Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Les Miserables

Once again, I don't like musicals and, once again, I didn't read the book. There just wasn't enough time in the day to read one of the longest books ever...I wiki'd it, though. All that to say this: this film version is the only version I know in regards to the story line, so if there were inconsistencies there...don't expect to see them pointed out below.

Les Misérables
Directed By - Tom Hooper
Written By - Victor Hugo (novel), Claude-Michel Schönberg (book), Alain Boublil (book), & William Nicholson (screenplay)
Top Billed Cast - Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, & Russell Crowe

The story is set during 19th century France. Things were rough, and the people were desperate. The main tale, woven throughout several years, is that of the ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman) and how he goes from a parole-skipper, to a legit business man in the eyes of all but the law. It's a story of pain, of fate, of immense sadness, and finally love. 

Pros - 

* It's a Tom Hooper film, the fact that "The King's Speech" was his last movie says a lot, I think. 

* Since it was a Tom Hooper film, I knew going in that I would probably love the cinematography...I was right. The shots in this movie, and thinking about all the technical stuff that went into the way these sequences are captured...mind blowing. 

* For a movie about prisoners and peasants, one might not expect to be commending the make-up artists, but I definitely am. Subtlety but thoroughness seemed to be their game-plan and it worked wonderfully. 

* If Anne Hathaway does not at least get an Oscar Nod for this role, there is no hope left in the entertainment business. The amount of pain she shared with the audience during a single song made the whole movie worth it for me. It was just incredible.

* On the same note, the children in this movie were fantastic! The three main ones are all movie-newbies (stage productions are a completely different animal, in my opinion), and that is just impressive. 

* For a movie that spans such a length of time, and covers so much content, I felt that it flowed fairly nicely. 

* Casting, in general, was brilliant. I'm not typically a Russell Crowe fan but his performances were awesome, as were Jackman's and even, dare I say it?, Amanda Seyfried did a great job. 

* I'll be the first to admit that though I am not a Sacha Baren Cohen fan, I'm not sure I can picture anyone else in that role. He and Helena Bonham Carter made a fantastically awful pair and the comedic relief in such an otherwise dark film, was very welcome.

* The fact that they filmed all the music LIVE, as in "here's an earpiece, he's going to play the piano part, just sing", should be respected. The amount of emotion they were able to capture and the rawness of it all, while in some parts might could have been better in a studio, for the majority of the movie it worked beautifully. 

Cons - 

* While I compliment the cinematography for the most part...there was something that bugged me throughout. I understood the filming style, and appreciated it in the majority of the film. However, when for several stansas of a song, the only part of the actor that is in focus is their right ear....that, to me, is an issue. It worked when the actor was moving about, and kind of came in and out of focus, but not so much when they were just standing there for five minutes. I learned a lot about Hugh Jackman's right ear. 

* I'm just never going to be a fan of a false-ending. This may not have seemed like a false-ending to those that know the story but for those, like me, that are experiencing it for the first was a bit confusing. 

* While I marvel at the ability to get three people singing different verses of a song (or three different songs entirely) at the same time, it's not the best way to have your lyrics heard. I'm sure these scenes were very verbose and moving, I just have no clue what was said. 

* This is mostly just a con for me because I don't like musicals but...I got bored. I fought the urge to zone out, though, and was happy I stuck with it. That doesn't erase the fact that the urge was there in the first place, though. 

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13, and I'm kind of surprised by that. There is a lot of violence, sexual innuendo (and some not so implied), "minor" language, and just intense suspense. Be prepared to talk about the French Revolution, the law versus what's right, desperation, and prison life.

Overall, it might seem like I'm not really giving this movie as glowing of a review as most. However, the fact that I could genuinely only think of the listed Cons, says a lot about my opinion of the film. The compliment the casting is to compliment the cast. Each performance, each part that was played in the making of this movie was played beautifully. The parts that bothered me were far outweighed by the parts I enjoyed, and I genuinely look forward to seeing all of the behind-the-scenes extras on the DVD when it comes out and an desperately hoping for some commentaries! I'm giving it 4/5 stars

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gollum Style

On occasion, I have some pretty amazing mental images. Today that image was of Gollum from Lord of the Rings doing the Gangnam Style song. This prompted me to make this image:

You are welcome. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Exact Formula

I think that TV shows set in the late 1800s-early 1900s must follow an exact formula and I believe I've nailed down the highlights and it is these highlights that I'm going to share with you.

In order to become a "successful" TV series set in this time you must have an episode about...

1. Fire - Either the barn, the house, the town, or all three need to catch fire. It is preferred that a child starts it, but it's usually first blamed on the town's "outsider" (we'll touch on this later).

2. Horse - Typically, these shows are set around people who don't have a lot of money so buying something like a horse is a big deal. Even if they have money and already have a horse, there will be an episode where one either gets gravely ill and makes a miraculous comeback OR it dies. It sort of depends on the time-slot and network as to which outcome the execs choose.

3. Epidemics - There's nothing like a life-or-death experience to bring a town together. In these series, the epidemic is typically concentrated on the children (smallpox, scarlet fever, measles, etc) but on occasion they can get a bout of typhoid that brings the whole town to its knees. In these episodes (which are often a 2-parter), you get to see the character that's afraid of the sick, the character that's going to pull on the Big Girl/Boy Panties and be the hero, and the character that's in love with the main character but too afraid until now to say anything. These episodes are very emotional and (again depending on time-slot and network) we sometimes see character death.

4. Snow/Weather - In this era, there's not a lot going on and weather is a big driver for life: when to plant, when to harvest, when to have barn raisings...etc. Generally, the "weather" episode is surrounding a snow storm; the heavier the blizzard, the more the drama. Usually, these storms are quite unexpected with only a few hours notice and, wouldn't you know, the main character has JUST set off on a trip into town and there's no way to reach him/her! So, sometimes, the character that loves him/her (but has kept it a secret) runs out into the impending weather apocalypse in order to attempt to save their life and their love. It's really intense.

5. Native Americans - You can't have a show set in this time without dedicating at least one episode to Native Americans. The way in which a series handles this content varies but rest assured that there will be at least one character that will have nothing to do with the Native Americans (typically a child so that they can be vocal without being considered AS prejudiced as if it were an adult) and at least one that thinks the way of life presented is the best thing since sliced bread. There's usually a vision quest and at least one character gets an "Indian name".

6. African Americans - This episode usually doesn't air until the show is certain to make it past the initial cut. Again, there is usually a child that doesn't want to be involved with the new characters who are typically a family from New York or Boston. Due to the nature of the topic, these episodes generally end with a party or community gathering of some sort where everyone comes together to welcome the new residents.

7. Babies/Abuse - I put these two together because they typically air in the same episode and, more often than not, are about the same character. Sometimes a young pregnant woman turns up in the woods, sometimes she stumbles into the church, sometimes she walks right in to the school already in labor...her entrances are varied but her story is usually one of two: 1. she got pregnant out of wedlock and her parents kicked her out, or 2. her husband beats her and she wants a better life for her child so she ran. This episode is really emotionally charged with all sorts of drama; the main character feels the need to care for the woman and/or baby and contemplates rushing into a family arrangement in order to make that happen. This episode is filled with all sorts of other "love" with the minor characters and typically happens in the spring.

8. Robbers - The thought of being held up at gun point and demanded money of is a scary one, the thought of being held up at gun point in the late 1800s is terrifying. No cell phones, no police cars cruising the area, no self-defense were pretty much a sitting duck. Robberies happened and I'm sure they happened often. Based on the amount of different types I've seen on TV alone, I couldn't imagine the fear involved in taking the honey-crop to the market. Don't worry, though, usually the thief is dealt with and belongings are returned at the end of the episode.

9. Writing - This is kind of a weird one when you first think about it but I'm sure you'll recognize just how common it is in a minute or two. It seems that in order to stand out in these small towns, one must become published. Now, it doesn't seem to matter whether that's in a national publication or just the local paper but, never-the-less, it's a big deal and an entire episode is dedicated to finding out who the town's best writer is.

