Monday, November 21, 2011

Easy A

First off, I really like this movie, so lets talk about all the aspects I like since that will probably take up the bulk of this post. 1) Let's start with the most obvious, the cast. Awesome. Love Emma Stone. And Lisa Kudrow, and Thomas Hayden Church, and most of all, Stanley Tucci (he never gets enough credit as an actor in my opinion... but that's another blog for another day). I even liked Amanda Bynes for her role, even though most of the time she annoys the shit out of me. So great job on the casting. 2)Now we will move on to the storyline (writing). There are so many great things going on here I don't even know where to start. Being promoted as a "teen comedy", it completely blows it's predecessors (movies such as "American Pie") out of the water. I actually might like it even more than "Mean Girls", which is really saying something... anyway, sorry for the digression. I have always been a huge fan of movies that draw from or are inspired by literature; not necessarily adaptations because few are accurate, but movies that intertwine other works into an original story. In this case, "Easy A" incorporates "The Scarlet Letter" into it's story line as inspiration for the main character's (Olive) shananigans. Also, throughout the movie there are not-so-subtle tributes to some great John Hughes movies from the 80's, which is awesome. I love this because it not only adds depth to an otherwise mediocre and simple plot, but it lets movie nerds like me enjoy it just a little bit more!

So here's the breakdown of the plot. NOTE: the whole movie is narrated which I usually find annoying, but there's actually a reason for it which you find out in the end. Olive, a high school goodie-goodie lies to her best friend in the bathroom about losing her virginity to some college guy, figuring it would go no further. However, the school Bible-beater, MaryAnn (and I hate using that term, but in this case it's completely fitting. I will visit again later in the blog)was listening from one of the stalls and proceeds to spread the gossip throughout the entire school, even after Olive tried to explain that it wasn't true (great Christian example, huh?). Consequently, the entire student body started labeling her "slut", "trollop", etc. Since she figured her reputation was shot anyway, she decides to embrace her new popularity (because being talked about in high school, even if it's bad, is better than not being noticed at all, right?).
She does not actually DO anything with anyone, she just accepts payment from a few socially shunned guys to make people think she slept with them. Meanwhile, MaryAnn goes to great lengths to make her life miserable by getting her band of "Christians" to try and minister to Olive, all the while calling her names to her face and behind her back.

So that is the premise of the movie, and obviously it continues from there, and there are a lot more relationships which I didn't discuss, but that's the important stuff.

Now, I'm not sure if the writers intentionally did this or not, but the portrayal of the "Christians" in this movie is actually a great parody. Unlike the movie "saved", I feel like this was done not to bash Christians, but to show how any type of extremism is not good. It also goes to show the great hypocrisy that occurs so much in the church today. For instance, MaryAnn is the ring leader of the movement to destroy Olive and her reputation, calls her a "slut" or some variation of the word on NUMEROUS occasions, however we see her leading a prayer circle/ worship group on campus every morning! She also makes ridiculous claims that if God had wanted her 21 year old, 4th year high school senior boyfriend to graduate, He would have given him the right answers for the tests, therefore allowing him to pass. REALLY? This is a very far-fetched (yet I am sure some believe to be accurate) notion of the subject of "God's will vs Free will". I'll let you pick up the rest of these fun little treats on your own, I just think it's funny.

In conclusion, I do have to pose this question. Is it wrong to let people think one thing, even if it's not true, to benefit another? In this case, Olive was lying about sleeping with tons of people to better their social standing (and her pocketbook). And even though she didn't actually DO anything, she still lied about doing IT. AND, for that matter, is what MaryAnn did by spreading the rumor (gossiping) under the banner of "God's work" any better? I guess what it comes down to is, is any sin worse than the next? That is the "Truth" being addressed in this movie, whether or not it was intentional.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sin By Silence

So I generally reserve this blog for new releases or films that I have not seen until recently, but this time, I am going to write about one that I am all too familiar with. In fact, it's one that I actually worked on. The motivation behind this is that it was recently aired on the Investigation Discovery network. The Director/Producer, who has been putting her blood, sweat, tears, and finances into it for the last ten years was kind enough to allow me to be a small part of it, and I couldn't be more proud of the success it has seen.

