Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No. 8

Some good guesses last week (that may return in a repeat if I run out of other options!), but David took it.  So not too much of a change in the leader board, but other people will make it on, I'm confident!

Last week: A man meets an angel and realizes his existence is worthwhile and then he goes through hell to prove to his son that there is good in the world.
Hint: One of the movies is a holiday favorite!

Answer:  It's a Wonderful Life is Beautiful

Leader board:
Hatter - 4
David - 3

New clue: "A little British girl finds a hidden place to play but grows up to wear doofy headphones and listen to The Shins."

The goal is to figure out the two movies who overlap in some words creating a new movie described by the clue.  Leave your answer in the comments. Good luck!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Insight into Entertainment

I've been enjoying finding out about all kinds of holiday traditions and likes and dislikes from all my fellow bloggers.  And since "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear" I thought I'd spread some Christmas music.  Some of these songs made me think of you all.  Claim one if you dare, but I'm guessing people can figure them out.  Merry Christmas to all, or to quote Dylan, "Happy non-denominational winter holiday!"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joyeux Noel on Christmas Eve

I heard about this movie on the TRON episode of the Matineecast.  Hatter and Tom Clift couldn't have recommended it more highly (okay, I think it was number 2 or 3 on their lists, so I guess they could).  Joyeux Noel has its Christmas pedigree in the title, and for added measure sneaks in a beautiful anti-war sentiment while set in WWI.  The true story of the Christmas truce along the front lines of WWI, it's told from the perspective of the Scottish, French and German soldiers all entrenched in a small area on opposite sides (well, the French and Scots were on the same side).  On the morning of Christmas Eve, the French attempt to take the German trench and get blasted back to their own trench with heavy losses.  One of the Scotsmen sees his brother killed and has to leave him in "no man's land" between the trenches and is breaks something inside him.  However, over on the German side, a tenacious and famous Opera singer (Diane Kruger) has moved mountains to get her tenor boyfriend, Sprink, away from the front on Christmas eve.  They sing for the Crown Prince, but Sprink decides he should be back with his comrades and brings her with him and they sing.  Since they're only about 100m apart, the Scots hear him and play along with their bagpipes.  Now our crazy opera singer gets out of his trench and attempts to bring the enemy a Christmas tree.  This brings all the commanders out of their trenches and with a lot of discomfort, they agree to a cease-fire for Christmas Eve.  You can see that they know it's not a good idea (technically consorting with the enemy is treason), but it's Christmas, and they're all pretty tired of the terrible conditions and strain of waiting to be killed.
I won't explain the rest of the plot, but suffice it to say, the movie does show you very clearly the costs of war at the front and its effect on the soldiers.  When soldiers do what they can to maintain their ties to home and their humanity (one guy always sets his alarm clock for 10am so he won't forget that his mom is having coffee just then without him).  A beautiful story with some pretty terrific acting and beautiful scenes (how they make trenches look beautiful is beyond me - it's an Oscar nominated French film, so that might have something to do with it).  If you're looking for non-comedic holiday fare, definitely give this a try.  4.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Thursday, December 23, 2010

DVD Roundup: How to Train Scott Pilgrim?

Two of the better rated movies of the year (98% and 80% Fresh, but 90% and 85% liked them, respectively) I missed in theaters.  I wasn't impressed by either movie trailers and didn't see them, much to my dismay, as they were pretty amazing movies.  How to Train Your Dragon and Scott Pilgrim vs The World were both terrific and I wish I'd seen both in theaters since it was easy to see how they would be enhanced by the theater experience.  Dragon is the story of Hiccup, a young Viking whose island is constantly attacked by dragons, but who hasn't yet found his place in a society which values large, brutish, dragon-killers rather than the puny, inventor Hiccup already is.  During an attack, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) manages to take down an elusive type of dragon, Night Fury, with one of his inventions.  However, no one believes him, and he goes to find the dragon, befriends him and starts learning more about dragons from "Toothless".  When he's forced into dragon-training (how to kill dragons, not train them) Hiccup excels due to all the lessons he has learned from Toothless.  However, he knows the day is coming when he'll be required to kill dragons - something he's not sure he can do.  I won't spoil the big climax, but as it's an animated movie, know that it mostly ends well.  The other major voices are Gerard Butler as his viking leader father, Craig Ferguson as Hiccup's mentor,  and America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as the object of Hiccup's affection.  I don't much about vikings, but I didn't think they were Scottish as the accents would suggest.  Either way, the movie is brilliant - its originality is terrific, the voices are funny, and the different types of dragons add both color and humor - they're like a pet combo of horses, dogs, and cats.  Perhaps not terribly rewatchable for adults, but kids will love this movie over and over.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was finally Dreamworks' year for the Oscar with a more original story than Toy Story 3, and some of the best animation they've yet produced.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is based on a graphic novel and took a new approach to bringing such things to life - to not attempt to translate the world of the graphic novel into a version of reality, but rather to recreate the tone of the world in all its diversion from real life.  With sound words appearing when people hit each other, with coins appearing when a fight is won, all the other rules of video games apply.  Pilgrim (Michael Cera with his worst haircut yet) is in a band that rocks (they're part of a battle of the bands), and he lives with his gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin - hysterical!) and is dating a high school student, Knives Chau.  However, he has a dream about and then meets Ramona Flowers.  He falls for her but knows he'll have to defeat her 7 evil exes (not all boyfriends, just exes).  This is only part of where the movie moves into comic book territory - Scott can go into a room and come out having changed his clothes instantly.  The rest of the movie follows the advance of Pilgrim and Flowers romance, interrupted by battles with her exes - some from middle school to the most recent ex.  Great actors play almost all of them (a few I didn't recognize) and the battle scenes are particularly amazing.  At first I questioned how Scott knew how to fight, but once you realize everyone can do that kind of thing (it's just part of the world they're in) it stops being strange and you just accept that anything is possible.  The music is good - though some of the dance numbers felt out of place.  I'm excited to go back and listen to a few podcasts I skipped last summer (Matineecast and Frankly, My Dear specifically) that talked about the movie so I can see how it was received.  Not the greatest acting, but incredibly original in content, story, and particularly effects.  Alison Pill was especially funny as were any conversations between Culkin and Cera ("Don't want you gaying up the place")  Overall 4 of 5 stars/lambs

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No. 7

Can Hatter be stopped?  He's running away with this.  And I'm going to let him because I'm glad people are playing.  Last week was supposed to be timed with Nick's review of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but since he switched to a different movie, I guess it's okay that he didn't win.  So close though.

Last week's clue: "Three gunslingers looking for treasure find it on a raunchy morning show with a hot producer"
Answer: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Truth

Okay, I know putting those movies in the same sentence is pretty close to film blasphemy, but I thought it was funny.
Leader board:
Hatter - 4
David - 2

 New Clue:  A man meets an angel and realizes his existence is worthwhile and then he goes through hell to prove to his son that there is good in the world.
Hint: One of the movies is a holiday favorite!

The goal is to figure out the two movies who overlap in some words creating a new movie described by the clue.  If you know the answer leave it in the comments.  Good luck!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Release: How Do You Know...

Rachel mentioned this on the recent episode of Reel Insight (Episode 27) - but why doesn't this title have a question mark?  Or at least a set of ellipses so you know they meant to continue the question.  It might have added a depth this movie actually achieves, but is unexpected.  How Do You Know stars Reese Witherspoon as Lisa, an Olympic caliber softball star who has reached the end of her career, but has no real concept of what to do next.  She explains many of the women she has seen finish their careers go on to graduate school (they have college degrees because how else do you get to keep playing women's softball except by playing in the NCAA?) get married and have babies.  She's not quite sure that's for her - she lives her life spouting affirming cliches, every sports psych-up slogan about problems, obstacles, and challenges you've ever heard are in this movie or posted on her mirror.  But there doesn't seem to be a cliche for knowing what to do with your life in a more abstract way.  So she starts dating Owen Wilson's Washington  Nationals player, Matty.  A womanizing playboy (he has new pink track suits hanging in his closet so women don't have to do the walk of shame in their evening gowns) who wants to talk about how awesome he is - he's VERY Owen Wilson, asking lots of questions about whether he's amazing, and asking for praise about being so sensitive.  Matty and Lisa date even though they're horribly suited and keep breaking up.
The other main storyline follows the dear, cute, unbearably honest Paul Rudd.  The company he works for - CEO is Jack Nicholson as his corrupt dad - is about to get investigated for securities fraud, which would set the blame firmly on Rudd's shoulders.  A lot of his story isn't explained (too boring for a rom-com, I suppose, but the movie suffers for the white-washing of his troubles), but he has to sell everything he owns to hire a good attorney.  He ends up on a blind date with Lisa (she figures free dinner is free dinner) where they've both had terrible days, so they decide to just not speak.  This is the best date he's ever had apparently (weird set up for his character) and he falls head over heels.  The rest of the movie plays on his trying to win Lisa away from Matty, but in his subtle, honest, non-mean way.  Eventually she realizes Matty's not for her, and Rudd really is the perfect guy (Matty can't promise he'll stop "anonymous sex", but he'll be monogamous the rest of the time - really couldn't she pick up on some of these clues earlier?). 
Overall, the movie attempts to answer several questions - How do you know when you're in love?  How do you know what to do with your life?  How do you know when to fight for what you want?  Sadly, it doesn't do a great job of answering ANY of these, though all are set up to be resolved.  It's got a lot of funny moments - often involving Rudd dancing or Wilson being a jack-ass.  The consistently funniestactor is Rudd's assistant Kathryn Hahn (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) as she attempts to help Rudd's work situation.  The thing that I found really missing from the rom-com is Lisa's best friend.  She doesn't have one.  Adding a Judy Greer she could talk to about things who would crack wise would have helped the humor overall. The acting is just right for each character (perfect even) that you really believe these characters do these things, but the conditions they're put in are not believable ever.  A decent rom-com that is saved by the terrific acting, but weighed down by not bothering to reach further with the story.  2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reel Insigth Episode 27: Reese Witherspoon

With plugs, listener feedback, movies: some good (Please give) and bad (Alice in Wonderland) and  TV coming a close for the holidays we discuss the finale of Dexter (no spoilers on the finale, but if you haven't seen the first four seasons, we do talk about those spoilers).  Then some debate over the merits and diversity of America's Sweetheart - Reese Witherspoon.  Check it out!

Movies I saw for the first time with Reese Witherspoon:

Wildflower (TV movie - which I didn't figure out I didn't need to watch until I looked it up - stupid Netflix).  But here's a review anyway.  Directed by former Star of the Week Diane Keaton, Witherspoon plays farmer Beau Bridges 12-year-old daughter who finds their neighbor's daughter Alice (Patricia Arquette), is a deaf epileptic who her parents keep locked in a shed.  Reese befriends her and gets the town to help her out - a hearing aid and health help, new clothes, a bath, education.  Reese convinces Alice's mom to let Alice move in with her, since Alice's dad is really abusive.  Alice falls for Reese's older brother, but knows his friends tease her.  The whole thing is very afterschool special, and Reese is fairly annoying.  2 of 5 stars/lambs