10. Cheating - Even if the series in question is not surrounding children or a school...there is always an episode about cheating. Usually, the person being cheated off of is shy or always bullied so he/she doesn't stand up for themselves until the very end or never at all and it's the cheatER that ends up confessing all in a teary-eyed moment of humility. It's very moving and you're so happy that the character saw the error in his/her ways.

11. Kidnapping - Just like with robberies, according to what we see in these series, kidnapping was a common occurrence during this era. Whether the main character gets taken when out on a walk, in a storm, or whether he/she stumbles upon the kidnapper by accident varies from series to series. This is an episode that really brings out the courage and fortitude not only of the main character but also the supporting cast. These episodes usually end with the kidnapper seeing the error in his ways and surrendering.

12. Weddings - This is usually one of the last episodes of the season/series. It's not necessarily a wedding between the main characters or even the main supporting's just an episode who's sole purpose is to get the main character on the wedding thought-train. These series are usually following a woman who is either recently widowed or has never been married so, going along with the times, finding the right man is one of her most common thoughts. The wedding episode allows the writers to have an entire hour to devote to this topic where otherwise they wouldn't risk it due to fans not wanting to spend too much time away from the "real" story. 'Cause, you know, people who watch period series are watching it for the historical accuracies and not for the character drama and def not because they want to see the main character admit she's in love with the handyman...

13. The Cliff-Hanger - The sad truth is, period series typically don't last. Unless you're Little House on the're extremely fortunate to make it past two (abbreviated) seasons. The only hope these series have is to end in such a way as to make the few fans they have cry for more. The cliff-hanger is the cruelest of cruels. You never find out any real answers and if you aren't lucky enough to have your cries of injustice heard by the execs, the only place you can turn for speculation as to how it all turned out is...fanfiction. And that, my friends, is the slipperiest of slopes reserved only for those who are not faint of heart and the grammatically confident.

I love period series. They're super easy to follow and tend to not have the blood, lust, and general insanity that is in most other television today. That being said, the formula does get old and I do tire of having to weed through the atrocities of fan-written garbage to find a sliver-of-a-diamond in the pile of unremarkable (barely legible) junk.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ten ways to tell you're watching a Made-For-TV movie

Ever wonder why you missed seeing "Snow" in theaters? Or how on earth you missed seeing Katherine Heigl in a classic body-swap scenario? 

Here's why: You never learned the art of Made-For-TV movie detection.

It's ok, it's a rare art that not many study these days. Never fear! I have a handy guide for you so that you never have to worry about it again. So, here we go!

You might be a watching a Made-For-TV movie if...

1. The background music is in WAY more than just the background

2. The main character is a recent widow/widower (9 times out of ten, if the spouse is dead, the main character is a man).

3. The movie is set in a small town, typically somewhere in the north so that "explains" why all the characters sound Canadian, where everyone knows one another.

4. One of the main characters is an animal or Santa...or Santa's daughter

5. The there is a child with a "terminal" illness...

6. The two main characters discover their love for each other while on a hike

7. One (or both) of the main characters are only in the small town temporarily (therefore putting a time crunch on the romance).

8. The female main character has always claimed she doesn't want kids but the male main character just so happens to have a precocious 9 year old that captures her heart.

9. At some point during the movie, the main characters discuss the make and model of the car they're in.

Annnnd number 10!

10. You might be watching a Made-For-TV movie if one of the characters drives (or flies) across the country to deliver a horse to the other main character at a photography exhibition.

Now that you know what to look for, what movie have you seen that you are now realizing qualifies? It's ok to admit it, no judgement here! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

This year, I decided to set aside my "I don't watch superhero movies" rule in order to accomodate the hoards of remakes swinging into theaters. I always seem to forget why it is that I don't like superhero movies until the credits have rolled and I walk out. Alas, by that's much too late!

The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed By - Marc Webb
Written By - James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, & Steve Cloves; based on the comic books by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Top Billed Cast - Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans

So, Spider-Man. I really hope this is the last set of movies on this subject for at least twenty years. I'm not sure if I can handle any more than that. We all know the story, right? Kid gets bit by a mutant spider and becomes a mutant himself. He gets caught up in all sorts of trouble and the police hate him so he's pretty much a self-made outcast. BUT, he's in love and he's gotta do his best to figure out how to balance his job and his personal life with the fewest number of casualties. You win some, you lose some.

Pros -

* Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield have great chemistry...then again, I think Emma Stone could probably have great chemistry with a rock or even Keanu Reeves.

* The shots that were real were great. I especially loved the cinematography leading up to the funeral; raindrops floating down taut umbrellas made for a fantastic visual.

* I often don't care for scores that incorporate lyrical songs but the scarce use and good choices for this film worked well with the sequences.

* For as little as he said, Garfield did a good job maintaining his accent. We all knew he could, but it still should be noted as possible (I'm lookin' at you Ewan McGregor...)

* Seeing as how this was a remake of sorts, I was worried about the pace and I'm happy to report that I shouldn't have been. There were a couple of laggy-bits but, for the most part, everything moved along nicely.

* I much prefer this movie's Aunt Mae and Uncle Ben over the previous film's. Hats off to casting.

* I was somewhat disappointed that the CGI for Dr. Connors' arm was so good. I really wanted to see that wave effect that can accompany green sleeves.

* I was quite impressed with the likeness of the young Peter to the older Peter.

* I know he can't really help it but I loved the fact that the director's last name was Webb...

Cons -

* While I applauded the green-screen effects on the arm of Dr. Connors, I cannot applaud Rhys Ifans' amputee portrayal. I think the reason why we saw no wave was because he kept that arm glued to his side the whole movie. There should be SOME wasn't paralyzed.

* Speaking of that arm, I'm going to have to mention costuming here for a second. When you're fitting a real arm that's supposed to not exist in a coat with a full sleeve, do your best to use a lighter material or something and try hard to make the sleeve not look like it belonged in Abe Lincoln's closet.

* I know that since I don't read comic books or know the "real" story, I probably shouldn't complain but...could they not have this movie set in college rather than high-school? I'm just not buying Emma Stone in high school anymore...or that a 17 year old girl would know how to make an antivirus serum...or be that well trusted at a major scientific corporation.

* Oh sound department...what has happened to you? If anybody wants to see an example of poor sound looping, this is the movie to see. Un-synched lips to sound are NOT the worst part of this situation; there was an entire word changed in post. I'm not sure what the actor really said but it definitely was not the line. Did they run out of time to get another take? Was that the best he could do? Unacceptable on TV and definitely not okay in a blockbuster film such as this.

* There were a few times in this movie where I felt like I was back at Universal Studios, ridin' along in the Spider-Man ride. That's not a compliment.

* Did Peter wear his suit under his clothes ALL the time? I ask this question because, if not, dude needs to enter into some quick-change contests.

* Speaking of the the heck does the mask come off so easy yet look seamless when on? Is there some sort of magic glue not yet mass-produced that gives these results??

* Also, I get that spiders have sticky fingers (so to speak)...but if spiders were wearing tennis shoes...would that stickiness permeate the rubber soles? I don't think so.

* I liked the fact that in this movie, there was an actual contraption that shot the webbing out, however...I didn't like that he apparently always had them on (but they went invisible during certain scenes).

* If you're going to make a movie set in New York City, and you're also making a movie about a giant lizard that is apparently a pied piper...please do your research and spend more money on the CGI creation of the lizards called in.

* Speaking of Mr. Lizard...I don't even know. On the one hand, I was impressed by the make up crew on the real stuff but not so impressed with the CGI crew on the rest of it.

* How does Spider-Man see out of those lenses at night?

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13 for a lot of violence and general scary stuff. Be prepared to discuss genetic engineering, biological warfare, and vigilantes versus police. There are a handful of lower-level curse words but no sex scenes.

Overall, this was definitely a better movie than any of the other Spider-Mans (Men?) I've seen in the past. There were several really cool scenes and I enjoyed the experience, in general. Did it "wow" me? No. But rarely do I "wow" that's not really saying a lot. I think it's a good movie for what it is. If you don't mind loads of CGI and love a good plot hole, this movie is perfect for you! 3/5 stars.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman: Long title, longer movie.

As a hardcore despiser of anything might be surprised to know that I don't hate Kristen Stewart. I decided to go see this movie because Snow White was pretty much my favorite princess growing up (well, after I wore out my Little Mermaid VHS, it was a close second). I had the costume, I had the stuffed Dopey, I sang the songs; it was a good time. So, with that imprinted love of Snow White, I will pretty much watch anything related to that storyline. I like it. Join me in this journey into the land of make believe and giant white...deer?

Snow White and the Huntsman
Directed By - Rupert Sanders
Written By - Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, & Hossein Amini
Top Billed Cast - Kristin Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, & Charlize Theron 

In case you don't know the story of Snow White: no worries, this movie tells the whole thing. What new things they choose to bring to the table, however, are what's mostly going to fill this review. There are just some things you don't mess with. Fairies are one of them.

Pros - 

* I love a good crane shot. This movie did really good work with their cranes, I was genuinely impressed. Helicopter shots, cranes, wides, steady-cams....whatever they were using was working for them.

* Along those same lines, props to the set designers (mostly); I thought the colors were brilliant and the contrasts well done.

* While I wasn't a huge fan of her entire performance, I would like to take a moment to (virtually) pat Charlize Theron on the back for being willing to be covered in indeterminate-goo for most of the film. Black goo, white goo, dark red goo...she was in it.

* I was actually not that bothered by the fight sequences in this movie. I rarely like battle scenes because it's so hard to tell who is who and which person I'm supposed to be rooting for (not because I can't tell good from evil but because the costuming is too similar or the shots too quick to actually see who's winning), but this movie did a really good job for the most part with keeping their "bad" people in very different clothing than the "good". The ponytails were a nice touch.

* CGI...I'll probably devote at least two asterisks to this same topic down in the Cons section but there were moments that I gave invisible high-fives to the CGI people. The hairy apple was one of them. I'm not easily grossed out but just thinking about eating a hairy apple? blech.

* Choosing to not have a heavy score in a movie like this is a risky move but it worked in their favor, I think. There were lots of moments of almost complete silence (some wheezing aside) and I felt that better communicated the feelings of the scenes than a dramatic musical background would have.

* Comic relief is alive and well...if you make it far enough to see it. This movie is long, and slow, but if you stick with it you will be treated to some excellent poop jokes. Just thought I'd let you know.

* This last asterisk in this section I'm giving to my good pal, KStew. In a movie where she only said like 30 lines, I felt she did a much better job emoting than in almost any other film I've seen her in. She was consistant and actually smiled a couple of times; it was odd.


* This is such a slow and long movie. I made the mistake of downing a bottled water prior to entering the theater so my opinion of the pacing might be a bit askew but I really don't think so. If you know the story of Snow White, which...who doesn't at this point?, then you're probably going to get a bit bored at times.

* There were a lot of moments in this movie that felt like moments in other movies. I know, it's 2012 and there it's getting super hard to be original but, honestly, it's not that hard. Ask me some time about my "dotting certification", originality is not dead. There are ways to have a scary forest without it having such a resemblance to a very famous scary forest in The Princess Bride; I was looking for ROUSes everywhere. There was also a Great Expectations moment as well as Ever After (wrong princess but apparently they didn't care), Narnia, Fern Gully...honestly, the list goes on and on.

* Did the producers blow all their money on paying the actors and not have any left to spend on dialect coaches? Really? I mean, ya hire not one...not two...but THREE non-British actors to play the lead characters in a film supposedly set in England but you don't try for some consistency in dialect? Charlize Theron sounded like she had a speech impediment half the movie and the other half she was slipping in and out of that "accent", then you have KStew who did an okay job (mostly) at keeping her consistency, and then you have Hemsworth and he's Scottish? Did I miss something? There was only one character in the whole movie that was Scottish. I just don't get it. If he's gotta have a different accent than everyone else for some unexplained plot-point then why couldn't he just be Australian? Continuity aside, I mean, really...there are fairies so it can't be because Australia wasn't yet founded.

* On the whole Hemsworth being Scottish for unknown reasons point: why did he narrate the beginning of the movie? If he didn't know who Snow was...why was he telling her story? I'm just confused. If this movie was ever meant to be a stand-alone piece, they really failed at communicating things.

* Can I talk about those fairies for a second? Good. Fairies, in my opinion, should not look like Gollum. They are supposed to be the epitome of all things magically good in movies. At least Harry Potter called their ugly ones "pixies" so it made it better. These were just...naked and wingless and riding around in the "pouches" of Magpies? I just don't even know.

* Since I already mentioned skimping on the budget in certain areas, let's talk about the CGI again. From the naked-Gollum fairies to the rabbits to the big white...deer? I just wasn't impressed. At this point in movie history, I just don't buy the excuse that they can't do better. Jim Henson's puppets were more believable as actual creatures than those things. Not only is CGI more challenging to work with for the actors, but reaching that level of "realness" seems to be way too difficult for most productions. I believed the reindeer in The Santa Claus more than I believed these animals ever walked on the earth. I just find it insulting and pointless. I get that it's make-believe anyway but if Animal Planet can do a better job creating a CGI shark and T-rex on one of their programs, this multimillion dollar production should be embarrassed.

* Apparently, if you're locked in a tower for 7+ years you don't spend any of that time looking for things that might help you escape; you make dolls and pray over nonexistent food. You also don't practice making fire.

* There was one moment, that I won't spoil completely, that felt very much like one of those "hidden" moments in Disney movies where you know the animator got fired later when it was discovered that he/she put *that* in the film. You know what I mean. Have fun looking for it but the entire theater in the showing I watched gasped/laughed out loud when it happened. Fun times.

* In other CGI-related news: apparently Hemsworth was the only actor worthy of getting breath added in-in post production.

* One thing I really really really hate in movies & TV shows is the fake drinking. Not just alcoholic beverages, but when they're carrying around obviously empty coffee cups and trying to make me believe that there is liquid inside them. Can they not put water in them? Or, heck, some sort of weight so that they don't look like they're going to fly away the second they are set down? Anyway, I get that the actors can't be expected to consume liquids in every take of every scene where it is "needed" for their character to drink...but...if said character is only "drinking" a single gulp in said scene before tossing the vessel aside, couldn't he at least PRETEND to swallow something instead of just lifting the thing to his lips? Fake drinking is like acting 101. You learn that right after you learn how to faint.

* This is a legitimate question: why is it that people are rarely dry in period films? Did all the roofs leak? Did they never have dry days on which to hang their clothes? Did the wind never dry their never-brushed-unless-they-were-royalty locks?

* Remember that one time you made out with your wicked Step-Mother? Apparently Snow White didn't either. I dunno about you, but if I kissed a guy that turned out to be my Step-Mom and then I died and came back to life, I might throw up. Ok, it'd probably be low down on the "to-do" list but it would still be there!

* I saw KStew's "invisible" reins. The whole movie is now ruined. Not really, but it was one of my favourite moments.

* For a movie of this length, one hundred and twenty-seven minutes to be exact, there was quite a bit that went unexplained. Like the fact that one of the dwarves was blind. Sure, we all knew it...but still.

* Speaking of unexplained things...did ALL of the girls "drained" by the Queen get re-beautified? If that's the case...did the Huntsman's wife? Do I smell sequel topics?

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13 for action violence, mostly in battle sequences. There is some awkward sister-brother-love that might need some explaining as well as talk about magic and hallucinations. Aside from the violence, though, this movie is fairly "clean" by traditional standards.

Overall, I didn't hate this movie. I laughed...a LOT. KStew did a pretty good job considering the fact that she said even less in this movie than she does normally. I mean, I guess I give some props to the casting director for hiring an actress known WORLDWIDE for not being able to properly emote to play a character with so little to say. But, then again, there is the whole "the role was offered to NINE other actresses before her" thing. That might clear some things up. I'm definitely interested to see if they do end up making two more of these things. I'd rather it not turn into another film series involving KStew giving birth. Nobody wants to see that. Again. 2.5/5 stars

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Avengers

I don't do superhero movies. I feel like this is important to note. With that being said, the last superhero movie I saw was Spiderman 3....again, I feel this is an important piece of information.

Why don't I like superhero movies? Primarily, because the CGI is never good enough for me to believe, even for a second, that what I'm watching could possibly be real. I'm all for leaving reality behind for a couple of hours and suspending belief screens are atrocities. Alas, I'm getting ahead of myself!

The Avengers
Directed By - Joss Whedon
Written By - Joss Whedon, Zac Penn, based on the comic book by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Top-Billed Cast - Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans,  & Scarlett Johanson 

Basically, the world is being attacked by aliens -gasp!- and the "top" superheros are called in to work together in order to save the planet...and the universe. Shocking plot line, isn't it? Ok, let's just get into it.

Pros - 

* Casting - I realize that most of these people were cast as their superhero alter egos a while ago but I just thought I'd give a shout out to those agencies responsible for snagging these particular people for these particular roles.

* The score was pretty good. I can't really speak on as intense of a level as I usually do on this subject but, I remember noting liking it.

* It's rare for me to not have at least one CSI reference in pretty much anything I watch and this movie did not disappoint. Most of you may not know this but, Jeremy Renner (aka Hawkeye) pretty much played a murderer on CSI. It makes me irrationally happy when I recognize actors not for their starring roles or their break-out performances, but their CSI appearances.

* Speaking of characters we recognize from things past...did anybody spot Chrissy from Growing Pains?? (She was also on CSI for an episode). I'm really not sure why the directors/writers decided to include this character in the movie; I feel it was probably one of those "Hey, I know this actress and she's great, work her in?". I think those times are funny. Characters with no real purpose for the win!

* I enjoyed the comedic timing. That Captain America kid is quite srs. This is a movie about super heros and aliens, people, let's not get toooooo intense.

* Did anybody else get the "Wormtongue" vibe from Loki? Pretty much that's all I thought about. The entire time he was on screen. I'm putting this as a Pro simply because I thought it was funny.

Cons - 

* Can we talk about the aliens for a moment? I mean, I realize that this is based on a comic book which means it was based on drawings...but...really? For the first few minutes of each scene involving that head alien dude, I was frantically searching for his mouth. I'm not sure why, but I feel like if you're going to try to make this thing scary....we should at least be able to see it.

* Speaking of that. Outer-space is a dark place. I understand that, I really do. But this is a movie and in order to enjoy it, I need to be able to see it and designing a set that only the director and cinematographer can enjoy is not very practical. You pay how much money to create this amazing world and you're going to light it so poorly that you could've just used the E.T. ride in Universal and gotten the same effect? Sad.

* Oh that Thor guy. You're Australian. Good on ya! I did not see his individual movie, so I can't comment there but...can somebody explain to me why he and his "brother" had such different accents? Yeah yeah, Loki was adopted...but weren't they raised together? I mean, Loki said that whole "father told me of my true parentage" as if it was a surprise when he found out. Also, just pick an accent. If you are Australian...BE Australian. If you are going to be British...BE British, etc. I don't like inconsistency. It bothers me.

* Speaking of this revelation of parentage. What is this "Twins"? Honestly, you're raised with Thor and you don't wonder if you might have a different father? I'm laughing right now just thinking about it.

* Is Captain America really that serious all the time? Did he even smile ONCE that whole movie? Is he really supposed to reflect America?

* Gwyneth Paltrow. That is all.

* This is a super hero movie and I just don't understand why at the end of EVERY superhero movie, they do the "We hate them! They should die!" montage. I feel that those people interviewed are the Post-Tornado footage people of know what I'm talking about. If there is a tragic event, those that are interviewed for TV are typically: the most outspoken & the least dressed.

* This WHOLE movie is revolving around this man and his....staff. His magical and blue staff. It's out of his possession numerous times and yet, it takes post-concussion-brain-warped-older-guy to point out that it might be helpful in shutting down this whole thing? Come on ScarJo, think about it.

* Speaking of concussions and brainwashing, I didn't agree with the choice of how they showed the "brainwashed"ness. It was hard to tell on those BLUE-EYED actors when they were for real and when they weren't. Also...concussions fix everything now? Ok. Can we try that with criminals? Please?

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13, mostly for violence. I mean, despite the fact that one of the lead characters carries around a giant blue-tipped stick for most of the movie, there really was only one scene with any type sexual innuendo and it was mostly whispered off microphone. Be prepared to talk about the difference between reality and make believe and possibly government corruption (if you want to go that far). Pretty clean for a movie of the era.

Overall, I enjoyed the process of watching this movie. I enjoyed tearing it apart, too. Even though I don't do superhero movies...I'm glad I made the exception for this one. 3.5/5 stars. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Five-Year Engagement

Going into this movie, I definitely had some preconceived notions about how funny (or not) it was going to be. I read a few "reviews" (if that's what we're calling user comments on the Fandango app now...) and saw that it wasn't getting very good press. I wasn't deterred. I rarely ever am. I'm a movie lover and even if the movie is horrible, I can at least love hating it.

The Five-Year Engagement
Directed By - Nicholas Stoller
Written By - Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller 
Top-Billed Cast - Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, & Chris Pratt

This movie is about a relationship -gasp!-. Jason Segel plays Tom Solomon, a chef at a high-end restaurant in San Francisco and Emily Blunt, playing Violet Barnes, is his girlfriend. We watch their ups and downs over the course of five years -gasp!- and it's a mostly fun ride. Really, this movie is exactly what it sounds like so writing this synopsis feels pretty pointless.

Pros -

* A lot of the "reviews" that I read stated that this movie wasn't that funny. I disagree. While it was no Bridesmaids (which I can't even think about without cracking up), it was consistently funny.

* I'm an Emily Blunt fan and I felt she did a good job at conveying some of the lesser-vocalized emotions in the film. Also, for such a sex-driven movie (for lack of a better term), I was happy to see that she only took part in 1 uncomfortable segment. See? It's TRUE! You don't have to bare all in a movie to portray proper emotions -gasp!-

* I don't watch The Office...I never have (consistently) but, Mindy Kaling, I'm a fan. I feel that her character in this movie is pretty much the same character she always plays but it doesn't matter because it's always funny. Surprisingly (?), there is a lot of tension in this movie and her character (along with other members of the supporting cast) really help lighten things up.

* If a movie can make me laugh about somebody dying, I can't help but give it props. I mean, granted, that sounds really bad...but if you can laugh at a funeral, something must be going right...right?

* I know I already briefly touched on the supporting cast but, again, they really carried a lot of the movie and did a great job. Allison Brie, playing Emily Blunt's sister, did an excellent job and I didn't even question the accent...that's a big deal.

Cons - 

* This is a Judd Apatow film. WHAT?!? Yes, I'm putting that as a con here. Why? Because I feel that more people will associate that name with the style of movie to which I'm referring than the writers. Writers write it, yes, but producers approve it. If a producer says "no", it doesn't happen.

* I know I just talked about why sex scenes don't work on TV in the post right below this one (check it out!) but, I feel I should highlight some reasons they don't work in movies. I understand that these types of movies rely heavily on crude humor and that a lot of the "funny" stuff comes from uncomfortable situations which, mostly, seem to revolve around awkward sex. But, honestly, I don't need 5 straight minutes of awkward sex in order to feel uncomfortable for the characters involved. Heck, I don't need 1 minute in order for that to occur. Sex scenes in movies are almost always uncomfortable for me because I just can't help but picture everyone else in the room while they're filming it. That's not romantic; that's creepy.

* I think it must be a goal of Jason Segel's to appear nude as often as possible in his films. Good on ya for having that much self confidence, I guess.

* You know you've gone too far with a comedic bit when even the college-aged guys in the theater aren't laughing. That's pretty much the target audience for a lot of the jokes in this movie and they...didn't get it either.

* You know how they say "less is more"? I think that should be remembered in the writer's room when trying to find ways for characters to express: glee, sadness, exhaustion, love, or pretty much any other emotion. There are PLENTY of words in the English language to express these things and I feel that one is degrading the audience's intelligence if you only choose to use one. You know which one I'm talking about.

* For a movie who's entire premise revolves around time and years and the goings on in between...I felt that they didn't do a very good job of communicating where we were in the relationship. I got lost. Several times. At one point I was even questioning the title of the movie because it wasn't five full years...anyway, I digress. I just think this particular plot piece could have used a better bit of continuity.

* Speaking of continuity and time. There are two children in this movie. One never ages. It's like Tuck Everlasting.

* This probably should just be forgotten but, I can't. In the first set of previews, there's a scene in which a child shoots an arrow at Emily Blunt while proclaiming "I'm Pocahontas!" and then, in a later set of previews the child proclaims "I'm Katniss!", instead. I thought the second bit was a lot funnier and thought for sure that they would re-dub the actual film since they did the preview. Nope.

Now Mother..
This movie is rated R. Do society a favor and don't take your kids to see it, please. There were surprisingly few sex scenes for the first hour and a half but boy do those last 30 minutes make up for it! It's not that much is "shown" (technically), but there's still plenty of reasons not to bring the kids. Also, if you want your child to refrain from repeating the F-word when quoting a movie to their friends, this is probably not the right choice for you. It's in pretty much every scene at least once. If you *do* take your kids despite this warning, be prepared to talk about: making sacrifices for those you love, death, cheating, and the importance of finding the right person to spend your life with.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. For some reason, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get this review to read that way. There are a LOT of reasons why you might not want to see this film and it's not one that I would say would be enjoyed by all. I laughed a lot and I thought it was cute. It is simply, though, a romantic comedy, and I know a lot of people that don't see the point in an R-rated romcom. I get that and I mostly agree. If this movie took out the awkward sex scenes (or at least toned them down or shortened them) and somewhat minimized the F-word usage, it would be JUST as funny and more accessible to audiences. 2.5/5 stars. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Relationships on TV Shows: A How To Guide

I don't normally talk about TV...which is odd, really, because I love TV and am probably more passionate about TV than I am movies. Tonight's TV choice inspired this post and I really just needed to type it out to get it out of my head. Here goes!

How to simultaneously please a fan-base while not alienating viewers:  

1. Keep it light. I don't mean keep it "light-hearted". I don't care, take it as dark as you want. I just mean, don't throw the new relationship in viewers' faces because, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have cried for years on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr,, and all of Google for you, The Powers That Be (TPTB), to put these two characters together and to let them see them together 24/7...they lied. They do NOT actually want to watch an entire episode of nothing other than those two characters saying how much they love each other. My personal threshold for TDA (TV Displays of Affection) is about 3 minutes for every 1 hour show. That's it. After that point? I just get squicked.

2. Keep it secret. Ah, secret love...what could be more fantastical? Nothing. I'm serious! If you have two characters dating in "secret" there are SO many ways to play it. By "letting" the audience in on their late-night-rendezvous but not the rest of the characters, everyone wins! You can't have them jumping each other every five seconds or too much on-screen TDA because then the secret would get out. It's really the best way. Heck, CSI got away with a season and an episode this way and they SO could have gone longer with fans being "ok" with it.

3. Keep it quiet. No, not the same thing as keeping it secret. Remember what I said about the TDA? Well, I have exceptions. Know what I love? Looking for things: "dead bodies" breathing, continuity fails, bad sound looping, etc etc...I like watching shows that I actually have to, you know, WATCH. I barely do that these days. I can have Facebook, Pinterest, and homework open while "watching" Survivor and not really miss a lot. Why? Because, TPTB, you are relying too heavily on dialogue! Dialogue is great and more power to screen writers but...acting? Have we lost the ability to speak with our eyes? If you can get two actors to have a conversation without using words and have that conversation BE the only bit of relationship your fans get that week? You have something. Once again, I know CSI fans know what I'm talking about.

4. Keep it slow. I don't mean that you have to flirt with the idea of two characters finally starting the journey for years. I just mean, don't rush it. Bones fans feel like they were cheated out of those beginning stages of the Booth/Bones pairing due to TPTB's decision to use Emily Deschanel's real life pregnancy timeline for the show. I didn't feel cheated because, heck, those two have always been together in my book. But, I see fans' points and I agree that it was a very risky move. We need to see *something* before we see *everything*. Most shows follow the 6-season-build-up plan, for who knows what reason, and I like it..I like the idea of a relationship visually building for that length of time. Or, at least, building for more than just a few episodes.

5. Keep it a subplot. Not to burst anyone's bubble but...I don't want to watch two people in love for an hour. Every week. For 24 weeks. I want to watch two people in love along with 3+ other people and them all doing something non-relationship-related, for an hour. Every Week. For 24 weeks. What does this mean? It means...keep the relationship in the background. This way, you don't alienate those die-hard "I'm just here for the murders!" fans OR those who just watch the show in hopes of catching the leading man shirtless. By keeping the 'ships in the background, you can really make your fans WATCH and listen for the fleeting moments of reveal. Make them want it. If it's plastered all over every episode, it loses appeal. It'd be like being forced to eat a Butterfinger candy bar every day of your life; after a while, you really don't want to eat it any more and you might even start to avoid it.

6. Keep it PG. I know, I know, a killjoy number. But, really, let the sex scenes stay off screen. It's just better for everybody. I'm one of those viewers that over thinks everything, I can't help it. So, when I see a sex scene or even a kiss sequence, I'm not gushing over character-love, I'm thinking about how awkward that must have been to film. Sure, I've heard that on some movie sets when filming those bits certain directors have been known to dismiss the crew so it's just them and the actors but..really? TV isn't that intense (and still, just you and two actors hanging around filming a sex scene? awkward anyway). You know there is the poor guy stuck holding the boom mike above the bed trying not to let it sink into view, a guy with headphones trying to make sure the only noises audible are the indiscernible ones from the actors, and at least 15 people standing around, waiting on the director to yell "CUT!" so they can move on to craft services. If you didn't know that, you are very welcome for that visual. I don't mean that TPTB have to make the only physical contact between two characters a classic-homeschool-side-hug...but I do wish we could keep it classy.

7. Keep down the innuendo. Just as I don't want to SEE the sex scenes...I don't want every line between two characters to reference the unseen. Especially if the show is a drama. I understand the need to imply things and to let people in on the fact that you, TPTB, think this whole pairing is something you've thought of since day one and that you're super proud of the fact that the characters are together but, really? I don't think having those characters, that you've poured years of hard work into, constantly referencing each other's genitalia is really honoring your work or the viewers' view of it.

8. Keep it consistent. If you're going to go the "okay, for every 10 minutes of show...we give the viewers 30 seconds of the 'ship" route, stick to it. Having half a season of glimpses followed by a full hour of nothing BUT that relationship is risky. While most of the time the decision to have the relationship at all is so calculated and thought out and polled to the moon and back, you still take a chance of angering a large portion of your fan-base if you dedicate one of the precious 24 episodes to a 'ship they don't support. It's especially risky if your show has an abbreviated season: "You mean to tell me we only get 12 episodes of Bones this season and one of them was WASTED on this?!?" (real words spoken by yours truly).

9. Keep your time line. As much as we all think we want our shows to last forever...we really don't. There are only so many strippers that can be murdered in Vegas; let's be realistic. There are only so many different ways a serial killer can strike. There are only so many different ways you can have a body splayed about on the highway. It's just the way it is. The average lifespan of a TV drama? Past its prime. Why don't TPTB end shows when they're good? As a dog trainer, I understand this principle very well: you don't work on something until the dog doesn't want to anymore, you work on it until the dog is so enthralled in the activity that it can't possibly think of anything else and QUIT. Why? Because you want that dog to crave that activity and by stopping right when it's getting good, you achieve that. No, TV and dogs are not the same thing but I think the principle applies to both. I know we think that we could watch Law & Order until we die (well, I don't think that...), but you just can't possibly tell that many good stories. Actors get tired, writers get fired, and networks can't pay. It is what it is. So, rather than ruin a relationship in order to try and save the show or flaunt a relationship in hopes of the same, just end it. As a fan of one particular show that ended on a cliffhanger of a relationship... It can work in your favor. That show went off the air over 15 years ago...PEOPLE. ARE. STILL. TALKING. While, granted, you want your show to be a success for as long as possible, please have a solid timeline in place and stick to it. Always.

Nine points later, I think I'm ranted-out. You can have your cake and eat it too (if your cake is a popular, feasible, 'ship) if you do it right. A relationship between two lead characters doesn't have to ruin the show. Unfortunately, more often than does.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games

I wasn't planning on doing a review for this movie until I saw it again (hint of what's to come: I just said I was planning on seeing it again) but, I feel now that it needs to be done before then.

I read the books. I own the books. I will read the books again. That being said, there is only so much a screenwriter can do when it comes to extraneous details. But, alas, I'm getting ahead of myself!

The Hunger Games
Directed By - Gary Ross
Written By - Gary Ross, Billy Ray, & Suzanne Collins based on the novel by Suzanne Collins

Top-Billed Cast - Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, & Stanley Tucci

This movie is set in Panem, a futuristic country located in what used to be the United States (and parts of Canada) right before, during, and right after the annual Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are, basically, a form of punishment from the Capitol to the rest of the districts for rebelling against them back in the day. Each year, two "tributes" from each district meet in an arena and fight to the death; only one tribute comes out alive.

On to the good stuff!

Pros - 

* Let's start with the set. This movie was filmed in the Appalachians and you can tell. No offense to my Canadian neighbors but when a book is supposed to be set in the Smokies and they make the movie in British Columbia because it looks "the same" bueno. Not only was the location well scouted, the sets themselves were pretty darn incredible. I believed I was looking at a coal mining town and could have been looking at one from the 1930s. The extras were perfectly cast (extras are extra important for me) and it just looked and felt exactly as I had imagined it.

* Speaking of the 1930s, those costumes...awesome. From the simple blue dress that Katniss wears to the reaping to the fiery costumes of Cinna's design to the extras in the Capitol, the costume designers here got it right. I'm really looking forward to seeing the next two movies just for this factor alone.

* Since I brought up Katniss, let's spend some time talking about Jennifer Lawrence. Playing a character that narrates a book is hard. Playing a character that narrates a book that also has tremendous inner turmoil is even harder. Playing a character that narrates a book, that also has tremendous inner turmoil, AND admittedly shows no outward signs of that emotion? Extremely difficult. Jennifer Lawrence, I salute you. It's not that Katniss was a stretch of a character, really, or that another actress couldn't have done it (I actually thought a young Natalie Portman might have been perfect for this role but time travel won't yet permit it), but Jennifer Lawrence was cast and Jennifer Lawrence nailed it. Subtlety is an art.

* I can't have a pros & cons list and Stanley Tucci on the bill without giving one asterisk to him. Caesar Flickerman might be more of a minor character in the books but Tucci makes him memorable and carries his extra duties well.

* This movie is really pretty. There are moments that I didn't agree with the choices with the cinematography (and, believe me, I'll let you know where) but for the most part...loved the look of this movie. The TrackerJacker sequences were just gorgeous.

* For being a young adult, non-sequel, book adaptation, this movie got a lot of screen time. Two and a half hours. I've read some reviewers who felt that this was too long and others who felt the story was too rushed. What do I say to this? Text-to-film is never going to come out perfectly on the time scale, you make time for what you feel the audience needs to see in order for it to resonate and get them to A) see it again B) tell their friends to see it and C) get them into the next movie. You can't have a 7 hour movie of this type; young adults (or people like myself) just can't handle that. I thought the things that were dropped were relatively unimportant compared to what was put in there. For instance, as I mentioned earlier, this book is narrated first-person by the main character and you just can't have an actress talking to herself for an entire movie OR show things that I really felt would have been missed had they chosen to do it that way. I won't delve as I don't want to spoil but for those curious, feel free to comment.

* There is a reason the soundtrack for this movie jumped to #1 the day it came out. That is all.


* As of this movie, I am not a fan of Lenny Kravitz's portrayal of Cinna. It to me. Especially the last scene we see him in.

* I was really worried that the first five minutes of cinematography was an indication of what the rest of the film was going to look like. I get motion sick very easy and I was not a fan of the Blair Witch homage.

* I'll use this single asterisk to discuss text-to-film discrepancies that I didn't like. I understood getting rid of Madge and I appreciated the way they "fixed" that. I'm a tad worried about Peeta' at the end of this movie but I have confidence that that will be fixed.

* I'm not yet convinced that I like Liam Hemsworth as Gale (but that might just be because I'm not a Gale fan, in general).

Now Mother..
This movie is about children killing children. It contains lots and lots of violence (though not as much as one might expect if you've read the book). It is rated PG-13 and does have minor bouts of language (again, very mild considering what passes as "ok" in similarly rated films today). Viewer beware..

Overall, I LOVED this movie. I will own it. I will listen to the commentaries on the DVD. I get that people wanted it to be this blood fest but, really? It's a movie about kids killing kids. I know I don't *really* want to see some little boy's head get bashed in; I can barely tolerate the child zombies on The Walking Dead. I think the use of implied violence mixed with actual violence was perfect. I also hear complaints about how the movie was SO different than the book. I really don't get that. Suzanne Collins co-wrote the screen play and I thought it was one of the best adaptations I've ever seen. I'm a Harry Potter fan but some of those movie...atrocities. While this movie could be a stand-alone product, I think that those die-hard fans should, firstly, see the movie again and then...wait for the sequels. There could be reasons why sub-plots were "missing" from this movie and they might turn up or be explained in the following films. I'm a nit-picker and I hate discrepancies just as much (probably more) than the next guy but, I think people are being too harsh on this movie. It's fantastic and you should see it. 4.5/5 stars.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

"Big Miracle", Little Impact

Ah, a movie about an event that really happened...almost 24 years ago. I remember reading about this as a child; I was really into whales circa 1993.

Big Miracle
Directed by- Ken Kwapis
Written by- Jack Amiel, Michael Begler, & based on the book by Thomas Rose
Top Billed Cast- Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, & Kristen Bell

Set in Barrow, Alaska, in 1988, this movie centers around the plight of Gray Whales. Adam Carlson (Krasinski) is a reporter that has been working in Barrow for 4 weeks when he stumbles upon the trapped mammoths. With only a small space to use to breath and winter approaching fast, the situation gets international attention as people rush to save the whales.

* Because the movie is set in 1988, there are a lot of pop culture references that made me laugh. Walk-Mans, cassette tapes, typewriters, and phones with actual cords just to name a few.

* Krasinski pretty much carried the movie. It's not really that his performance was out of this world but, his character's development was one that was easy to track and actually see.

* While I wish that her character got more in the way of a story arc, Kristen Bell was quite convincing in her role and it brought a lightness to certain parts of the movie that really needed it.

* Wardrobe. I might not have been wearing anything but onesies in the '80s but I've seen enough on TV and family pictures to recognize good choices when I see them.

* The animatronic whales were pretty good. Nothing on Free Willy but, sufficient.

* While the homage to all things 1988 was good..I felt the film relied too heavily on archived footage. In some movies, they'll sprinkle bits of real feed in with what they shoot and that works really well. The movie then feels authentic without looking cheesy. In this movie, I felt like I might as well have just googled "Tom Brokaw coverage, 1988 Gray Whales" and watched the same exact thing without the $10.50 price tag.

* I don't like when movies involve past Presidents. I understand that it was necessary to include the fact that Ronald Reagan was involved in this rescue but I heartily disagree that they had to use a "look-a-like" (I guess he looked like him..we only really saw his profile) for two seconds before cutting to real footage of him doing a press conference.

* There's a few parts in the movie where Drew Barrymore's character pretty much saves the day. I'm not going to specify which part I'm referring to but, let's just say...I've never seen a knife cut so quickly or a person so dexterous in that weather.

