Thursday, July 23, 2009

Public Enemies: Review

I don't have a lot of say about the new Johnny Depp movie, Public Enemies. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't particularly exciting either. Johnny Depp expertly plays former FBI's most wanted criminal John Dillinger, who robbed banks in the midwest during the early thirties. He escaped from prison and police repeatedly, and based on a Wikipedia search, most of the movie seems remarkably accurate. As any reader of this blog will know, I enjoy learning little historical things from movies, and this movie was chock full of those. First, the FDIC was created in 1933 to protect money people put in banks, and John Dillinger started robbing banks in 1933 so even though his legend says that he gave back their money to anyone who was in the bank when he robbed it, the money was probably insured anyway. Second, the FBI had very little part in national crime solving beyond the mafia at the time, but thanks to Dillinger robbing banks in many states and confounding local law enforcement, and J. Edgar Hoover of course, the FBI's authority grew to stop interstate crime waves.

Okay, so back to the movie. Johnny Depp was terrific, both chilling and charming. He was loyal to his gang of criminals and his love, Marion Cotillard. I didn't think she had any sort of consistent southern American accent. Her acting was good, but she couldn't really escape the french accent problem to me. Also, my other gripe with the movie was the sound. They played A LOT of music in the background and I often had trouble understanding the dialogue behind the ambient noise or music. The supporting cast was good, the G-men trying to capture him, and the sets and props were awesome - it really felt very 1930s in all the costumes, hair, dialogue etc. Overall, not a bad movie, but not great either. 3 of 5 stars/lambs

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Look what's new!

Thanks to all the people over at the Lamb's Brutally Blunt Blog Blustering, I took some of their advice and really like the new look of Insight into Entertainment! Any more advice for improvements are welcome. Thanks again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter keeps getting better

I'll admit I was a little nervous when I saw that the sixth installment of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was rated PG, that it was too dark a book to merit that rating, but the movie was still thrilling and told the story it was meant to tell. While I wouldn't take a young child, it's not beyond most kids, though they'd better not mind jumping in their seat a bit. The audience was completely mixed in my theater (with a large contingent of Russian exchange students from the local college on a movie night), with kids and adults. The kids laughed at the obvious humor throughout, which there was, even for a dark book. It left out some of the depth of the characters, but still continued their growth from the previous movie to move toward the last. The explanations of Lord Voldemort's childhood were brief and left out the fact that the book always called him charming and cajoling rather than sinister. However, I watched the entire movie and was enthralled. I never looked at my watch, and even knowing how the story should progress, found myself swept up by their storytelling and acting instead of constantly noticing the deviations or omissions from the book. Daniel Radcliff and Rupert Grint have become terrific actors and their scenes alone or with any of the wonderful cast of British actors were always captivating. Emma Watson* does well when she's serious or outraged, but her ability to laugh continues to be awkward and fake. Jim Broadbent was a terrific addition as Prof. Slughorn, and Alan Rickman's nuanced performance as Snape gives hints towards the ultimate revelations about his character and motivation. I loved the movie and can't wait for the next ones. 5 of 5 lambs/stars based on pure enjoyability and the continued exceptional quality brought to the series.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Emmy Nominations 2009

This morning the Emmy nominations were announced by Chandra Wilson and Jim Parsons, both of whom got nominated, Chandra twice! I recently posted my own list of the top 10 performances of 2009. Now, mine are based only on shows I watch, so I can appreciate that there are shows that would be nominated and thus kick out some of my choices, but there are a few snubs I'm surprised by. However, I did pick 2 that were in fact nominated: Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory and Simon Baker for The Mentalist. The other thing about this year's nominations that struck me was the increased number of nominations in certain categories. There were 6 nominated actors or actresses in most categories and 7 nominations for Best Comedy and Drama series and only 2 nominations for Best Miniseries. There were a lot of new faces nominated which is terrific for Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Jack McBrayer (Kenneth on 30 Rock), and even some recent winners not even nominated, like Jeremy Piven (Entourage). I was very disappointed to see no love for Fringe or its actors, Joshua Jackson or John Nobel. I hope that doesn't affect the show's longevity. Ah well, it'll be an interesting awards ceremony, I'll make predictions in September!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I fully admit to really liking the first Transformers movie as you can see from my review a year ago. And, now I admit to liking the second one, though not quite as much. First of all, you HAVE to have seen the first one to get anything going on in this version, but I'm guessing if you didn't bother with the first one, you're not going to bother with Revenge of the Fallen. The new movie starts 2 years later just as our hero Sam (Shia LaBeouf) is heading off to college and wants to be free of his protection and obligation to the Autobots (the good guys, followers of Optimus Prime). That would be fine, except the Autobots have been routing out Decepticons (the bad guys) who have been dormant all over earth for centuries. It turns out our previous superbad guy Megatron in fact only worked for the REALLY bad guy "The Fallen" who wants to take over earth again (see the play on words in the title, yes, I like crap like that). Sam, his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox), and his new college roommate (Leo, a conspiracy nut played by Ramon Rodriguez) have to help the Autobots prevent The Fallen gain control of an ancient power source they'll use to destroy the sun. It's a lot of action, with a lot of slow motion fighting between the robots, but the story is fun, non-stop and a great summer blockbuster kind of entertainment. Shia is not a terrific action movie, but he plays the unlikely hero really well. The supporting characters are all good and do a good job being funny. There are even a few new Autobots that add funny one-liners throughout the film. My only problem with it is that it's a bit long, a few trimmed fight scenes would have made it just right. 4 of 5 stars/lambs!