The breakup photo Rudd sends to his girlfriend
Overnight Delivery - This was a direct-to-DVD rom-com road trip movie on a time crunch that hits all the cliches (destroyed car, blown up car, no money, getting arrested, loving each other, hating each other, and then of course loving each other).  Reese stars with her current co-star Paul Rudd, and they're both funny.  Reese is a stripper college student who loses her job defending Rudd.  He thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him, and Reese helps him write a letter and take a dirty photo to mail overnight to break up with her.  However, then he realizes she wasn't cheating (though of course she really was) and he has to stop that "overnight delivery".  Reese helps him and they attempt to get on planes (a serial killer stops them), drive to Memphis (dumped the car in the Mississippi) and eat (dine and dash doesn't go well).  I can't believe this movie isn't constantly on TV because it's funny, innocuous and must be cheap to show.  3 of 5 stars/lambs

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DVD Quick Review: Alice in Wonderland

I was really reluctant to see this version of Alice in Wonderland.  I'm a big fan of Johnny Depp, but much less so of Tim Burton or Tim Burton's Helena Bonham Carter (she's good in other things).  However, I've been really enjoying the early career of Mia Wasikoska (she plays Alice here, Joni in The Kids are All Right, and had a small role in Amelia that was fun) so I decided to give it a chance.  I don't know if it was Johnny's presence or the psychedelic "Wonderland" but I was strongly reminded of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.   This version of Alice took the source material from Lewis Carroll and went a bit further.  There are a lot of the characters and language used from the poem "Jabberwocky" - the bandersnatch, vorpal sword, etc. which did make understanding all of the dialogue difficult without subtitles.  The strange made-up words and then Depp's occasional Scottish accent (which I think was used to distinguish when he was "mad" and when he wasn't, but it's hard to tell) made most of the best dialogue hard to figure out.  Mia Wasikoksa was terrific - bending between disbelief of Wonderland's reality and committing to living in that reality.  Each of the classic characters were represented and it was nice that they didn't feel the need to explain them all, but understanding the underlying fight between the red and white queens made for a confusing battle (the White Queen isn't in the Disney version).  Anne Hathaway as the White Queen was ridiculous (her flitting about was stupid) and the big headed CGI Red Queen was also a bit overdone when the rest of the world didn't go quite that far.  But ultimately, the movie succeeds because you don't need to understand it, you just need to experience it and accept that we're all going to miss thing (go mad) from time to time.  Definitely not a kids movie.  3 of 5 stars/lambs

Thursday, December 16, 2010

DVD Roundup: Babies and Departures

I didn't intend to watch movies about birth and death, but that's how it turned out.  And both were actually more entertaining than their descriptions would suggest.  Departures won the Oscar for foreign film in 2009.  From Japan, it's a story about a cellist, Daigo, without enough talent to make it his career.  When he loses his job, he and his wife return to his hometown and the house his mother left him.  Daigo searches for work, and finally finds a job assisting a man, with "departures".  The job itself isn't explained for a while, but it pays really well, so he doesn't ask too many questions.  From the movie, it seems that most people in Japan are cremated, so there's not much need for skilled undertakers, but there is still a ceremony like a wake where the family watches as the deceased is respectfully and carefully cleaned and prepared for "casketing" (being put into a casket that is then burned with the body).  However, as in most cultures, working with dead bodies isn't exactly a prestigious career choice, and his wife finally finds out what he does and leaves.  However, Daigo is able to see the beauty in the ceremony as he gets better at it and the families continue to thank him for what he does.  It's a beautiful movie with very compelling characters - Daigo has struggled his whole life with his father's abandonment, and even more with never being the best at anything, and finally, what it means to be a grown-up.  His wife tries hard to be supportive, but can't get past her own ideas about things.  A terrific and thoughtful movie about how people handle death, from respect to distaste and beauty.  4.5/5 lambs - definitely deserved the Oscar!

