, the clothes get burned up rather than picked up. Anyway, agent Myers has been transferred away, and a new agent has been brought in to keep Hellboy in line. Johann Kraus is a German, ectoplasmic being, which is to say he's a ghost that can inhabit a mechanical body and thus interact with people. He's annoying and sticks to the book through all the missions, though Hellboy of course likes to break all the rules. So they're sent to figure out why all these "tooth fairies" were put upon an auction house (they're called tooth fairies cause they eat people starting with the teeth!). It all leads back to Prince Nuada, the Prince of the Elves who ages ago made a truce with the humans that the King wants to continue to honor but the Prince wants to fight. Back in the day, the King commissioned an unbeatable army to be controlled by he who wears the crown. The Prince was seeking pieces of the crown so he could command the armies and kill the humans (hence the auction house), the other pieces are within the King and Princess Nuala. After the Prince kills his father to get a piece, Nuala runs off (so she won't be killed for the final piece - in the picture), and runs into Abe Sapien, Hellboy's aquatic sidekick. Basically, it's a good continuation of the original story (that Hellboy can fight the demons cause he's witty, big and somewhat indestructible). Guillermo del Toro amped up his gues monsters with a demon missing his legs and a witchy monster with her eyes on her wings. There's just the right amount of fighting, a lots of Hellboy one-liners. I'm guessing this will become a trilogy, but we'll see if everyone jumps in again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DVD Round Up

It's that time of year when I try to catch up with any of the Oscar nominees available on DVD that I haven't yet seen, so here's the reviews of two movies that couldn't be more different. First, Man on Wire, a film nominated for Best Documentary Feature (along with The Betrayal, Encounters at the End of the World, The Garden, and Trouble the Water). It's the story of an act of wonder and awe that took place in 1974 in New York City that would no longer be possible today. Philipe Petit describes how he and some friends managed to rig a wire between the newly built Twin Towers and how he wirewalked for 45 minutes at 1350 feet in the air, without any sort of net or protective equipment. He previously had walked between the towers of Notre Dame de Paris, and the Sydney Bridge in Australia, both of which were illegal. They carefully describe sneaking into the unfinished top floors of the WTC, avoiding guards, stringing the wire, and then the wonder that accompanied doing something like that just because you can. Petit is a masterful performer and has such a whimsical character that watching him describe his own dreams of doing this is fun and engaging too. Just given it's popularity, I'm guessing this will win the Oscar. If you're a Netflix subscriber (and own a PC or Roku) you can stream this movie through them. 4 Lamb/Stars

The other movie I saw was Hellboy, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (the mastermind behind Pan's Labyrinth). I told you the pairing was as random as it gets. But the reasoning for watching the first Hellboy is that the sequel was nominated for Best Achievement in Make-up, which is the category I will be documenting in the 2009 LAMB devours the Oscars feature over at the LAMB. I figured I might as well see the first one before watching the second (I've always been someone who took homework seriously!). My dad was a huge fan when it came out, so I knew it couldn't be that bad, and it wasn't. It's very funny, somewhat confusing, a little scary, and very sci-fi fantastic. This is what I think it's about. It starts during WWII, where we see a group of soldiers in Scotland trying to figure out some paranormal activity. We later learn it was Rasputin (advisor to the Czars of Russia) trying to unlock the power between worlds, which if the Nazis gain control of, they'll win the war. Our brave soldiers thwart their effort, cause things to go wrong, and somehow bring forth a devil-boy nicknamed Hellboy. He's kept undercover by the FBI, but brought out to solve crimes involving monsters. We see where he's been raised by Prof. Broom at the FBI Bureau of Paranormal Research. A new agent, Myers, has been assigned to assist Hellboy, and meets his sidekick, Abe Sapien (an aquatic contortionist acted by Doug Jones and voiced by David Hyde Pierce) who can see the past in objects. They also used to have another roommate, Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a fire-starter who now lives in a mental facility. Anyway, Rasputin returns in the modern age and our group of misfits has to go off and make sure he stays dead this time. Ron Perlman (from the old TV show Beauty and the Beast) is Hellboy, "Red", trying to fit in better by filing off his horns (hence the stubs on his forehead that always confused me) and having a wicked sense of humor. It's a very funny movie and I can't wait to see the next one. It almost makes me want to see Pan's Labyrinth just to see more of del Toro's work, but we'll see.

Monday, January 26, 2009

SAG awards, lots of fun.

