Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two Really Different British Films: Run Fatboy Run and Endgame

I've previously mentioned my theory about one's inability to fully grasp or accurately remember major events in a 20-year span around your birth (obviously you don't remember things before you were born, but people don't feel the need to educate you about them either, it's somehow assumed knowledge). I do remember the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1994, and I can recall learning a bit more about him, and the definition of apartheid, but I'm sure I never understood how its end came about. The recent Masterpiece Contemporary piece on PBS was Endgame, with William Hurt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Johnny Lee Miller ("Eli Stone") and Clarke Peters ("The Wire"), depicts the conferences and conversations and covert discussions that helped bring an end to Mandela's imprisonment and eventually a new government. As I understood it, Miller's character, Michael Young, approached Ejiofor's Mbeki (future President Mbeki) on behalf of a mining company to begin discussions of how to begin discussions with others to change the South African government. They recruit Hurt's Professor Will Esterhuyse, an Africaaner who preached social justice. Along with other influential people, they met frequently in England to discuss what was needed from all parties to begin changing their world. It's a pretty good movie, particularly the acting, but as an ignorant American, I was often confused by who was trying to subvert the actions of the others. I do recommend seeing this, both for its historically fascinating part (if you were born in the late '70s, you're allowed ignorance) and the terrific acting. 3.5 of 5 Lambs

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If you'd like a British movie that does nothing to educate you, but will make you laugh and reinforce your correct feeling that marathons aren't a good idea. Run, Fatboy, Run, directed by David Schwimmer, stars the amazing Simon Pegg as a immature ne'er-do-well who left Thandie Newton pregnant at the altar. Five years later, Newton has started dating a serious, weathly American marathoner, Hank Azaria, and wants Pegg to help her convince their son that it's a good idea. Pegg, who is actually a great dad, decides to prove to Newton that he can be as good as Azaria and says he'll run a marathon with him in a few weeks. Pegg's gambler cousin bets that Pegg will finish the marathon and becomes his coach, along with his landlord, Mr. Goshdashtidar (Harish Patel - also found on No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency), a really funny Indian man who rides his scooter threatening Pegg with a spatula to run faster. Not a perfectly crafted film, but remarkably funny for a movie that puts its main joke right in the title.
4 of 5 Lambs

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are: Review

I really wanted to see this movie, and was trying to figure out what I liked best about it. Then I read several blogs, and several helped condense what I liked about it. For me I liked the voices of the wild things, and how based in reality everything was. They didn't feel the need to explain the imagination of a little boy, they just let you observe. Also, I saw it with a bunch of little kids, and no one was scared, though a few were a little bored after a while. Here are some of my favorite summaries:

From The Cooler:
"I didn’t realized how much I’d come to miss environmental tangibility in movies until I watched Jonze’s film, but 30 minutes in I was painfully aware (again) of how often the physical paradises of old now get paved over by flat CGI parking lots. Jonze’s film isn’t without CGI landscaping – the fort Max designs with the wild things is a digital doozy – but the effects here are minimal and practical. Most of the film’s shooting, under the guidance of cinematographer Lance Acord, was done on location in Australia, marrying actual three-dimensional environments with actual three-dimensional performers – a combination that seems so simple, not to mention natural, but that has managed to become endangered in fantasy films. The results are awe-striking: boulders and cliff faces that evoke the Tunisia-as-Tataouine locales of Star Wars, gnarled forests that evoke The Wizard of Oz, rolling sand dunes that evoke Lawrence of Arabia, and so on. Max, in his furry white pajamas, isn’t the only one who gets dirty whenever there’s a rumpus; the beasts get dusty, too, and that’s significant."

From Reel Fanatic:

"And it certainly helps that the 9-year-old in question was played by Max Records, though the studio fought him on that choice too. As the movie Max, young Mr. Records captures his state of mind perfectly, wanting to be - and often acting like - a savage while at the same time unable to mask the fear and doubt that cloud up his life. As he rampages through the woods with his wild creations, Jonze isn't afraid to let young Max get as sweaty and snotty (enough to match his attitude) as a kid would left to his own devices. My favorite Max moment, however, came early on as you see the perfectly reasonable horror on his face after a teacher tells him the sun is going to die. It's all around certainly the best movie performance by a youngster this year."