In my fourth year of undergrad studies and a communication/film major I was in need of an internship in the "field". My digital communications professor had mentioned that she worked at a studio fairly close to school (because the commute to L.A. from the O.C. was very unappealing to me) so I asked her if there was a position open there. She told me the only thing I would be doing there would be making copies and cleaning, BUT, she mentioned to me that she could use an extra pair of hands on the project she was personally working on, and since she was friends with the head of the department, if I was willing help her with her documentary, it would be able to count for the credits I needed. Little did I know...

When I first signed up to work with her I had no idea how much this project would change my life. If you refer to my other blog, you will see the documentation of some of the work I did for her throughout my internship. The internship turned out to earn me my first (and turns out my only real) job working in the industryI, where I continued to work with the physical and a little of the technical parts of the project. The entire time I spent around this project literally change both my perspective of the judicial system, as well as my outlook on life. From the shoots inside the prison walls in Chino, to meeting the inmates and having one-on-one conversations with them, to the photoshoots where I saw my friends and colleagues in blood, scabs, and scars, to editing actual audio collected from 911 calls from children effected by domestic violence, my eyes were opened and I realized that it wasn't something you JUST hear about on the news.... it was something that actually happened to people every day... to be physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by someone you love.

This documentary is more than just a story caught on film. It is a tool to help women (or men) who are living with this terror. It exposes the horror and fear that millions live with every day. It is a beacon of hope to those who have made the decision to stand up for themselves, often with dire consequences. Starting on this project I had no idea how effective and powerful it would become, but it has gone from being the brainchild of a brilliant woman trying to find the answers to help a friend in trouble, to an opportunity for those who have been through it to have a voice, those who are going through it to get help and recognize the signs before it happens. And though I played a very small part in helping this amazing project along in its early stages, I feel very honored and blessed to have been a part of it at all. Congratulations to Olivia, Avant Productions, and everyone else who worked so hard to help this film become what it is.

Friday, May 27, 2011


So I saw this movie a few weeks ago... twice. The first was with my boyfriend who was cool enough to take me to see it, even though it was technically promoted as a "chick flick", and the second time, the next night with one of my best friends. She called me and asked if I wanted to see it, and I absolutely wanted to see it again. Now, if you know me at all, you know I have NO problem seeing a movie of any sort more than once, because it lets me pick it apart more each time I see it. Well, that's exactly what happened here. The first time I saw this movie, I was so terribly entertained that I had no capacity to break it down. The second time around however, I was able see it for more of what it was. It's more than a ridiculous and (in some cases) accurate portrayal of the wedding process on the female side of the spectrum. While movies like "The Hangover" show a parody of what a man's pre-nuptial experience is like, "Bridesmaids" portrays the pre-wedding festivities from the female's perspective.

This somewhat predictable basic plot consists of two friends, one, in a relationship, unsure of where it is going, which surprisingly ends up in an engagement. The second friend, a very lost, beaten down woman who has recently had her dreams shattered by a failing economy and who has a steady hook-up plan with the stereotypical playboy, but no steady relationship except with her best friend. The spark in the plot is when Lillian (the friend in the steady relationship, played by the hilarious Maya Rudolf from SNL) gets engaged. Her hot-mess-of-a-friend, Annie, whom she has been friends with her entire life, is naturally expected to be the MOH (Maid of Honor). The conflict comes in at the posh engagement party when Lillian's new friend, Helen, steps in and begins the process of pushing Annie out of the wedding party. Meanwhile, because she is less than financially able at this point, Annie has neglected many necessary things in her life. One of these being the non-functioning taillights to her 1992 POS coupe. Consequently, she is pulled over by an awkwardly handsome Irish cop with whom she strikes up a relationship with.