There weren't a lot of surprises at the SAG awards last night (though I liked that Meryl Streep admitted she hadn't even bought a dress cause she didn't think she'd win). When Sean Penn won for Milk, he even said that now that TV people have their horse race for the Oscar (between him and Mickey Rourke). As expected "30 Rock" took all TV comedy awards (cast, actor, actress), and "John Adams" gave Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti more of their due (it's such a great mini-series, that I'm not upset they keep winning). The part I actually look foward to about the SAG awards is the opening sequence when they put the camera on lots of actors who give 30 second stories about how they became actors - Will Arnett and Steve Carrell were really funny. I enjoyed watching the whole show, and for the most part, everyone was dressed in fun, appropriate dresses (though Amy Adams looked pretty strange with "boob cups" on top of a pretty dress, which thankfully don't photograph the same way they looked on TV). Be sure to check out the LAMB soon as we all start discussing the nonminees and predicting winners.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bride Wars review

Bride Wars is not for everyone - it's unapologetically a chick flick. There's even a moment in the film when the brides are asked if they need to consult their fiancees and they of course answer no. I don't think I know a guy who would love Bride Wars except maybe to watch them torture each other, but even then it's still so girly that few guys will enjoy it. Basically, two best friends (Oscar nominees Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway) get engaged at nearly the same time, and their dream since childhood is a June wedding at the Plaza hotel in New York City. They gloss over how ridiculously expensive that would be with one of them having a high paying law job and the other saving for 10 years. Anyway, they go to a wedding planner (Candice Bergen) who accidentally books their weddings the same day, causing a problem in having each other as their maid of honor. Rather than fixing it with either a double wedding or some sort of slightly staggered wedding they insist someone must change their date. They refuse, become enemies and start sabotaging the weddings. Bad tans, hair dye, scheduling snafus, etc. follow before a very sweet, but not treacly, reconciliation toward the end. It's a cute movie, go with your best friend ladies. Also, I loved seeing Chris Pratt (Everwood) as one of the fiancees (that's him in the picture with Anne). 3 lambs/stars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DVD Roundup

I'll start with a movie I've reviewed before, and just recently watched several times on DVD - the incomparable Juno. Lately I've not been interested enough in most of the movies I've seen to bother with any additional material on the DVD, but as I wrote before, there's just something about Juno that you want to know more about the actors or characters. The gag reel on the DVD is terrific, as you'd expect from these amazing comedic actors - with Jason Batemen making fun of Arrested Development. Also, the deleted scenes were perfectly edited out, but great additions to the DVD. Still a 5 star movie.The second movie I saw on DVD is Ed Harris' Appaloosa, a standard western with several very classic male stereotypes very well played by Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons, a somewhat unique female character (either a horribly played character by Renee Zellweger or a horrible character well-played, I can't really decide) and a story that starts out great but falls off the rails. To get other perspectives, here's the link to the LAMBs opinions back when it was in theaters. Harris and Mortensen are legal guns for hire that have arrived in Appaloosa to rid the town of the notorious bad guy Randall Bragg (Irons). They make the rules and eventually get enough evidence to arrest Bragg, and spend a lot of time keeping him alive and arrested long enough to stand trial. Meanwhile, an odd young woman, Mrs. French (Zellweger) arrives in town looking for a man. She hooks up with Harris who thinks he loves her and the movie sort of follows her hooking up with any dominant stallion-type man who might protect her. What I meant by somewhat unique about her character is that rarely have we seen women so subtly switch between men. She's certainly a whore trying to live respectably, but doesn't bother with the niceties of breaking up with one man while pursuing another. Not a very stereotypical female character in westerns. The main reason to watch Appaloosa is Viggo Mortensen. He has a weird facial hair situation that seems appropriate to the time and place, but it's his subtle loyalty to Harris' leader and his own sense of right and wrong appearing to lead him too. I'd give it 2.5 stars/Lambs, for poor editing (should have been about 20 minutes shorter) and Zellweger's bad acting.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New shows...Sci-fi and Fantasy?

The final episodes of Battlestar Galactica returned this Friday, revealing new mysteries again, while finally giving us a good hint at who the final cylon-in-disguise might be. Of course, then as a lovely twist they give us TWO possibilities. However, the real reasons to watch the show are as always, Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell. They've both taken on huge responsibility for saving the human race, and were convinced that the way to Earth would prove them correct. Now that they've arrived at Earth and it's another nuked civilization, their internal conflict, self-doubt and just plain old fear makes the story even more perplexing. Can't wait to see where the rest of the season goes (particularly Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck).

