Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hooray!!! Hooray!!!

NBC just renewed their deal with DirecTV for another 2 seasons of Friday Night Lights!

Dardos Award!

I can't believe Rachel over at Rachel's Reel Reviews chose me, but I'm happy to accept the Dardos Award.

“The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.”

Dardos winners must do the following:

1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person who has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

So here are the blogs I'd love to nominate for another Dardo (since I can't renominate Rachel)
They all write lovely thoughtful things about whatever floats their respective boats. And many things do.

1. Buttercup at Buttercup Counts Her Blessings

2. Nerdy Fastionista at Designers' Brew

3. David at Hoping for Something to Hope For

4. Nayana at The Center Seat

5. B-Mama at Gasperini-ville

Monday, March 30, 2009

TV Review: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

I had heard that the late Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella had been in the works to produce a film version of the books by Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. But it showed on the BBC and there didn't seem to be any news on a U.S. premiere or even a DVD option. However, the wonderful HBO saw fit to bring a unique show from Botswana to an American audience. It premiered last night on HBO and will run as a series for about 7 weeks.

I've read all the books in this series, and have even spent some time in Botswana (okay, only 2 days, but none of it was at an airport so I think that counts). One of the things that happens when you've spent time in Africa (in my experience) is that people send you articles, books, pictures, etc. of anything they run across pertaining to Africa. This is how the book came into my possession. I admit, I occasionally brush off these attempts to connect, but I'm so glad I read this series. Smith captures the pace of Africa, and the way of speaking that most Africans use to create a more polite and dignified relationship between people. The books use all the traditional means of address, with Mma (you hum the first syllable and open your mouth for the end mmm..ah) for women of a certain age, and Rra (tiny roll of the r and then it's the same). The names are equally difficult for Americans (and maybe all Westerns to spit out). The main character Mma Precious Ramotswe appears in nearly all scenes and reading her name over and over was a stumbling block when I first started reading the books. The movie makes nearly all of the names and places easier to understand and relate to. The only issue with connecting is that the accent is occasionally difficult to understand when they're also saying new words. There's a British inflection, but a wholly African delivery.

The mini-series stars Jill Scott (Why Did I get Married?) as the traditionally built Mma Ramotswe who has left her tiny village and opened a detective agency in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. She has a keen eye and reads people well. She hires a secretary, the Tony winner and Dreamgirl, Anika Noni Rose, the extremely competent, if always irritating, Mma Grace Makutsi. The other help Mma Ramotswe receives is from a mechanic, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and her neighbor hair-dresser BK (who I don't remember from the books, but is a terrific addition). The premiere follows the set up of the agency and her first 3 cases. It shows some of the darker side of people and of life in Africa, but if you don't want to visit Botswana and Africa after you've seen this mini-series, you best give back your passport. I loved the opening and can't wait for the rest.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

DVD Review: Role Models (more reasons to love Paul Rudd)

My brother recommended Role Models which came out on DVD recently, starring Paul Rudd and Sean William Scott. He thought it was hysterical, and usually I believe him, very much so in this case - I loved it. It's not particularly high brow, but it does take a fairly usual concept - hating your job and letting life pass you by, and having to deal with the consequences - and does some unique stories with it. Rudd and Scott represent a sports drink and one day Rudd goes off the rails and they end up having to serve community service at a Boys and Girls club sort of place, run by the hysterical Jane Lynch. Scott is partnered with a young Bobb'e J. Thompson, with a foul mouth and obviously used to male influences leaving him. Rudd is teamed up with Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin' from Superbad) who enjoys live-action role playing games. They both struggle to get the boys to trust them, and work through their own issues, eventually fighting with each other. Ultimately they all work it out on the "battlefield" and come together (to form the nation of Kiss-My-Anthia - dressed like the band Kiss) to fight against some bad-ass players (the hysterical Ken Jeong as the King). There are lots of laugh really hard out loud moments. I thought it was better written and more believeable than much of the Judd Apatow franchise, with fewer potty jokes and a lot more humor. Watching Scott explain to his kid the great art of "boobie-watching" nearly had me in tears. As always Jane Lynch is just a hairs breath from over-the-top but always on the funny side. 4.5 stars/Lambs