DVD Round up: Twilight, The International, Nick and Nora, Shopaholic

I've been very remiss in keeping up with my DVD watching. But fear not, I've seen lots, just nothing so amazing that drove me write about it immediately. But here's my take on the last 4 I've seen. All enjoyable, but nothing terrific. For no other reason than the chronological order I saw them, here they are:

Twilight was written for a younger demographic, but I finally gave in a watched the DVD. I've enjoyed vampire fare in the past (okay, that's a lie, I LOVE Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and True Blood) so I expected to enjoy this too. Stephanie Meyer played a little fast and loose with the vampire "rules" but nothing that's totally crazy, just reinterpreting the canon a bit. The major difference the movie showed was that vampires don't burst into flame in sunlight (a very common plot point in Buffy) but rather shine like diamonds. Basically, Bella (Kristin Stewart) moves to the Pacific Northwest to live with her Sheriff Dad. She meets Edward (Robert Pattinson), a little different, at high school and eventually falls in love with him. She finds out he's a vampire, as is the rest of his family. However, they've sworn off feeding on humans so for the most part they're safe. Another group of human feeding vamps move into the area and start causing conflict. That's about where the first movie ends, nicely setting up the sequel. It was good, very good supporting cast and decent acting. Bella's internal monologue gets annoying, but drives the teen angst remarkably well. 3 stars/lambs

Next, I saw The International, with Clive Owen as an Interpol agent trying to take down a huge banking conglomerate that traffics in arms and debt. Naomi Watts plays a ADA for New York City helping him try to prosecute the huge bank. They meet up with an Italian politician who is going to give them lots of info, but he gets shot, presumably by the bank assassin. Then they're back in NYC and go to the Guggenheim museum to follow someone they think is a higher up member of the bank (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and end up face to face with the bank's assassin and the assassins sent to kill them. There's a huge shoot out that's pretty awesome, but overall there's very little character development of any of the characters. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either, 2.5 stars/lambs

I am also not the prime demographic for Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, but I enjoyed that too, a bit. Michael Cera plays Nick, the long-suffering now ex-boyfriend of Tris, a classmate of audiophile Nora, (Kat Dennings). The whole thing follows them around NYC, as high school students I was a little disbelieving, trying to find a particular band playing. Nora's friend Caroline gets drunk and Nick's band agrees to take her home. She thinks she's being kidnapped and escapes causing all of them to start searching the city for both the band and Caroline. It's funny, and the tween/high schooler actors are all showing lots of skill, but overall the movie wasn't really for me. 2 lambs/stars, but could see that if it was your thing, it could be a 4.

Finally, I just saw Confessions of a Shopaholic. For this one, I'm definitely the demographic, I've read all the books and love chick flicks. Unfortunately, this movie doesn't live up the books and probably didn't succeed because it deviated from the book too much and didn't come up with a more plausible story. Isla Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a confirmed shopaholic with a taste for designer clothes and the inability to pay for them. She works and loses the job for a gardening magazine. She wants to work for Alette (a fashion magazine run by Kristin Scott Thomas) but takes a job with a financial savings magazine to try to pay her bills and work her way toward Alette. Luke Brandon (Hugh Dancy who has lost the ability to shave) runs the magazine (deviation from the book - he's a huge financial manager in the books) and finds lots of value in Rebecca's opinions on personal finance. It comes to a head when a collections agent outs Rebecca's debts on national TV showing her as a fake. Predictably Rebecca and Luke fall in love and all is well. Not the greatest, but not the worst. 3 lambs/stars.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael Jackson will always surprise

I was watching one of the many tribute shows that have been put on TV airing some of Michael Jackson's videos. I've been a fan for many years, and so many of the videos are iconic, even beyond Thriller and it's rebirth through 13 Going on 30. I LOVE the video for Black or White when the people start singing and morphing from one to another. Then there was a video I'd never seen before for a controversial song, "They Don't Care About Us". I was going to post a link to it, but I'll just describe why I was moved by it. First, the video is shot in a favela (shantytown) in Rio de Janeiro with lots of local color and people playing drums. Also, Michael couldn't look better (second to his childhood looks, of course). The song was released in 1996 as part of HIStory and raised controversy with lyrics that can be perceived as anti-semitic, though Michael did change the lyrics for future releases and in the video you can't really discern where they fall due to clever sound mixing. I was just moved by how great this video was, and wanted to mention it, and that watching many of Michael Jackson's videos in a row is really a wonderful musical movie experience. They were shot with lots of theatricality and direction. Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson.