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.