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Vacation catch-up: Brideshead Revisited

This is the final movie I saw on my vacation last week, and I'll start reviewing newer movies I've seen. I haven't read the book upon which Brideshead Revisited is based, nor seen the 1981 mini-series that included every detail of the book. The new movie, with Emma Thompson as the matriarch, Lady Marchmain, married to Michael Gambon's Lord Marchmain and parents of Sebastian and Julia, brings to life a very troubled family. Our main character is an observer who gets too involved. Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), a member of the middle class in England between the wars who is accepted to a good school and meets our dear Sebastian, the younger, gay son of the Marchmains. He falls for Charles and brings him home to Brideshead, an enormous palatial estate that is the home of the Lords Marchmain. Charles is enchanted by the house, and the wealth, and especially by Sebastian's sister Julia. The whole movie is very much of the style of Merchant/Ivory productions, evenly paced, with inuendo rather than explicit descriptions of relationships. We follow Charles Ryder as he makes a career and name for himself as an artist, tries to rescue Sebastian from his own destruction, and then try to create a life with Julia. We can never quite understand all of Charles' motivations. Does he actually love Sebastian or Julia or just Brideshead and the wealth? It's a very good movie if the genre and style appeal to you. 3.5 Lambs/Stars

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vacation Catch-up: Rachel Getting Married

While this was in the theaters where we were, we'd also brought it with us on DVD (courtesy of Netflix) and we chose not to spend the extra money. However, it's a great movie either way you see it. Anne Hathaway is Kym, a recovering addict who has terrorized her family for ages with her addiction so they're constantly wary of everything she does. They won't let her borrow the car, and basically don't trust her with anything. Now she's returned home for her sister, Rachel's, wedding, to find she's not the maid of honor (losing out to a friend, again for lack of trust that Kym would show up for the wedding). Rachel and her fiancee are really laid back and planning very non-traditional wedding, with women wearing saris and friends playing music. The rehersal dinner has everyone giving toasts, and Kym uses hers to attempt the making amends step of her recovery so we watch her basically talk about herself and the stupid things she's done, and basically put down her sister and family. In fact, she tends to make all conversations about her. There's a huge family secret living just under the service of all the wedding activity and it's slowly tearing each character apart, but it's obvious who has dealt with the problem, and who has just ignored it and let it fester. The acting is superb and it's actually a story of fairly funny people trying to survive the traditional ceremony in a non-traditional way while coming to terms with a horrible loss. I liked it and recommend it. 3.5 Stars/Lambs

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I love you, man: review

Some friends showed up last night to surprise me that they actually want to go see, I love you, man and I couldn't have been happier. I love Paul Rudd, from Object of my Affection to Knocked UP, and Jason Segal from "How I met your mother". The ads make the plot fairly clear, Rudd is getting married and has never really had lots of male friends. This seems to make his fiancee nervous, so he tries to go out and meet a guy friend. He gets help from his gay brother - no dinners, sends the wrong message and finally meets Sydney Fife (Segal) at an open house. Fife uses open houses to get free food and meet divorced women. Rudd is intrigued by his honesty and they start hanging out and hitting it off. Of course this makes some of Rudd's manly qualities take over and annoy his fiancee. They jam together playing Rush music, go to concerts, eat and drink and talk about sex and women. Basically, all the things best friends should do. It's very funny without the gross-out humor that Judd Apatow's movies always seem to have. The acting is really good - Paul Rudd is awkward, using stupid phrases on the phone, saying goodbye. He struggles to figure out why he doesn't have guy friends and why not having any has left him without the self-confidence guys provide. Segal was terrific too. He's an unknown quantity, so he pulls off the maybe creepy, maybe genuine friend really well. They're both really funny, and the screenplay is very funny. However, I have one tiny complaint. Men should NEVER wear Uggs with shorts, walking on the beach. Should not be done. 4.5 stars/lambs