Now, like I said, the first time I saw this movie, I laughed until I cried. The combination of relatable situations and shitting in the street was just too good. The second time I saw it is when I realized that there was more to this movie than just the shenanigans of a MOH dealing with a major life change, as well as potentially losing her best friend to a rich, spoiled, and fake woman with no other friends.

The actual main plight of this film is a woman who has faced trials professionally, and has been beaten down so long in her personal life, she doesn't really know a good thing when she sees it. I guess you could say that she has been mistreated for so long and has come to accept it, she really takes for granted something great when it comes her way. She seems to settle for something that's far below what she deserves in exchange for something that has extraordinary potential.

In contrast to other movies of this nature, this film portrays something that women actually deal with. So often we assume that what we have, especially when the chips are down, is what we deserve, when in reality, what is in front of us is infinitely better and we don't even see it. The main moral of the film is being able to find the good in life, and sticking with those, through thick and thin, who have been with you all along. Sometimes those who know us the best are the most accurate mirrors to show us who we are and who we are destined to be. Needless to say, I think this movie was great, not JUST for girls, but guys will enjoy this one as well. It's got enough crude "poop" humor to keep any guy entertained! A solid A!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Water For Elephants

Whether we realize it or not, the stories that resonate with us the most, that stay with us, are those that depict the themes of salvation and reconciliation. As human beings, we are hard wired to gravitate towards these; we are all in need of salvation from sin, and in turn we also possess a longing for reconciliation with God. Movies that depict these themes, whatever the context, may not always be the most “critically acclaimed”, but they are always the ones which the audience walks away from with a feeling of satisfaction. These are the two themes that make up an exceptional narrative, and they are both present in “Water for Elephants.

As excited as I was to see this movie, I still tried to remain objective going into it. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, all I knew was that the combination of Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson could either end in triumph or disaster, and though I tried to let objectivity rule, within the first five minutes I was already swept up in the story and knew I was going to love it. The story centers around Jacob, a veterinary school almost-graduate (Pattinson) living in the middle of the great depression. On the day of his last final exam and graduation, he is pulled out of the test and informed that both his parents had died in a car accident, leaving him parentless, homeless, and without a degree. That day, he decides to start walking to the nearest city which is Albany, and on his way hops onto a train in the middle of the night. The train happens to be a traveling circus, and the men allow him to stay aboard and give him work. He is soon introduced to the owner, August, who allows him to stay on as the circus vet after learning of his background. The moment he see's Marlana (Reese) who he later learns is the boss' wife, is hooked and knows he has to stay. She is not only the horse trainer, but also the main act in the show. This is where I will leave you as far as the plot is concerned, at least for the time being, because there are so many aspects of this movie to cover, and so little time...

The exposition of every character in this movie is flawless... We meet Jacob in present day as an old man who has run away from his nursing home to rejoin the circus. As he tells his story to the circus manager, we are immediately introduced to young Jacob, and made to understand the type of man he is and why he decides to "join the circus". As much as I loved this honorable, strong, endearing, and nearly perfect character, I was much more drawn to both Marlena and August and the relationship between them. August basically has built this circus from the ground up, during the most difficult era for traveling entertainment. He is a brutal, cut-throat, nearly heartless employer who doesn't hesitate to beat his animals or throw men off the train to their death if he can't afford to pay them anymore. It seems that his only weakness is Marlana, his wife. He cannot handle her being upset or angry at him, yet doesn't hesitate to beat the crap out of her on a whim. It is difficult for me to describe how fabulous the plot is without divulging a little more, so I will try to keep it to a minimum....