The second movie focused on the other end of life.  Babies is a documentary following the first year of life of 4 very different babies - one in Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco.  The movie has almost no dialogue (no subtitle either for the other countries), but has lots of music that helps give an upbeat tone to the film.  When it was initially released, I remember it being criticized for not being deep, not offering criticism about the different lives of these children.  What I found was that it wasn't a movie about comparing and contrasting the different cultures and criticizing one over the other, but rather showing that a baby is a baby is a baby.  At least for these babies, the first year of their life was fairly similar.  Obviously, when choosing what to put into the film it was easy to pick moments that looked similar - they each had a moment with their cat, some with siblings (talk about bullying!), with their parent being playful, feeding, learning to walk, trying to speak, etc.  And the movie might not be deep by offering critique of how babies can thrive growing up naked in the dirt as well as with baby yoga and swaddling.  But I think it would have been the lesser for trying.  It's a simple look different babies, in all their cutest, tantrums, and loving.  3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No. 6

Well, Hatter took 3 in a row.  Don't worry, eventually he'll have to be somewhere on Wednesday night.  Last week's clue was a bit easier, I think.  Thanks to those who showed up.  

Clue: "A jury argues about becoming deep sea divers for the Navy."
Answer "12 Angry Men of Honor"

Hatter - 3
David - 2

New clue:  "Three gunslingers looking for treasure find it on a raunchy morning show with a hot producer"
Hint: Linking these two movies could land me in movie jail given the quality of one and horror of the other.

The goal is to figure out the two movies who overlap in some words creating a new movie described by the clue.  Good luck!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Golden Globe Nominations 2010

The Globes announced their nominations for the year, and I found myself raising my eyebrows in surprise, good and bad, fairly frequently.  For odd things, like "I didn't know The Tourist was a comedy", and "What is Barney's Version?"  "How is it possible that all the nominated songs are from movies I would like, that's odd."  But here's the list in a very disorganized way.  What did you think?

1.    Best Supporting Actress in a series, mini-series or TV movie
Hope Davis, The Special Relationship
Jane Lynch, Glee
Kelly MacDonald, Boardwalk Empire
Julia Stiles, Dexter
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

2.    Best Actress in a TV series, comedy
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Laura Linney, The Bic C
Lea Michele, Glee

3.    Best TV movie or mini-series
The Pacific
Pillars of the Earth
Temple Grandin
You Don't Know Jack

4.    Best original song – motion picture
Bound to You - Burlesque
Coming Home - Country Strong
I See the Light - Tangled
There's a Place for Us - Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
You Haven't Seen the Last of Me - Burlesque
5.    Best Actor, TV series comedy
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
Steve Carell, The Office
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matthew Morrison, Glee
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

6.    Best Actress in a TV series, drama
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Piper Perabo, Covert Affairs
Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy
Kyra Sedgwick, the Closer

7.    Best original score – motion picture
Alexandre Desplot, The King's Speech
Danny Elfman, Alice in Wonderland
A.R. Rahmin, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Hans Zimmer, Inception

8.    Best screenplay – motion picture
Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, Kids are All Right
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David Seidler, The Kings Speech
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Netowrk

9.    Best Supporting Actor in a series, mini-series, or TV movie
Scott Caan,  Hawaii Five-0
Chris Colfer, Glee
Chris Noth, The Good Wife
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
David Strathern, Temple Grandin

10. Best TV Series, comedy
30 Rock
The Big Bang Theory
The Big C
Modern Family
Nurse Jackie

11. Best foreign language film
Biutiful, Mexico, Spain
The Concert, France
The Edge, Russia
I Am Love, Italy
In a Better World, Denmark

12. Best animated feature film
Despicable Me
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

13. Best Actor in a mini-series or TV movie
Idris Elba, Luther
Ian McShane, Pillars of the Earth
Al Pacino, You Don't Know Jack
Dennis Quaid, The Speicla Relationship
Edgar Ramirez, Carlos

14. Best Actress in a mini-series or TV movie Hayley Atwell, Pillars of the Earth
Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
Judi Dench, Return to Cranford
Romola Garai, Emma
Jennifer Love Hewitt, The Client List

15. Best Actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie, The Tourist
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone, Easy A

16. Best Actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy
Johnny Depp - Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp - The Tourist
Paul Giamatti -  Barney's Version
Jake Gyllenhaal -  Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey - Casino Jack
17. Best supporting Actor in a motion picture
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Michael Douglas, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