Vacation catch-up: Taken

I was nervous going in to see Taken. The ads made it look full of violence and torture, and while that was definitely present, it was more like Bourne than Sin City. Liam Neeson has given up his career as a CIA spy to be closer to his 17-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace). She's still not sure if she can forgive him, but when she asks him to sign papers allowing her to follow U2's European concert tour (he thinks she's going to visit museums in Paris), he relents, and off she goes. She meets a guy at the airport who is obviously scoping them out. When people break into the apartment to kidnap the girls to sell into prostitution, Grace is on the phone with Neeson and he uses all the information to start looking for her. The rest of the movie is Neeson using all his CIA tricks, which are substantial, to dig into the world of Parisian human trafficking. There are quite a few gun fights, a knife fight and a car chase, but it's a terrific thriller. Neeson is incredibly sympathic as the terrified father searching for his daughter, and while surprised and sickened by what he finds, he just keeps going. I really liked it. There were a few moments when it seemed Neeson avoided bullets, by shrugging his shoulders away from them, but that was fine. Overall, 4 Lambs/stars

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vacation Catch-up: Frost/Nixon

Frank Langella is terrific as Richard Nixon and totally deserved his Oscar nomination and Tony awards for this script. I knew it was originally a play, but neither saw nor read the play, so I'm incredibly impressed by how well they created the movie. It was very complete, using locations and sets that I can't imagine on stage. The story follows David Frost (Michael Sheen) and his desire and success in interviewing Nixon after he resigned from office.

I have a theory that it's very difficult to keep track of the events in the 10-20 years surrounding your own birth. This means that things that happened between 1970 and 1990 are fairly difficult for me to keep track of or fully understand. This is because we didn't make it that far in American History in high school (which was after 1990) and I was too young for the 80's to really capture the full extent of what happened. Thus, watching this movie was an amazing history lesson. It's told in a somewhat documentary style of today's reality programs, but still with a cinematic feel, very typical of director Ron Howard. I was impressed by how much depth the story had which is why I think of is an educational movie for those of us born during that gap I mentioned. There's a sense of how different people reacted to Nixon's crimes, whether they were crimes ("I"m saying, when the President does it, that means it's not a crime"), how involved they were and how it affected different people. It's a great movie for any reason, but particularly if you feel like there's a gap in your historical knowledge. The supporting cast, including Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon, and Sam Rockwell is also terrific.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, March 23, 2009

Top Grossing Guesses

My friend Fletch, over at Blog Cabins created this amazing contest for those of us who aren't interested in basketball, or most sports, but love movies. He's challenging us to predict who will take the Top Grossing movie of the summer - will it be Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or Transformers 2 or Up. Possibly Night at the Museum will take it all. Anyway, you too can participate. Just click here to check out the details at Blog Cabins or download this file and send it to him at blogcabins@yahoo.com. It's awesome. I filled out my bracket today and can't wait for September now....you'll forget all about it by then. Fill it out by April 2 as the summer starts early at the movies.

Vacation Catch-up: The Reader

I saw quite a few movies on my vacation so I'm going to write up reviews of all of them, though most cinephiles will have already seen them. What I'd love is to hear what other people also thought of them, or how you agree or disagree with me because even if I read a review on a fellow blogger's site, or a general review, it would have been months ago when these movies opened, so I'm not sure anymore what people thought. First up, The Reader. I actually read the book just before seeing the movie (I don't usually care about having read the book when I see the movie but I remembered it was around and not too long). Both are fantastic. Possibly because I liked the book so much, it colored how I thought about the movie, but I just think the story is fantastic. The acting was good, and the methods the screenwriter and director used to bring a remembered account to life was fantastic. Kate Winslet was terrific, playing Hanna Schmitz, a 30 something trolley car ticket taker who helps our 15-year old hero, Michael Berg, get home when he gets sick right in her doorway. When he returns to say thank you, he sees her putting on her stockings and a sexual relationship evolves. He completely falls for her over the course of a summer. They take a biking trip together, sleep together, bathe together and he reads to her. He reads his school assignments and then things that interest her. You wonder why she wants to be read to so much, but she just seems to enjoy it so much. Hanna leaves without warning one day and Michael is heartbroken and never really recovers. He later attends law school and a seminar that examines a trial going on of female guards from some of the Nazi concentration camps. Surprisingly, to Michael, Hanna is one of the guards on trial now. The rest of the movie follows her trial and sentencing. It's difficult to watch and hearing Winslet deliver the pivotal speech about "what would you have done?" to the judges is just heartrending. Ralph Fiennes plays Michael as an adult and is wonderful struggling with his boyhood love, which he never got over, appearing later as a criminal he has been taught to think of as pure evil. It's a terrific movie and an Oscar worthy performance by Winslet and excellent performances by Fiennes, and David Kross, the younger Michael.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Duplicity: Review