In fun twist of advertising, Showtime's new show The United States of Tara starring the remarkably versatile Toni Collette with dissociate identity disorder - meaning she has 4 distinct personalities - was made available on Netflix streaming or Roku, at least for a few more days. Written by Oscar winner Diablo Cody and produced by Stephen Spielberg, the pilot gives a glimpse into what could be a fantastic series. While pilots tend to be written to get a series ON the air, and a good show has to be KEPT on the air, this pilot at least was worth watching, even if I don't get to see another episode. Toni Collette is amazing, you can watch her take on new personalities as her primary (Tara) can't deal with something emotionally. The first "alter" we meet is "T" who is about 16 and dresses and acts like it. She comes on when Tara can't deal with the fact that her daughter is having sex. John Corbett (Sex and the City) is Tara's husband, and has dealt with the alters for years and the two of them have tried to figure out how to have a marriage and raise two pretty tolerant kids when "Mom" isn't always available. I can't wait to see the rest.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Return of "Friday Night Lights"

The wonderful "Friday Night Lights" is returning to NBC tomorrow (1/16) night. Yes, it's on a Friday night (which given the name makes it easy to find, so watch it). I've seen most of this season already thanks to a friend with Direct TV. And it's terrific. For those of you who hung around through the disastrous second season, you will be rewarded for your loyalty if you return to watch the third season. It's much more of the feeling of the first season, focused on football, and of course the personal relationships between the kids and adults, and even the graduates. This show does what other teen-based shows have never accomplished - actually sending off the kids who graduate in a way that makes you sure they'll continue being the characters you love. The incredible strength of the writing of this show lies in its ability to move characters around but still keep us interested in where they've gone. As for previews of the upcoming season - our wonderful graduate Brian "Smash" Williams (Gaius Charles) finally finds his way forward. Matt Saracen (Zack Gilford) will have some pretty difficult things to deal with, but of course finds a way to still be a good person and look for help from the many people who can help him. Tyra (Adrianne Palicki) falls back into her old ways, but eventually realizes she's still just a teenager and can't really act like an adult all the time. And finally, the dialogue between our favorite married couple just gets better and better. Please tune in to see this show, so we can have another season!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

L.A.M.Blog-a-thon: Chapter 3 REMAKES

This post is part of the L.A.M.Blog-thon Chapter 3 regarding remakes.

There are lots of movies that have sequels that are really remakes (Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008)) and movies that are updated versions of previous movies (The Women (1939) and The Women (2008)). And successful or not (The Women 2008), sometimes stories do benefit from updating, and others are just such good stories that everyone should have a chance to see the actors from their generation recreate the vision. However, that requires holding up all the standards that the original used to make its mark. The version that bothers me most and actually prevents me watching the remake more than 3-4 minutes at a time is Pride and Prejudice. The BBC mini-series version is the gold standard for all costume dramas. Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy have chemistry, charisma and created a believable tension that was actually resolved before they fall in love. The sets and costumes are impeccable, the characters traveling around England that looks like they're in Jane Austen's time. The pace of the film mirrors the writing and the details are perfect, with Mr. Collins moving from the pages into the slimy, sycophantic character we all know him to be. However, in remaking this into a feature film with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen in the lead roles. They're fine, though Macfadyen is so good at being the brooding Mr. Darcy that you never find a reason Elizabeth falls in love with him. The dialogue is trimmed from the original Austen texted, and occasionally diverging from her words to create new ones (less good ones!). But what bothers me are the details, the costumes are inconsistent, inappropriate and Keira Knightly always appears windblown and frumpy when all women of the period did was make sure they looked good. The movie exaggerates all the character traits - Elizabeth doesn't care about what people think of her, Mr. Darcy is super pompous, and Mrs. Bennett perfectly shrill. However, the people of Austen's time were more about understatement than exaggeration. It just doesn't represent the original work well, nor does it represent a good remake of the BBC version.

Here's a link to the best scene in the BBC version. They have it on YouTube, but won't let you embed it. And below is a scene from the Keira Knightly version. Just look at how different the costumes are put together.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Prince Caspian DVD review

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is the second in the series, and since Disney just passed on Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I'm guessing it'll be the last one for a while. I liked The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardobe and was impressed by the young actors that carried the movie. Actually, the special effects carries the first movie, and luckily they used fewer special effects and a little more story instead. The movie picks up with Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter a year after they've returned from saving Narnia from the White Queen. They're not happy being students again after ruling Narnia as kings and queens. However, a thousand years have passed in the Narnia universe and another human kingdom has risen up with its own problems - Prince Caspian has been ousted by his evil uncle and fled into the forest. Just before he leaves he's given Susan's horn. When he's attacked by Narnians, whom he thought were extinct, he blows the horn, which recalls our kids from England. The story continues really creatively (following the book if memory serves) with our kids trying to figure out why things are so different and what's changed. They meet up with Trumpkin, a Narnian being killed by humans in a brilliant performance by an unrecognizable Peter Dinklage, who takes them through Narnia to find Prince Caspian. They join forces and try to defeat Caspian's uncle and his armies. The movie is long (145 minutes), but if you fast forward all the battle scenes it's only about 110 minutes, which is just right. It's easy to tell which scenes you need to see, there's fewer than 10 people in them. Like all of C.S. Lewis' books, there is lots of very clear Christ imagery, with the people doubting the return of Aslan failing to conquer, but the believers triumph. There's a moment of trying to make a deal with the devil (The White Queen in great special effects), and then God images appearing to smite the evil ones. It's not overwhelming, but clearly present. The acting is pretty good, the story fantastic, and the special effects don't get in the way. The fight scenes are too long, but with a remote in hand, it can be taken care of, no sweat. Good kids entertainment. 3.5 Lambs/Stars

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Globes review

I really like awards shows. I'm probably in the minority, but I do enjoy them, and I watch nearly all of them. I really liked the Golden Globes last night, it's organized, but rarely goes too far. Why can't the Oscars be hosted but still have such a great quick flow? They gave away 25 awards last night, and the Cecil B. DeMille award. The Oscars is almost exactly the same, yet it always takes much longer, and though there are more technical awards that few people viewed or understand the nominees (live action short, documentary short, etc.) so that's less exciting than seeing famous people win awards, they still should be able to get through them faster. Anyway, since I haven't yet been able to see Slumdog Millionaire, I guessed wrong on quite a few awards, but got all the TV awards correct - it's definitely the year of "30 Rock" and "John Adams". They did really well. I was surprised Gabriel Byrne won over Jon Hamm, but he won last year and actually this season he was pretty confusing (still good, but not rock solid like the first season), so that made sense too. And totally thrilled Anna Paquin won for "True Blood", she's terrific.
For the movie awards I was really surprised and happy that Colin Farrell won for In Bruges. He was really good, and probably deserves a little recognition for that. I will definitely see Slumdog Millionaire after all the awards it picked up - Best Picture - Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Original Score. It must just be a wonderful, unique drama. Can't wait. Kate Winslet's acceptance speeches were wonderfully heartfelt. She was self-deprecating joking about how she's not used to winning. Given that she's often been nominated for Oscars, I assumed she'd won Golden Globes (there are twice as many nominees given the drama and comedy categories) but no, these were her first two Golden Globes as well. I hope she finally gets her Oscar. I haven't seen either The Reader or Revolutionary Road yet, but she's obviously done fantastic work in the past, so I can believe she was able to give two tours de force in a single year. It was a terrific evening of winning, with the added bonus of getting to see Steven Speilberg's film history.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Seven Pounds review

Ruining the plot of Seven Pounds wouldn't be fair, so this will be a short review. It's a sad movie, which I'm sure you can guess from the previews and yes it contains a love story (Rosario Dawson is good at being sick). Will Smith is terrific. He plays an IRS agent, and puts on the happiest, trustworthy face when he arrives to "audit" people, and yet his inner struggle pervades the rest of the film. It's beautiful, but by showing the different pieces out of order, it takes a long time to understand the mystery and my mom and I were discussing it in the car afterward trying to clarify all the pieces we didn't quite understand. Barry Pepper has a small role as Will's friend and attorney and is the only person who actually understands the whole movie, and his emotion made me cry. Good movie, probably best on DVD. 3 Stars/Lambs

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Random Movie catch up

HBO and Starz had free previews over parts of the holidays and I've been catching up on lots of really random movies I'd never seen. The list I've currently TiVo'd includes Talk to Me, (with Don Cheadle), Alpha Dog, Howard's End, The Fountain, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Across the Universe, December Boys, and I think I love My Wife. So slowly I'll probably review many of these just to give my opinions.

Walk Hard was dreadful. The first hour is a very strange parody of Walk the Line, copying scene by scene the film. John C. Reilly, while a comedic genius, is not as good at playing a faux musician as Joaquin Phoenix was at playing Johnny Cash. It was mostly boring for the first hour, if you've seen Walk the Line. Then it switches to a different time period in music, and he joins up with the Beatles later in their career. I have to say the scenes with the Beatles (Jack Black as Paul McCartney, Paul Rudd as John Lennon, Justin Long as George Harrison and Jason Schwartzman as Ringo Starr) were hysterical. The funny accents and caricatures of the Beatles were perfect and really funny, through the animated acid trip they take with Dewey. The only other good thing about the whole movie was Jenna Fischer as Dewey Cox's love interest (partly a June Carter Cash character). She's just funny playing off Dewey's idiocy. 2 Stars/Lambs