18. Best supporting Actress in a motion picture
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

19. Best Actor in a TV series, drama
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Hugh Laurie - House

20. Best Director – motion picture
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, Social Network
Tom Hooper - King's Speech
Christopher Nolan Inception
David O. Russell - The Fighter

21. Best motion picture, musical or comedy
Alice in Wonderland
The Kids Are All Right
The Tourist
22. Best TV series, drama
Broadwalk Empire
The Good Wife
Mad Men
The Walking Dead

23. Best Actress in a motion picture, drama
Halle Berry, Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

24. Best Actor in a motion picture, drama
Jesse Eisenberg - Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
James Franco - 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg - The Fighter

25. Best motion picture, drama
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Monday, December 13, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 26: Ben Foster and guest

There was lots of disagreement this week.  With Nick's obsessive love it was hard to convince him that I think Ben Foster is more like the poor man's Ryan Gosling.  But we did have some fun opinions on The Walking Dead, Rachel's love of Wham! and the finale of Dexter!  Thanks for listening.

New movies I watched with Ben Foster:

Get Over It - Luckily Nick watched this teenage romantic comedy a few weeks ago, or I might not have bothered getting in on DVD for this episode.  However, given the unbelievable list of the cast, I'm glad I did.  Check out Nick's Review of it here. 2.5 lambs/stars

Pandorum - This sci-fi flick reminded me a lot of Aliens, except that it's not funny or bad-ass and the CGI isn't good.  The bad guys look like the "Uber-vamps" from Buffy season 7.  Foster's pretty good trying to figure out what's going on on his space ship - why is he awake, where are they, what was their mission. He travels over the ship and runs into random other crew/passengers and figures out his mission.  I never figured out why there were "aliens"  but Foster ultimately triumphs, but it's not really a happy ending. 2 of 5 stars/lambs

Bang, Bang, You're Dead - Definitely the best movie of the lot, but still not good.  Foster plays a bullied kid in a high school who is now notorious for making a non-explosive bomb to scare people.  Now his school has a zero tolerance so he's trying to stay clean but that bullying doesn't stop, and even more, he carries a video camera now and manages to document a lot of the terrors of what it means to be bullied.  He makes a video for a class taught by Tom Cavenaugh (ED), but it's taken as a threat to the quarterback.  Then, some of his friends plan a "Columbine"-like attack on the school, but he is able to figure out ahead of time that this isn't the answer and people don't get hurt.  Very uneven, with lots of not good acting, but ultimately a very raw look at high school that has a very big grain of truth (whether or not you were ever bullied it's the most recognizable portrayal of high school I've seen in a while).  3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

Alpha Dog - Emile Hirsh is TERRIBLE in this movie.  Justin Timberlake is funny and is still learning to act, but you can see a grain of truth.  Foster is WAY over the top.  Anton Yelchin is the best thing about the movie - particularly his interactions with Timberlake.  The whole premise is completely ridiculous (though it seems to be based on a real story since they explain where all the bad guys ended up) - kids who still live with or depend upon their parents are such high level drug dealers that they can use guns and get girls.  However, when Hirsh  kidnaps Yelchin (Foster's younger brother), real consequences follow them - like police and prison.  There's a terrible scene with a very bad Sharon Stone in a fat suit.  Yuck.  1.5 of 5 stars - the half is for Yelchin and Timberlake.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesdays Movie Mashup No. 5

Last week's clue:

"A guy has psychedelic dreams that might be true about crazy girls who are attacking him with flying robots.  Luckily, a reporter saves the day."

Answer: Vanilla Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Leader Board
David - 2
Hatter - 2

It's neck and neck.  Just in case you are just joining in, the goal is to mash together two movie titles based on the clue I make up.  The first four were in increasing difficulty (I hope) and this one's a little easier - both movies are on TV quite a bit.