Because the circus business is doing so badly, August makes one last attempt to redeem his empire by purchasing an elephant named Rosie to attract crowds. He appoints Marlana to work with the elephant as the main attraction, and appoints Jacob to be the trainer. The two become close friends working with Rosie. They are united in the attempt to make Rosie ready to perform, as well as keeping August from beating her with the bull poke, usually in vain. Sooner or later Jacob figures out that Rosie understands and responds to commands given in Polish (he himself grew up the son of Polish immigrants who spoke mostly Polish... lucky turn of events for both Jacob and Rosie) All the while we as the audience are put through a painful yet exciting process of delayed gratification waiting for the honorable Jacob to finally make his move on Marlana.

The actual love story between the two starts out slow and continues as such throughout the first half of the movie, until the two escape a prohibition raid at one of August's parties and share a kiss in the alley. From then on, things get more complicated (details you will have to see for yourself, because in case you haven't picked up on it yet, I want you to see this movie).

I know I said before that the plot centers around Jacob, however the real cohesion of the story is found in Rosie and Marlana. These two are the characters around which every major decision is made, and the two who are in need of the most salvation throughout the story. As with most exceptional narratives, this one plays into the truth that humans have a natural need for salvation and reconciliation. Both Rosie and Marlana are helpless, condemned to live life in their own version of hell, and their salvation is found in Jacob, who risks everything in order to free them from their fate of living life with August and the traveling circus. At one point in the film, Marlana confesses to Jacob that she grew up in foster homes and at seventeen met August. right then and there she decided that she would not go back to the outside world. She sees him as her savior from "the outside" where she feels there is nothing for her, and puts up with the abuse because it is better than the life she know before she met him. Jacob gives her a new hope of a better life, bringing her back to the “outside”, which is infinitely better than the life she’s been enduring.

So, I MAY have given away some of the story, and you may have even guessed how the story ends at this point, but I guarantee you will miss out on an amazing story and an amazing visual experience if you don’t go see it for yourself. I have to warn you that if you are sensitive to the depiction of human or animal abuse (like I am) it will be hard to watch at times. However, it is incredibly pertinent to the story and I am sure no animals were actually harmed, but I just thought I would mention it because it did make me cringe. Also, the cinematography is spectacular. The colors and lighting really give a feel for the time period, and the candid, sometimes gruesome shots make you feel like you are in the middle of the dirty underworld of circus life. The costumes, set, etc, are great as well. There really isn’t anything I can say that is inherently bad about this movie. The one thing that was very obvious to me was that it is based on a book. I’ve come to realize that most movies that have a supporting narration throughout usually are. Unlike some other movies which depended on the narration, the one in this film serves as a supporting exposition for the most part. That aspect, as well as a few others such as time period, vivid use of color, forbidden love, and exposing the grotesque underbelly of the entertainment industry of the early 20th century, to me are reminiscent of Moulin Rouge, without the singing, of course.

It also goes without saying that the acting was superb. Reese is one of my favorites, and is great in just about everything including this. Christopher Waltz, who played “August”, is perfect in that he has the ability to create a character which is so easy for the audience to hate. His menacing smile and arrogant, smart-ass demeanor not only served him well in this film, but also as the Nazi general in “Inglorious Bastards”. I think he might be one of my top favorite perpetual villains, second to Kevin Spacey, of course. I must confess I was a little bit nervous about Robert Pattinson playing a leading role in which he wasn't a blood sucking hottie, (after all, he will ALWAYS be Edward Cullen in my mind, just a little bit) but he proved to be much more than eye candy, although he did do that exceptionally as well. Because I feel like I can call myself a fan of his, I am worried that he is falling into the type-casting trap. I didn’t see “Remember Me”, but from what I hear, he plays a tragic hero/leading man in that as well. I feel like it would be a wise career move for him to try and get a part as an antagonist, just to keep us on our toes and prove that he can be more than just a great romantic leading man….just a thought.