* I dislike rabbit trails in movies. If it doesn't matter for the end game, please don't make it seem important.

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG and pretty clean. I can't actually recall anything that would make me want to caution anyone. This movie does talk about death and killing so be prepared to discuss the ways in which other cultures live. Viewer beware..

Overall, I really just didn't care. Sure, the movie had a couple emotionally stirring moments but, for the most part, it was just middle of the road. It certainly didn't evoke the same feelings that Free Willy did and I felt a tad disappointed by that. I didn't hate the movie but I also didn't love it. I could take it or leave it at 3/5 stars.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

This movie...I'm not quite sure what about it made it so good. I'll save my summary for the end on this one but I'll preface the Pros & Cons with this: I have not read the book. I tried to listen to it on CD while driving once...I got car sick so I decided against further literary pursuits.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Directed By- Stephen Daldry
Written By- Eric Roth and based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer
Top Billed Cast- Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, & Sandra Bullock 

This movie is about a young boy who lost his father in the attacks on 9/11. You are taken on a journey narrated by Oskar Schell, the boy who was "tested once for was inconclusive". Colorful imagery, painful memories, and heartwarming tales of kindness abound. This movie, though, is not a lighthearted walk through the park; it has moments of great pain and can be tough to watch.

* When a movie is going to be narrated, it should be done very carefully and start at the beginning. If there's one thing I hate, it's hearing a random's voice 10 minutes into the movie and having to wonder who on earth is talking and why. This movie did it right. While Thomas Horn's voice was woven in and out of the story from beginning to end, it was not done in such a way that annoyed or brought you out of the world that was created.

* The cinematography on this movie was awesome. Even though I can't see those shots-to-make-life-look-miniature without having CSI flashbacks...I still enjoyed the moments of reminiscence. The scale was done perfectly, the feeling of largeness or tightness perfectly mirrored in the shots.

* Movies with good sound are like the dark chocolate covered raisins of cinematic wonder. What? You don't like dark chocolate covered raisins? Then you probably didn't notice how perfect the score of this movie was anyway. It's my blog, I can make that leap. Sound. People take it for granted way too often. The powers that be on this film, however, did not and it was a thing of beauty. Trust me on this.

*'s an art. Honestly, I wasn't too sure about the casting on this movie. I had never heard of Thomas Horn and while I like both Hanks and Bullock, I wasn't sure how I would feel about them in a movie together. I knew from the moment the movie started, though, that Horn was made for this role. While I've not read the book (merely listened to about a page and a half), I still feel that his timing and delivery were spot on with the character. I believed him and that was very important for this movie.

* Speaking of Bullock. At first, I was not so sure what her role in this movie really was. The story revolves, mostly, around Oskar and his father's (Hanks') relationship which puts Bullock's character in the shadows for the first half of the movie. Once her character comes more into focus, though, wow. I enjoyed her performance very much and am really kind of confused as to why only one actor got an Oscar nomination out of this movie.

* I've read some people thought the movie moved slowly and I really have to disagree. I think I can see where they might have felt that but, to me, the pace was perfect. There were times I was really frustrated that there seemed to be no one on this kid's side and really just wanted him to have some help but, at the reveal (which I'll touch on next) it became extremely clear why this feeling of isolation for the character was necessary. We, as the audience, need to feel the same desperation that Oskar feels, the isolation is necessary for the coming together at the end.

* Ah, the reveal. That moment in a movie when everything makes sense. When all the actors and directors have been working towards, happens. Some movies have massive :O moments while others hint at the ending throughout. This movie didn't have an M. Night twist or anything, and yet, I felt the reveal almost as powerful. It was a pleasant surprise, not only in the way it was done but also in the information it gave us.

* The one actor that got nominated from this movie is the same actor that did not utter a single word the whole time he was on screen. Max von Sydow played "The Renter" and his portrayal of this beaten down, ashamed, man was brilliant. One does not have to speak aloud to say important things.

* I feel it's important to have at least three cons in every review.

* There was one...creative choice...that I disagreed with. I absolutely hate when a movie goes to a black screen before the movie is actually over. If that black screen lasts more than 2 seconds, it's too long. It draws me out of the movie and my little ADD brain can't take the switch. I've started thinking about all the previews I saw before the screen goes back to the movie and it just takes me too long to get back on track. I understood the purpose and can respect the decision..I just didn't like it.

* This last con is one that I can't even really talk about as it will spoil the movie. I'll just say this: I don't like loose ends and there was a rather large one in this movie. For something to be such an integral part of the story line, something repeated again and again, one would think that there would be resolution. Sure, one can assume that it was discussed and maybe, in some deleted scene, it was. But why was that scene deleted? Why take that part out of the film if it was indeed scripted to begin with?

Now Mother..
This movie is rated PG-13 and talks about lots of heavy subjects such as: self-harming, terrorism, aspergers, & suicide. There is a fair sprinkling of language but the rating is mostly due to the emotional toll it will take on you. Viewer beware..

Overall, I loved this movie. I cried. I don't cry often in movies. It's a movie that is definitely heavy and not for everyone but, if you can make it to the's so worth it. The performances in this movie mixed with the cinematography and direction just create this awesome package. I can't really even put my finger on why I liked the movie so much and I really can't understand why other critics did not. Perhaps if I read the book I would feel different? 4/5 stars.

Friday, January 13, 2012

"Joyful Noise" was noisy, alright

Ah the musical. From a very early age I was one of those children that pleaded with the others to allow us to fast forward through the dance/song numbers in classics like "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Mary Poppins". I was the one that really only made it through "Newsies" because I had been in a theatrical production of it and therefore felt connected to the songs some how. I think the only reason I loved the Disney classics so much is because I was basically imprinted with them from such a young age that the endless songs were the only choice; there weren't that many non-Disney movies that I watched as a child so they were normal.

Point being: I'm not exactly sure why I always feel the need to challenge this long standing dislike for movies with a large number of song and dance numbers. Sure, we all laughed during "Sister Act" and yeah, "The Muppets" were cute but, honestly, I can barely even handle those. And they had plot! To be fair, "Joyful Noise" did have a was just SO slow moving that at some points I felt like they forgot the point of the movie and were just filming stuff to fill time. On to Pros and Cons!

Joyful Noise
Directed By- Todd Graff
Written By- Todd Graff
Top Billed Cast- Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, & Keke Palmer

Ah the age old tale of the choir competition. Yes, it's basically the same plot as both "Sister Act"s minus the witness protection program but plus a few other angsty bits thrown in.

* It wasn't the vocal performances that turned me off of this movie; actually, the vocals were pretty good. The music wasn't something to write home about but the lip-syncing was good (only noticed somebody being really off once!).

* The very last number. If you could fast forward through the majority of the movie and just arrive at the very last song/dance bit, this movie might just be worth it ("it" being the $1 RedBox rental, of course).

* I'll put this in here just because I feel bad for only having two Pros. The quick quips between Dolly and Queen were quite funny. Most of the time. When you could hear the whole line.

* Casting. I understand that low budget films needing singers/dancers/actors have to scour the ends of the agents' lists for the right fit. However, I feel that there just has to be willing talent in Hollywood more capable or fitting than the cast selected. It's not that they were terrible, really, it was more that most of them just didn't seem believable for their individual roles.

* Speaking of casting, let's just go ahead and name some names (feel free to imdb these names for a full understanding of this point). Angela Grovey & Roy Huang do not fit. There is no way that I, as the viewer, buy that they found eternal bliss with one another in a relationship. It's not that either one was just was NOT a good match.

* I mentioned the movie being slow in the intro but I didn't mention how long it was. This movie is LONG. There are some films where, upon leaving, you think "man, has it really been two hours already?!". Not the case here. At about one hour in I checked my clock to see if it was almost over. It wasn't. At two hours in, I checked my clock again and got excited. I shouldn't have.

* Those quips I put in the Pros section? Sure, they were funny...but there was such a lack of comedic timing in their delivery that half of the jokes were missed over half of the time. If you, the writer, thinks the audience is going to laugh (which, let's face it, they are), then you need to add a pause in the script or something. Now, listen, don't go yelling at me that that is the director's this instance, the director and the writer are one & the same so he should know how to properly advise his actors.

* Handheld flashbacks. Granted, there was only one, but it was so bad. I can't even take it. Not only were these flashbacks shot instagram style with what was probably a flip camera (no offense to the camera), but they chose to fade to black for an entire 3 count before they brought it back to the actor flashing back. Badly placed and poorly executed.

* Chemistry. There's one scene where G.G. (Dolly) is singing a duet with her grandson (sort of, there's parts where she sings it with her dead husband, but we'll get to that), and at the end I honestly had a moment where I though they just might kiss, and not in the familial way. With other actors, this problem was completely the opposite: no chemistry and they were SUPPOSED to kiss.

* Ah the duet with the dead man. Reminiscing is fine but please don't make me watch over three minutes of it. Waltzing on a poorly lit sound stage singing the same chorus over and over and over again does not endear me to the character or her loss; it makes me hate her and reminds me to never buy the soundtrack.

* Speaking of repetition, repetition. Jokes were warn out and songs over sung. Just because you're highlighting a different angle of an actress on this chorus does not mean I need to hear it all again. Maybe they only had one or two cameras for the whole movie so they had to reshoot every thing from every angle? I'm not sure but man did those songs get old and FAST.

* This next bit may seem out of line and I apologize if I'm wrong here but, in my experience, aspergers is not something cured over night. Not that the person affected in this film was "cured", in so many words, but there were scenes where having another actor "call him out on his excuses" seemed to bring about a very fast change. He went from not wanting to be touched, isolated in facts, aversion to strong lights and loud noises, to singing/playing the piano in front of an entire theater full of people. It just seemed like a very abrupt change.

* If you thought this movie was a wholesome good time for the whole would be incorrect. From using the same swear word six or seven times in a row to using God's name in vain to pre-marital sex to physical violence...I could go on. I didn't realize it was a PG-13 when I went to see it so imagine my surprise during some of those scenes. It wasn't necessarily that bad but it was considering what I thought it was about.

Now Mother..
As I just stated, this movie is rated PG-13 and, yeah, it should be. Be prepared to talk about the poor economy and what that might mean for families, aspergers syndrome, "smiting" by God for pre-martial sex, violence as an answer for bullying, plastic surgery, speaking in tongues, and what your beliefs are when it comes to competitions verses being a good example. Viewer beware..

Overall, I did laugh and I did enjoy the final number. However, it was not something I would ever see again (no, not even to make fun of!) or something I would recommend to anyone. 1.5/5 stars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I don't normally talk about TV but..

I was just thinking. It's a new year, right? So, to me, this means there are things that should be said "goodbye" to and new things should take their place. I think this should apply to TV too. There are shows out there that have, in my opinion, gone beyond their prime and should be escorted out peacefully rather than cancelled with a cliff hanger. Here are a few shows that I think we should say "Adios!" to in 2012:

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Those who know me are probably surprised to hear me say this. I've been a fan since the very first season...12 years ago next fall. 12 years is a LONG time for any episodic drama and especially one that was such a front runner in its genre. Crime shows were something of a joke before CSI happened and now, pretty much, that's the only type of episodic drama on TV! I took a season break from the show due to...creative differences...back in 2008/9, I have since returned and remain a loyal fan.

Let's face it: There are only so many prostitutes that can die by strangulation in and around the Las Vegas area. Likewise, there are only so many times one can "replace" the lead character before the audience gets bored of the, seemingly, same arc of character development every few seasons. These characters are people the fans feel like they know, yet, this show likes to hold its characters at emotional stand stills for years at a time. When one finally starts moving forward they're either killed off or written off.

It's been a fun ride, but with Catherine leaving this season and the execs set to replace even her...I think this spring would be the perfect opportunity to park this classic show in the vault and let it rest in peace.

Admittedly, I don't watch this show currently but I did watch it when it first came on and for a couple seasons after that. I've heard that Fox is looking to move the sci-fi drama to a new network. In my opinion, it would be better to end the show now than to risk a dismal failure on a new network with a new time-slot competing against newer shows with newer audiences.

Grey's Anatomy
Probably will get a lot of "boos" for this one but...really? I would have thought that the sing-along disaster of last year would have been the end but apparently I was wrong. How many more attractive doctors can be killed off while saving other attractive doctors' lives in extraordinary ways in a single hospital? I understand that any time we turn on the TV we agree to suspend most forms of reality but...really? I tried to watch this show way back when but all the people drama was just too much. If I wanted to watch a soap opera, I would. Where CSI might have too little character development, I feel that Grey's has too much. I think a nice wrap up and go might be the perfect end to this TV season.

The Office
I'm sure there are still laughs to be had here but I just don't see the show surviving much longer. It had its day and that day was incredible. Losing the, basically, star of the show had to be tough and I know it tries to over come that every week. I just think, again, it would be better to end on the writers' terms than the execs', don't you?

How I Met Your Mother
I can't believe this show has lasted this long. I really have never liked it...ever. I've watched a few episodes and, granted, there were funny parts but on the whole I was just really frustrated with how little information was given. Fans have gone SEVEN seasons without knowing who the mother is? That's intense. Bravo to those of you that have made it but don't you feel..I don't know..a bit cheated? I can barely handle the suspense of a single episode of some shows, I really don't get how you all have gone that many seasons without real answers. Wrap it up and move it out!

Two and a Half Men
What really is there to say here? There is no "half" man anymore; kid grew up and Charlie Sheen is out. Are we expected to watch the kid go off to college? Or maybe Ashton Kutcher? Either way..this is another show I've never liked and I think it would be kinder to the show to put it out of its misery rather than draw it out with dwindling viewership.

Anything "Real Housewives"
I don't watch these shows but I feel the concept is tired. At least there should not be any new ones introduced this year. Poor Bravo.

As much as it pains me to say it...this upcoming season of Survivor should be its last. The good ole days of starving people, devastating injuries, and heli-flights out of the game for good are over. This new regime of "just survive on this island by yourself without having to do any real social work" is just not entertaining. There is a chance that the show can reclaim some former glory, sure, but there are drastic changes that need to be made in order for that to happen and I just don't see the show going that way.

American Idol
They proved that even with new judges, they can still bring in the fans and talent. I get it. We all get it. There are TOO many of these type shows on TV and I think it's only fair for the first to go, well, first. The auditions used to be funny, but now that everyone knows what it takes to get on TV they are either really contrived feeling or just too bad to even laugh at. Very few of the "Idols" of the past have gotten what they signed on for anyway. Bow out, AI, please.

Now, what do I think should make it to next season?

Once Upon a Time
This is here on a probationary period as I really feel that there has not been enough answered compared to the number of questions posed. But, alas, this is not the time to critique the show so I'll just say this: if they get on track and start answering real questions (and improve their graphics a bit..), I think this show could make a nice addition to the fall line-up.

New Girl
As probably most people reading this know, I don't do half-hour comedies. With that said, I have really liked what I've seen of this show! Granted, it's rather light and has no real...plan, so to speak, but it's fun and hasn't annoyed me yet.

Criminal Minds
I know, I know, typical Abby to put a crime show in here. Get used to it, people! While the character development needs MAJOR help, I just can't turn off an episode of this show. They are very smart with the scripts and story lines. I like it and I hope it sticks around for at least another season.

Ah Bones. Like with CSI, I took a hiatus from this show for a season and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The writers seem to enjoy taking HUGE risks with the characters and some times they don't end well. I'm bummed that there are a limited number of episodes this season so I hope it gets picked up for an 8th. Whether or not the show needs to continue after that remains to be seen but, for now, I'm on board.

Big Bang Theory
It wouldn't be fair not to put this show in here even though I don't watch it regularly. Creative story lines, fun characters, and actual character development set this half-hour comedy apart and I applaud it for that.

There are a lot more shows that I could put in each category, and I might add more later. I feel that in order to keep TV interesting and fresh, those shows that have been around long enough to be able to wrap up nicely, should, so that the new shows can get a chance to shine.