My rating: 4 of 5 stars/Lambs for excellent and beautiful storytelling.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

The Return of Friday Night Lights!!!

I've been reading about the return of "Friday Night Lights" next Wednesday, Oct. 28th on the DirectTV channel before jumping to NBC in the new year. I can't wait. The third season was a huge return to its amazing form after a sophomore oddness. We saw a lot of the wonderful characters graduate, and big changes come to Dillon, TX. Now, there will be some new cast members, and I'm so excited. Jurnee Smollett is joining the cast. She was terrific in The Great Debaters and in her two-hour episode guest spot on "Grey's Anatomy" ending its 4th season as a brain cancer patient. I can't wait.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Female Characters Good for Halloween

I'm a big fan of Halloween and trick or treating, but I do think it belongs to kids, probably under the age of 10 or 12. There are the obvious costumes like ghosts, witches, pumpkins and clowns (yes, I was all of these at one point), but there are also quite a few from movies that I've been thinking of that are also appropriate for girls rather than trashy options that seem to dominate the stores, but I'm sure there might be others. Here are 5 I'd recommend:

1. Hermione Granger - Excellent role model, magical and has great friends.

2. Mary Poppins - She can fly, sing, has a movie, a book, and a musical. Also, easy to wear a heavy coat and scarf if you're up north.

3. Dorothy Gale/Wicked Witch - I have no problem with good or bad characters, just as long as they're fun and recognizable.

4. Belle (or many of the Disney princesses, including the new one, Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog)

5. Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl - Okay, the guys costumes from Toy Story are a lot more fun, but I think being a cowgirl is still really cool.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Back from Italy

Well, sadly I didn't see George, but did put my toes into Lake Como where he swims, so it's practically like we shook hands (just kidding). Traveling around Italy for 10 days was lovely. Lots of cool and cultural things were seen and experienced. But for my fellow film fans, here's a photo of the site where Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala get married at the end of the second Star Wars movie. It's on Lake Como itself (or at least that's what they told us when we passed by, but it looks right from this clip).

Oh, I also saw several movies on the plane that I'll think about reviewing in a few days.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A brief hiatus

Dear loyal readers (both of you), I will be away for the next two weeks or so, but fear not, all is well, I'm off to explore Italy. I'm particularly hoping to see George Clooney's house when we tour Lake Como! I might have movies to post about on the return, overseas flights always have movies.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And now for something completely different... Lars and the Real Girl

I hadn't expected to love a movie about a synthetic woman and the community who loves her (she gets elected to the school board). Okay, Lars and the Real Girl isn't really about the fake doll, Bianca, but about her "boyfriend", Lars (Ryan Gosling) and his relationship with his family and the community of which he is part. I expected this to be a fairly seedy story of a man who couldn't or wouldn't deal with women and satisfied himself with a fake girl. It's NOTHING like that. In fact, it's very chaste, with a few sidelong glances from disbelieving neighbors curious at the idea, but nothing unseemly. Lars lives in his brother's garage and is painfully shy (possibly autistic), though holds a job and takes care of himself. He can't talk to the girl he likes at church, and orders a perfectly live side (and anatomically correct) doll online. That's where any of the marketing kind of stops and a totally unique movie takes over. Lars acts completely as if Bianca is real. He introduces her to his brother and pregnant sister in law, explaining that they met online, and she can't walk because someone stole her wheelchair at the airport. Because his family, as well as the entire community, loves Lars, they embrace the tale and try to be nice to and inclusive of Bianca and Lars (not easily at first, but it gets stronger). There are a lot of interesting and humorous moments when we see how the community participates in Lars delusion without mocking him or Bianca. It's a way for Lars to deal with his inability to interact with people, and his dislike of physical contact. He does see a doctor (Patricia Clarkson) because Bianca has a "blood disorder", and they talk while Bianca rests after treatment, and Clarkson helps Lars through his problems without ever saying anything to dissuade him of his delusion.
It's just another wonderful movie, by a first-time director, that makes you think about how a community can come together and what it means to be part of one.