This movie had it all, as far as I’m concerned; a great script, amazing cast, beautiful production value, and universal themes which resonate with the audience. Go see it. Or at the very least, rent it. A+

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Kings Speech

I have been excited to see this movie since it's theatrical release, which I never made it to, but I finally got to see it tonight. It certainly did not disappoint. It was steeped in dry British humor, history, and heart. The film is set in early 20th century Britain and is centered around the royal family. George V is aging and is not unaware that someday soon one of his sons will need to take over the throne. His oldest son David is first in line, but is a great disappointment to the family in that he prefers to date married American women. The second, Albert (Colin Firth), or "Bertie" suffers from a life long speech impediment which causes him to stammer when he talks to anyone but his wife. The inciting incident is when Bertie, in his older brothers absence is forced to deliver a speech to the British empire and fails miserably. He is then referred to a doctor who tells him that smoking will help "relax the vocal chords" (never trust a British doctor, that's what I always say...). Finding no solace or help in the doctors many (ridiculous) remedies, he makes his wife promise not to solicit any more help. However, being the good wife that she is, she goes behind his back and finds a lower-middle class speech therapist Loinel(played by Geoffrey Rush, who is brilliant). In the interest of not spoiling the story, that is all I am going to say concerning the surface plot.

Instead, I am just going to focus on the underlying and more important theme. The conflict built between Bertie and Lionel is perfection. They come from completely opposite worlds, yet Bertie can do nothing to help himself concerning his speaking ability, and though throughout the movie refuses time and time again to admit it, he actually needs Lionel, both for his professional services and more importantly his friendship and camaraderie. Lionel not only helps him work on the physical mechanics of his problem, but as the movie continues and helps Bertie face the insecurities built up from his childhood. Though the relationship between the two men started out rigid and cold to say the least, it ended as a lifelong friendship.

I know this sounds super cheesy, and set in any other time and place, played by anyone but Colin Firth (<3) and Geoffrey Rush, it would be. There are very few special effects, but great, authentic English scenery. And it really is no wonder Colin Firth won the Academy award for best actor. He was positively outstanding. He made me forget I was watching him play the Duke of York, and made me believe he really was a damaged, self conscious, pitiful soul in search of human contact, emotion, and acceptance, which up until this point in his life was only given to him by his wife. Characters like this allow us to tap into a part of ourselves, and if done well, allow us to identify with their struggle and ultimate humanity, and the need for some sort of salvation. The Kings Speech delivered this rare opportunity for its audience perfectly, and did it with classic, good old British charm. A+

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I should have guessed that this was a Rob Marshall film. First of all, the man is a sucker for musicals. Second, it so closely resembles the far superior "Chicago" in pattern and substance its almost a crime. The Only difference being that instead of focusing on 1920's women murder convicts (also an adaptation, by the way) it focuses on an Italian film producer in the 1960's who apparently needs the love and attention of not one, not two, but several women make his masterpiece.

It seems that the main character has some serious "mommy" issues, as evident in the first 20 minutes of the movie, which lends to his artistic ability, as well as his need for approval and attention from every woman he meets. Now, he IS Italian, so I should probably cut him some slack, but, his constant fantasies in song is a little off-putting to be honest. I guess I'm just a sucker for the "John Wayne" type of leading man, not a singing, dancing, dreaming-in-song protagonist. But what do I know. I'm not Italian.
Anyway, through all this philandering, merriment, and pre-production of the most important movie of his career, Guido (Daniel Day Lewis) finds himself losing his wife, coincidentally and surprisingly the most important woman in his life (who has put up with all his screwing every actress and writer, and, lets face it, everything else that comes his way wearing a skirt) which drives him to stop the production of the film altogether. He falls into a bout of self-pity, not working, and figuring out how to get his wife back.

In a nutshell, this movie is about a man's journey to success in the 1960's (ish?) Italian film industry, as well as an inner struggle to basically grow up and figure out what's really important in life. It is a depiction of a man's struggle to have what he wants and what he needs all at the same time. Without giving up the ending, he knows deep down he wants his wife, but needs to produce his film. At first I had my suspicions that it had a post-modern, "do what's good for you, no matter what the cost" theme, and in the end, I was right. I had the romantic hope that Guido would inevitably realize that his wife would prove most important in his life, but the ending leaves it up to individual interpretation, I suppose, depending on what his final decision was regarding the script at the end.

Technically, the singing, dancing, etc, was amazing. Of course I would not have expected anything else from a cast like this. I love Nicole Kidman's voice, ever since "Moulin Rouge". Penelope Cruz in my book is a glorified extra at best in most films, but I was surprised to see that she actually can sing, and of course, shake her ass like a pro. Kate Hudson is probably the best part, in that she is absolutely amazing. I never thought she could sing, or dance like she does for that matter. Fergie of course can sing and dance and blah blah blah, and to be honest her scene was reminiscent of a "black-eyed-peas" video set in a different time period, so, nothing really new or out of character for her. But my absolute favorite is Marion Cotillard as Duido Cotillard's wife. Great voice and amazing appeal. Also Daniel Day Lewis does a great job of projecting the male psyche of being perpetually, in a word, skeezy, but definitely in character. The acting was great, with amazing lyrics and vocals, but as far as the screenplay goes, not my favorite... I give it a 7 out of 10... I pegged it as a renter and I was definitely right.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The "Twilight" saga... a combination liturature/movie critique in progress

Just let me begin by saying, I was probably the biggest critic of this...series, epic, whatever you want to call it. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that anyone could get that insanely stoked over vampires and ware wolves. But, on a long drive I was coaxed into listening to the first book in the series, and on the drive back I was desperate to start the second.

My skepticism about this series stemmed from not only the fact that it was primarily marketed as a "teen read", but also because the only decent Vampire movie ever made, and I still stand by this as far as quality film making goes, is "Interview With A Vampire". Every other vampire movie before and since either lacked the quality to make it enjoyable and watchable, or was just downright bad. And, in getting into this series, I really needed to put my suspension of disbelief into practice, but once I did, it really was easy to get sucked in.