New clue: "A jury argues about becoming deep sea divers for the Navy." 

If you know it, leave your answer in the comments.

The Walking Dead: Wrap Up

I promise I won't give away who lives and who dies, because some of the tension of The Walking Dead comes from who survives the first season, but there are other things I really enjoyed about the series, particularly the finale, that don't give anything away.  One of these is how they've reversed a classic dilemma: if you have a life-threatening disease with no known cure, should you end your life or life as long as you can hoping they find a cure?  Our heroes are all healthy people (mostly), but ironically, they behave like people with a terminal illness.  The proposition introduced by The Walking Dead finale into this conundrum is that there's a third option: fight for a cure.  Usually in movies, an ill person isn't going to be the one who finds the cure - they're too busy with the effort of just staying alive.  There's usually another person who has made finding a cure their life's work (Extraordinary Measures, Medicine Man, etc.).  However, in The Walking Dead, our heroes are the healthy ones and the ones with the terminal illness at the same time and thus have a vested interest in finding a "cure" to their problem.  One of the hints they drop in the finale is that curing or ending the "walking dead" might be possible - the French might have been on to something.  So now our main characters all have 3 options, which the finale explores brilliantly: 1 - end your life now on  your own terms, 2 - go into hiding and begin working to just stay alive until someone else finds a cure or you die, and 3 - Go work really hard to find a cure.  This addition to the classic debate by people with a terminal illness was what really struck me as original about the way this season wrapped up.  What do you think?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Reel Insight Episode 25 - Natalie Portman

My biggest girl-crush must be Natalie Portman, so it was easy to find a lot of her performances I enjoyed, even if I don't like all the movies she's in.  We also discuss some TV pet peeves, some good movies I saw, and a bad one Rachel saw through.

New Movies I saw with Natalie this week:

Heat - Overall, this movie was much more boring than I expected.  However, I will give that a huge caveat, I really dislike Al Pacino in everything that isn't The Godfathers or Scent of a Woman.  I find him extremely distracting from the main storyline. Also, Val Kilmer, while probably still popular when this was made, is also distractingly bad.  However, the story is particularly awesome, so watching it a few more times would probably help me get over those facts.  DeNiro seemed great, and the overall story was intriguing.  2 of 5 lambs

My Blueberry Nights - This has been in my queue forever, so I was super excited when I found out Natalie was in it because it jumped to the top.  Made by Wong Kar-Wai it fits his style really well I think (I've only seen one other of his films) but its stars are totally outside of his wheelhouse.  Norah Jones stars as an observant woman who moves around a lot.  She befriends bar tender Jude Law, but then moves on with her life, meeting David Straithern and Rachel Weisz, and moves on again and meets Portman, ending up back with Law.  It's very much a character study of the random people who make up our lives and recur in it if you're actually paying attention.  Jones isn't a terrific actress, but she doesn't a good job keeping up with the terrific acting around her.  4 of 5 lambs

Leon: The Professional - Many people have told me how great this movie is, and now I'm one of them.  This was terrific.  Jean Reno plays a "cleaner" (aka hit man) who lives next door to a drug dealer's family.  Natalie Portman is the daughter of the drug dealer and is out getting groceries when her entire family is gunned down by Gary Oldman's cop henchmen.  When she returns home, Reno basically saves her, and eventually agrees to train her to be a cleaner too.  Their relationship is really innocent, but Mathilde (Portman) is not, or likes to pretend she's not, which makes for laughs.  It's got a great action sequence at the end, and Portman is amazing carrying the film from the point of view of a 12-year-old. 