I'm back from vacation (a wonderful sun-filled, food-filled, healing vacation) and will post reviews of the 7 movies I saw this week! I will start with the most recent because I so rarely see movies on opening day, Duplicity. I was excited to see Julia Roberts and Clive Owen again as they did such a good job torturing each other in Closer. As we watched the previous crowd leave the theater, I heard a few times it was quite confusing, so I paid close attention, and have to say it wasn't confusing. Yes, it jumps back and forth in time a bit, but they carefully tell you when it is. The basic plot surrounds Roberts as a ex-CIA agent and Owen as ex-MI6 combining their talents to make their fortune through corporate espionage. It's a long-con so they spend a lot of time trying to plan their way in and out. They're funny together and the movie is reminiscent of the Ocean's series of movies, but not as complicated or funny or satisfying. It was good, with quick, clever dialogue and just the right length. I think it was hard to support people trying to rob from the rich to be really rich. The Robin Hood aspect of most good spy stories just wasn't present. The chemistry between Roberts and Owen was good and they're funny teasing each other, but there's no huge payoff at the end (not really a spoiler - I meant payoff in the sense of getting something out of watching the movie). 3.5 Lambs/stars

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Watchmen: Review

I've never really read comics or graphic novels, but I really like most of the movies based on either. The characters are usually really complex, trying to do good things, but struggling with their identity or personal demons and attempting to make the world a better place. I understand Watchmen changed the face of graphic novels, and from the movie I can see how it would have done that really well. The characters all work to preserve society when traditional methods seem to be failing, but they're not actually superhuman (except Dr. Manhattan, obviously) - they age, can be killed, but do have skills at fighting crime. However, they're not all perfect either. The movie starts with the death of the aged "Comedian" (Jeffrey Dean Morgan - so cute and pretty awesome) as they figure out that someone is killing off the remaining Watchmen. The original Watchmen all started up before WWII and as some aged, younger people took their places. The movie goes on to showcase the back stories of how the remaining Watchmen became who they are, but overall, I didn't care for the movie. It was much too long, and in specific scenes much too violent compared to the dark nature of the rest of the movie. However, the soundtrack was lots of fun, and I appreciated the alternate time, with Nixon in his 5th term. The individual characters were uneven in the story and there wasn't a real leader or hero to care about, except perhaps "Comedian" who we know is dead, see only in flashbacks, and doesn't turn out to be a great guy. There's a moment when Dr. Manhattan disappears where the movie seems to be gaining plot, but Billy Crudup is so unconvincing, that it barely returns to any sort of story. The visual effects were good, but if it doesn't result in a story worth remembering, I wouldn't bother seeing it again. 2 Stars/Lambs

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vacation Break

I'm heading off to warmed climes for the week, so there won't be any posts until I get back, but I've been stalking Fandango to find out what's available, so look for my reviews of Watchmen, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, The Wrestler, Rachel Getting Married and possibly some really new movies like Duplicity, and Race to Witch Mountain. I hope you all have a terrific St. Patrick's Day (Happy 30th Rosie!) and a great week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

DVD Round up: Eagle Eye Encounters

I'm getting better slowly, but still watching mostly DVDs at this point, so you'll have to wait a bit for new reviews, but they should appear in a week or so. For now, I'll just warn you about two movies I didn't like, but really thought I would: the Oscar nominated documentary Encounters at the End of the World and the action flick Eagle Eye.