Twilight- my brief Story critique of the beginning of the saga
The first book started slowly, but sucked me in to the story before I knew what happened. Not because the writing was particularly outstanding, but because the characters were absolutely intriguing to me, and this book, being the first in the series, needed to be more of a character introduction to set up for the following books. I think Bella is an idiot, in that she is 17, and all 17 year olds are somewhat stupid, wreckless, and flighty. So bravo to Stephanie Meyer there for effectively bringing me back to that mental state. Bella, a teenage girl who moves to a small town in Washington state to live with her father, falls for the most intriguing, mysterious, and dangerous guy at school Edward Cullen. Edward turns out to be a vampire who wants nothing more than to eat her ("suck her blood"). He wants her so badly, in fact, he has to leave and go "hunt" in order not to publicly expose himself to the rest of society for what he truly is by jumping on her and biting her in the middle of class. When he finally returns, he needs to get her in small doses to be able to trust himself around her, and struggles with whether or not they should even associate. By the second act of the movie, he realizes he can no longer leave her alone. He becomes so infatuated with her, that he takes it upon himself to be her personal guardian,and eventually falls in love with her.
Edward is in my mind one of the and most dynamic and complex literary villains. Over one-hundred years old, eternally in a 17 year-old's body, he is so captivated by Bella's scent that he can hardly control himself. He's never wanted to partake of a human being so badly as he wants her... she is described as his own personal brand of heroine. he belongs to a "family" of vampires who have made a truce with the natives in the area (who are the only ones who know what they truly are, and have an age old rivalry with them because the ancestors of these particular indians are ware wolves) that they would only hunt animals, not humans, which is put in jeopardy the further he carries on his relationship with Bella. his lust for her blood quickly turns into infatuation- "the lion falls in love with the lamb", (a Biblical reference which I will go into a little bit later), describes their relationship. He is soon able to put aside his innermost desires and natural instincts to attack her because his only goal as far as she is concerned is to love her and keep her safe.
While some might view this aspect of Edward's character as being "too perfect" or "unrealistic", it is the perfect depiction of real love, even Biblical love. The love depicted is that of one denying an innermost desire for the sake and good of another, which is absolute, perfect love. Time and time again throughout the series Edward tries, sometimes in vain, to selflessly think of Bella's safety and happiness over his own comfort and desires. He even denies her begging to make her a vampire as well (for as long as possible, anyway) in order to save her soul, so that she does not face the same fate he does of eternal damnation. This is the ultimate self sacrifice as far as his character is concerned, which is why i find him to be such an intriguing villain.
The graphic for this novel, which is also seen in the movie, is two hands grasping an apple, a reference to Genesis when Eve is tempted by the forbidden fruit... a direct parallel to both Bella and Edward's plight in the story. So their relationship in essence is one of mutual obsession, and equal risk to both parties; Bella risks being eaten, and Edward risks exposing him and his family and losing everything.
In addition to Edward, the entire Cullen "family" are some of my favorite characters. They are not the same as the other vampires who give into their lust for blood, what Carlisle, the leader of the family, believes to be what damns them to hell. Though they all have bitten and killed humans because after all, they are vampires, they try their best to go against that nature and only hunt animals. The reason I think this family is so endearing is because they portray human's innate need for redemption. Just as this clan strives to live their 'lives' as the undead in a way that will somehow redeem them from their fate to live forever as soulless killers, we as sinners strive to be redeemed from the fall in the garden of Eden.
Now, this is not that far of a reach considering the author, Stephanie Meyer belongs to the Mormon Church, and the inception of this series came to her in a dream (similar to how her religion was born). The only difference in the parallels between the fictional depiction and reality is that the Cullen's were in theory able to save themselves. Once they decided to become different, their 'salvation' (being their ability to stay pure) was purely autonomous, (a more "Mormon" based ideal) where as in the Christian faith we are saved through belief in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
Aside from that theological observance, i actually cannot wait to read the other books, and that's really saying something, because I am SO not a reader. And like I said, If you're looking for Dickens or Austen caliber literature, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you want an easy quick read that will completely suck you in to the story and either make you fall in love with a vampire or a ware wolf... due to my lack of homage paid to the ware wold thread in the story (which is still noteworthy, just not nearly as interesting to me personally) I'm sure you can probably tell which side I am on.

The Movies "Twilight", New Moon" and "Eclipse"
I am going to categorize my critique into "story" (above) and "movies" (collectively) for one basic reason; the books go into way more detail and give you the essence of the story (the best part of this little project) where as the movies merely strive to depict the story. This is a little bit of uncharted territory for me in that I am usually the one who won't read the book, I'll just see the movie. Not only would I rather spend two hours getting the gist of the story visually rather than spend days reading it, I am always afraid that the book will minimize the impact of the movie. In this case, as I am sure would be the same in most others as well, i was right. As much as I love the art and beauty of a story told to me through light and sound, i have to admit that here the story carried most of the value. Not to say that I didn't enjoy the movies, I did. I would have enjoyed them a whole lot more if I were teenager, but I suspect I would have enjoyed them a whole lot less had I not read the book first and had the story to fall back on.
Lets start with the most obvious aspect, the acting. Dear lord. Kristen Steward (Bella) has far too many personal idiosyncrasies; it makes me think she's really not comfortable in front of a camera. Of course, I should probably give her the benefit of the doubt considering she was probably 16 when these movies started production. Taylor Lautner (Jacob) has a fantastic bod, but pretty faces don't always make for great actors. There were a few saving graces in the main cast, including Peter Facinelli (Carlisle), Anna Kendrick (Jessica) and Robert Pattinson (Edward). The rest of the supporting cast, especially in the first movie, seemed to be trying way to hard to be convincing. I think they might have gotten it together by "Eclipse" though. Everything seemed a lot less forced.
On to more good news, I thought the adaptation from the book was good. It cut out a lot of the story, but that was to be expected, and the director still made it enjoyable and entertaining.
I thought the cinematography was great, I loved the gloomy blue-ish gray hue carried throughout the whole movie, save the last scene which was actually very warm, and made Edward look nearly alive. The gloom throughout helped set the eerie small town feel, and contributed to the believability that vampires would actually reside there, and also effectively highlighted Robert Pattison's paleness. Clearly I have fallen prey at least in some measure to the Twilight-mania sweeping the nation, absurd as I know it is, and hopefully after I'm finished reading ALL these books (which will probably be around the same time the last of the movies comes out, circa 2013) I will not have let my mind turn into mush indulging in my new guilty pleasure... Oh well, there could be worse things, right?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Valentine's Day