Goya's Ghosts - TERRIBLE movie.  The story wasn't bad, and Javier Bardem is pretty good.  Portman's acting isn't terrible, but her costumes, sets, and the direction is dreadful.  Portman ends up over the top playing a young woman locked up by the Inquisition who gets knocked up by a visiting monk (Bardem) and then plays her daughter 17 years later who has become a prostitute.  The only thing they bother to do to make it clear this is her daughter is to give her different teeth.  But Portman as the mom is so heinous looking that you don't need to be reminded one's the daughter and the other is the mom.  Stupid.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Best Books of 2010: An Insight

Okay, it's time to confess.  I have more than 24 hours in a day.  That's how I watch more than 200 new movies a year (that's a later post), keep up with more than 20 TV shows, and have managed to read 50+ books a year for the past 3 years, I'm currently at 45 with 4 weeks to go.  And I realized I've never done my yearly top list of books (First Annual, Rachel?).  So I thought I'd give it a go.  These are definitely not all books that came out this year.  They are books I read for the first time in 2010.  Some are best-sellers, some were best sellers, and some will never be read by more than a few people.  In not much of a particular order except that I liked #1 the best, here are 5 I highly recommend.

1. The Help (Kathryn Stockett) - This is an absolutely amazing book that takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s and tells the story of a group of black women who work as maids and nannies for white families.  This description doesn't do it justice.  One of the white women, Skeeter (who is going to be played by Emma Stone in the new movie) decides she needs to do something about the way racism is starting to revert backwards and enlists the help of some of the maids to tell their own stories.  It's beautifully written with an edge because the violence that accompanies the time is never far off.

2. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)- I know, I'm a little late to this phenomenon, but I'll catch up quickly.  This is the story of a teenage girl, Katniss, in a reborn post-apocalyptic society where the Capitol, to remind the 12 Districts of who's in charge, demands a tribute of a young boy  and girl every year who compete to the death in The Hunger GamesKatniss is from one of the poorer districts and has spent most of her life trying to find her next meal, so figuring how to stay alive is not new for her.  The book stays close to Katniss, but you see the fantastical nature of this new society through her eyes.  The "celebration" that is the Games has a macabre twist to a beauty pageant.  While purported to be for young adults, everyone should definitely check this series out.

3. Oliver Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout) - The Pulitzer Prize winner from last year, this is a series of related short stories that take place in the rural Northeast (think I can relate) and involve at some point this curmudgeonly old woman named Oliver Kitteridge.  We see her life through all the people around her, and while she's not particularly likeable, you have trouble blaming HER for it.  Short, but good. 

4.  The Ridiculous Race (Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran)- This is a non-fiction hilarious book written by two TV writers who challenge each other to a race around the world.  The original rules involve not using planes, and there are two ways to win - being the first back (they start of going different directions) and having the best adventure.  They have an amazing time.  It's hard to read in one continuous setting, but if you like their humor (and who wouldn't - one guy tries to buy a jetpack to fly across the ocean) it's a brilliantly conceived idea that I'm surprised hasn't become a movie.

5. The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery) - I waited much too long to read this, stupid library list, and the hype around it probably didn't help, but I have a weakness for all things French, and this book was translated from French so you can see the twist of phrases that aren't quite common English, but since I can see the French it's coming from, I liked it even more.  It's the story of an older woman who is the doorman of a wealthy building in a posh neighborhood in Paris.  It's also the story of one of her 10-year-old neighbors.  What they unknowingly have in common is that they're both much smarter than anyone around them realizes.  The woman tries to keep it a secret so people won't bother her with more tasks, but the girl suffers because her family is a bunch of idiots.  Then a Japanese man moves to their building and outs them for who they really are.  Very funny, philosophical, and timeless.

What were your favorite books this year?  What should I add to my 2011 list or try to fit in before the new year?  Leave comments if you think of anything.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday's Movie Mashup No. 4

Last week's clue:

" A famous porn star goes on vacation on the North Carolina coast and falls in love during a hurricane"

Answer:  Boogie Nights in Rodanthe

Leader board:
David - 2

New clue: "A guy has psychedelic dreams that might be true about crazy girls who are attacking him with flying robots.  Luckily, a reporter saves the day."

Good luck!  Leave an answer in the comments.