Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Blind Side: Review

The following review explains a lot of what I like about the movie, and thus might contain spoilers, but as it's a true story (or based on one) of a currently living, well-known individual, if you don't already know much of it, you're a little behind anyway.

Insight's Rules for adapting a true story for film:

1. Most viewers know how it turns out - that's not the interesting part, focus on how he or she arrived at the point everyone knows about.

2. If the end point is good, find whatever needed to be overcome to arrive at the good. If the end point is bad, focus on what good was lost to reach the bad. DON'T pretend something is good or bad if it isn't. To relate to audiences it has to be something EVERYONE knows to be good or bad, and not just in relative terms.

3. Very few things in life continue on an all up or all down path. Most stories are filled with ups and downs, make sure those count.

4. If you want people to like your movie and not just respect it, don't end a very sad story with a single moment of happiness, you have to prove to people that watching the whole sad story was worth it to them, and not just the real person who is now happy (I'm looking at you The Pursuit of Happyness).

The best movies based on true stories use these rules, but the stories they adapt for the screen have more than the sum of these parts, usually a main character worth caring about. The best movies have an entire cast you can find a reason to care about. Sandra Bullock's new movie, The Blind Side, is based on a true story of a young black boy, Michael Oher, in Memphis who has fallen through the cracks of his family, his community and the state, but has figured out a way to take care of himself. He's lucky enough to have a friend who helps him get into a private school, where he can barely be bothered with classes or sports. However, he isn't bitter or mean, he's just quiet and accepting of anything that comes his way, both good and bad. When he's spotted walking down the cold street at night, Sandra Bullock's Leigh Anne Touhy, brings him home for a warm place to sleep, without the realization that there are kids who attend her children's school who have nothing and no one to help them. His story is heartbreaking, both to Leigh Anne, and to the people watching it unfold. We watch as the Touhy's are changed by having Michael in their lives, and how his life is changed, even if he's still the same person he always was. It's a pretty funny movie as we watch Michael learn to play football, and Leigh Anne's tough love of the entire world as she struggles to be a good person. Sandra Bullock is terrific as a tough-ass southern woman making things happen. She takes life seriously, but knows that she is lucky to have everything she has, and is happy to have Michael in their lives. It's mostly their story, but her family, Tim McGraw as her husband, and her two kids, play a huge part of making a family that includes Michael. Of course, since Michael ends up playing for the Baltimore Ravens, there's a lot of football in the movie too. That is part of the ups and downs. While everyone assumes a big guy like Michael should be a natural at football, he takes a while to learn the basics, much to everyone's frustration, and amusement. Overall, this is a terrific movie, and obeys all my rules, so you leave feeling wonderful about life, even if you can't forget that it doesn't work out for everyone. 4.5 stars/lambs.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


"I find it hard to be in the same room with you, especially this one, which looks like where Strawberry Shortcake and Holly Hobby come to hook up." - Kurt (Chris Colfer), Glee

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a little something to enjoy for the holidays.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Review on the fly: Fantastic Mr. Fox

I'm currently waiting in the airport for the next flight, but saw Fantastic Mr. Fox last night during my quick stop in the city so figured I'd post before I forgot it. A friend described Wes Anderson (the director) as much less annoying when he's communicating through animals. I agree. All of the depth and seriousness his previous movies (Rushmore, The Royal Tennebaums) though humorous, were often dragged down by their cerebral efforts. Fantastic Mr. Fox makes that seem ironic and funny. The voices are terrific, particularly George Clooney as Mr. Fox. Basically, Mr. Fox is starting a family and has to give up his life of stealing chickens. However, because he's a wild animal he goes back to it with a huge caper. I liked it a lot. I promise to add more, but they're calling my flight.

10pm that day: Arrived safe and sound in Maine. The rest of Fox involves his caper with the rest of the animals, all equally interesting and funny, particularly Bill Murray as a lawyer Badger who tries to get Mr. Fox to see reason about their ability to escape from the three farmers they're stealing from. It's a huge snarl by the time it reaches the end. It is VERY LOOSELY based on the actual book by Roald Dahl, and loses a lot of its child-like humor thanks to the license taken with the plot. Good movie. 4 of 5 Lambs/Stars

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Christmas Carol 3D: Review

I know I haven't posted a lot lately - not a lot of great movies in my little town. Luckily, Veteran's Day provided a chance to travel to a bigger theater, and they had 3D!!! I know, I'm WAY behind on figuring out this was way better than Captain EO's version of 3D back in the 80's, but I was not expected for how amazing the new version of A Christmas Carol could be. It was more faithful to the original text by Charles Dickens, in that it was scary - the spirits weren't benevolent aides in Scrooge's search for his own soul, but a Dickensian version of "Scared Straight". They had a tinge of the goofiness of Disney's animated version with Mickey Mouse, but mostly the story was strict in its interpretation of the story. Jim Carrey was terrific - I'm not even sure how many different characters he played throughout the movie, but he was joined by Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Gary Oldman, and Cary Elwes (hard to see the Princess Bride actors together again). Watching the scenes come to life felt like you were actually looking through a window at it. It made me wonder how the same thing would look in 2D, and it definitely wouldn't be as good - just not as magical as the whole ghosts and spirits visiting demands. There weren't lots of things jumping out of the screen, they just made each scene contain depth and substance in a way 2D just can't. I really liked it. 4.5 of 5 Lambs/stars

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 5: Happy Guy Fawkes Day!

"Remember, Remember the 5th of November, the gun-powder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gun-powder treason should ever be forgot." Those are the opening lines of V for Vendetta, a post-apocalyptic story of how fear can drive a society to relinquish rights for security, and of course, as the saying goes, get neither. However, a vigilante called V appears on November 5th promising that in one year, he will blow up the buildings of Parliament (like Guy Fawkes hoped to do). As the year goes by he also murders several members of the ruling party for reasons that aren't revealed until the end. However, on that first night V crosses paths with Evey (Natalie Portman), a TV producer, and she becomes a somewhat willing participant, embroiled in his struggle to bring down the government. There is a police Inspector Finch (Stephen Rea) who is unraveling V's reasons for the murders and what could be behind his vendetta against the government. Finch discovers that the fear of disease and the need for quarantine and thus the strict regulations and controls by the government were in fact created by the government itself to give itself complete power. Overall, the society rallies together to fight what it begins to understand is not a benevolent governing body, and Guy Fawkes ideas are achieved.

The movie is based on a graphic novel, and thus contains quite a few scenes set up with a comic book in mind - larger than life leaders on huge screens, cartoonish costuming, and extremes in language, dialogue. People are either good or bad, black or white actions, very little middle ground. However, I don't think that's bad. It's an interesting look at what you'd do about terrorists (or vigilantes) in such a restrictive society, and how perhaps it's important to examine why such a society would spawn someone willing to risk everything to take it down. I like this movie a lot, the dialogue is creative, plays on words, examining the meaning of power, etc. The acting, particularly by Hugo Weaving as V is spectacular. He has to get across a complete character while wearing a creepy mask and wig the whole time. It's all in his voice. Natalie Portman does a good job being transformed by V and holding her personal need above the fight for national change. I recommend watching it every November!

PS - This post is part of a general Guy Fawkes Day celebration to be shown on the 5ht over at Matte Havoc. Don't forget to check it out, particularly if you like V for Vendetta.