However, Howards End is wonderful and deserved all the accolades it won. Emma Thompson deserved her Oscar win for best Actress. It's a Merchant/Ivory film, with all that that implies, careful directing, even pacing,
and dramatic music creating tension and mystery. Helena Bonham Carter is also terrific (though poorly dressed or made-up compared to all the rest of the cast) arguing with her sister (Thompson) about helping a friend they've made poorer than when they met. It follows the story of the middle class Schlegel sisters who met up with the rich Wilcoxes. The younger Wilcox son jilts Carter, but the families remain friends. Thompson befriends Mrs. Wilcox and leaves Howards End (a huge cottage) to Thompson. However, Mr. Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins) decides not to execute his wife's wishes. However, he befriends the Schlegels and ultimately decides to marry Thompson. Meanwhile Carter has befriended the Basts after she inadvertently steals his umbrella. On advice from Mr. Wilcox, the Schlegels encourage Mr. Bast to find another job, which he does and loses it, becoming poorer. There's lots of class conflict and family conflict usually caused by class conflicts, with an excellent script and dialogue throughout. A wonderful film. 4 stars/lambs. I used to confuse it with Remains of the Day, which also stars Thompson and Hopkins (though as servants) in England.

Monday, January 5, 2009

20 Actresses Meme

I was more than a little surprised when I read Movie Viewing Girl's list of 20 actresses. She said she had trouble coming up with enough actresses, and likes actors better. I think that's probably because more actors get work, and in general get to have more fun or more dramatic careers. However, there are still lots of actresses that I will go to the movies just to see their new film. My list is below - more than half are Oscar winners or nominees and most of the rest are Emmy winners or nominees. I chose my favorite actresses - I realize there are none from earlier movies, but I go to see these actresses, so today they are my favorites.

1. Ellen Page
2. Queen Latifah
3. Nicole Kidman
4. Julia Roberts
5. Zooey Deschenal
6. Emily Deschenal
7. Allison Janney
8. Natalie Portman
9. Anne Hathaway
10. Reese Witherspoon
11. Elizabeth Banks
12. Angelina Jolie
13. Meryl Streep
14. Frances McDormand
15. Emma Thompson
16. Kate Winslet
17. Tina Fey
18. Drew Barrymore
19. Jennifer Garner
20. Lauren Graham

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Yes Man Review

With Jim Carrey I've found it's often hard to tell if the movie will be to your taste (someone always likes his films, same with Adam Sandler. I'm just not often the person their movies are designed for). So with Yes Man, I wasn't sure if it would be a movie I'd like, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was really funny, without being too crazy or cliched. It actually went through some new material and created a unique movie. Jim Carrey is in a part of his life where he avoids his friends, spends lots of time being alone, and is more bored with life than anyone should be. He finally screws up with his best friend (Bradley Cooper) enough to be persuaded to go to a Yes seminar. The guru guy convinces him he should say yes to every opportunity, regardless of whether he wants to. This obviously allows for some hilarity (driving a homeless man around, giving out money, buying things he doesn't want, etc.) but it also gives him new opportunities for improvement (learning to fly a plane, speak Korean, play guitar). The whole of the movie means that he realizes the rut he was living in and that being more open to things allows you to meet new people, experience more things, and understand yourself a bit better. In many other hands this movie would barely make it onto late-night TV, but Jim Carrey adds his little bits of hilarity - covering his face with tape, dressing up as a toddler Harry Potter. The supporting cast is also really good - Zooey Deschanel as his kooky love interest, and Rhys Darby as his hilarious boss Norman. Normal is constantly trying to make friends with Carrey, inviting him to a Harry Potter themed costume party, a big hat party, and finally a 300-themed costume party. Overall, I liked the movie, very good but not great. 3.5 Stars/LAMBS

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bests and Worsts of 2008

My bests list probably won't include many of the future Oscar nominees just because I haven't seen a lot of those movies yet, but it's now 2009, so I'd better wrap up my own bests of 2008. I'll add an addendum if my Oscar picks change my currant bests. Also, I decided to go with two lists, the top 5 I think are the best movies and then 5 that are my favorites, slightly different. I also list some movies worth staying away from.

The Best Movies I've seen this year:

2. The Dark Knight

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

4. Iron Man

5. Burn After Reading

My favorites:


2. Australia

3. Nim's Island

4. W.

5. Step Brothers/Mad Money (not great, but I'll definitely own both of these!)

Worst: Stay Away from These

1. Over Her Dead Body

2. My Best Friend's Girl

3. Smart People

4. Leatherheads