This year Man on Wire and Encounters at the End of the World were the two nominated documentary features available on DVD before the Oscars so I made an effort to see them. Man on Wire was terrific and fully deserved its win. I can't actually understand why Encounters was nominated except that people saw that Werner Herzog was the director. He narrates his trip to Antarctica to explore who lives there, what they do, and what they study. Now I'm all for science documentaries (Planet Earth, Life of Birds, etc. I've seen them dozens of times) but this was not that at all. He mocks the scientists (who I admit are a motley crew, I've been one of them (in Kenya, not Antarctica) and they're a strange bunch), and tries to explain the usefulness of their science (rarely anything beyond exploration). Herzog also tries to understand what brought them to McMurdo Station and the South Pole. They're not very interesting stories. Herzog also mocks the Station itself rather than his own misconception of what it will look like. It's minimalist and resembles a airport, with metal structures and construction vehicles and, since it's spring, lots of mud. When describing the town that has arisen to support the Station, he laughs that the town has a bowling alley and a yoga studio. I won't bore you with the rest that annoyed me about this movie, but will sum up by saying I didn't care for his style of directing or narrating his own views about the topic as if they were everyone's. Most of the nature images he photographed were beautiful and worthy of being included in an actual documentary on Antartica's beauty. 2 Stars/Lambs

The other movie that I don't think is worth renting is Eagle Eye. Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Rosario Dawson, and Billy Bob Thornton all feature prominently and all did a terrific job with very little plot. From the commercials it's a fun movie with Shia being told what to do by a woman on a phone who can obviously see everything he does. It takes more than 80 minutes before there's any more plot than that. We see "Her" controlling LaBeouf and Monaghan by having them drive through cities while "she" changes the traffic lights and controls cranes. "She" sends them to other cities and has them rob armored cars. However, not until the last 20 minutes to we find out who "she" is and why this story is taking place. In case you do choose to see it, I won't reveal the mystery, as there's no other reason to watch this movie. Too much action with very little to have any of it make sense. Shia LaBeouf is a good action star but watch Transformers again rather than renting this. 2 Stars/Lambs

Sunday, March 1, 2009

DVD Round up - really random collection

Just before the Oscars I got really sick again so I managed to post about everything I'd seen, but haven't see anything in the theater since Doubt but caught quite a few DVDs lately, and if I feel like it I'll write more later, but typing's not really easy so this will be short.

Changeling - Angelina was good and the other detective (Michael Kelly) was good. Though I love him on "Burn Notice" (LOVE HIM!) I didn't think Jeffrey Donovan was terrific as the person who convinces us of the insane corruption of the LAPD. Overall, it was a really slow movie that didn't tell a very compelling story once you know what happens with the kid. 3 stars/Lambs.

Made of Honor - When you're sick, cheesy movies win out. This wasn't bad. A vehicle for Dr. McDreamy, Patrick Dempsey is good, charming, a little ridiculous but fun to watch. Plus, the other Dr. from Grey's, Kevin McKidd (also from short-lived Journeyman) is Scottish and very cute. Michelle Monaghan is a little ditzy and oblivious to the fact that her wedding planning is actually impossible, but if everyone's really really rich maybe you can plan a wedding in another country in 2 weeks. Very fun, cute, and worth watching when you're sick. 3.5 stars/lambs

Ghost Town - I love Ricky Gervais. This movie is him through and through. Kristin Wiig adds fun bits as his doctor - who has to explain that he died. He's a wonderful curmudgeonly misanthrope who has to reach out to dead people. Tea Leoni is better than usual, laughing at Ricky throughout. Very predictable, but consistently funny in Gervais' style. 4 stars/Lambs

The Tudors: Season 2 - This is just awesome. Everyone should see this show. You don't have to see the seasons in order if you're at all familiar with history. Watch the second season to see the fall of Anne Boleyn! 5 stars!