First just let me say I think Garry Marshall has done some great work, and I am truly a fan of a lot of what he has done. Pretty Woman is still one of the best chick flicks of all time. His latest endeavor has fallen short in my opinion. Maybe going into it my expectations were just too high. Honestly, how can you go wrong with a cast that huge, and a director who has cranked out some of the best romantic comedies of our time? I think that it was just too much for the old boy to handle. It did have all of the classic signs of a Garry Marshall film. For instance, the use of three or four of the same actors he always employs in his movies, including Hector Elizondo; a walk-on self cameo, witty lines, and of course, a happy ending...or rather endINGS in this case.

The entire time I was watching it I was comparing it to "Love Actually", which follows the same pattern of having many intertwined "mini-stories" instead of one main linear plot. The main difference between the two (other than one being British made, and the other made in the good old U.S.A) is that in "Valentine's Day", the only common thread among all the characters was the day February 14th. In "Love Actually", the theme throughout was "love is all around, it may come in different forms, but it's still there". In short, I felt that it seriously lacked cohesion. The lines were great, and most of the mini-stories were great in themselves, but I feel as an audience we didn't get to see enough character and overall story development to enjoy it like we should.

There were a few non-predictable plot lines that I actually liked. My favorite was Julia Robert's role of a soldier on her way home to visit her son for only a few hours before returning to active duty. The outcome of Robert's character's journey actually evoked tears, and I loved it.

The other plot line that I thought actually held something more than either devastation or predictability was the one between Topher Grace and Ann Hathaway. I won't give it away, but when he finally came around (with the help of Hector Elizondo and Shirley McClain) he realized that when you really love someone, you have to love all of them, not just the parts you like.

Among the muuuultiple other plot lines there were some good messages as well, such as forgiveness, the value of abstinence, the fact that single people actually CAN have fun on Valentines Day; and sometimes, it doesn't matter how beautiful someone is, they can still be totally awful people underneath.

Which leads me to a funny point I just realized about the movie. They took McDreamy, McSteamy, and Bradley Cooper and took the dreamy, steamy and hotness right out of them by making one character a lying, cheating scumbag, and the other two gay... talk about disappointment!

Anyway, I really DID want to like it, and I'm not saying it was terrible. I'm just saying it was predictable and made it difficult to get involved with any of the characters to a decent degree. Outside of one or two of them, the characters were basically flat and seemed to serve more as place-holders than anything else. this is one of the main reasons it was difficult to enjoy. By making it difficult to really get involved with the characters, I felt like I was just watching a bunch of people I didn't really care about go through their day. When it comes down to it, that was the main problem. No cohesion between the characters, and no real connection between the characters and the audience. I rate this one a renter for a night in alone. C+, B- at best.

Other fun points I noticed:

- Taylor Swift was annoying as HELL, and I feel like the movie served as a plug for her music. This was disappointing because I do like her... yet more proof that singers SHOULD NOT try to act (as if we needed more proof after Justin Timberlake, PDiddy, and JLo)

-Jessica Beil should retire, or just model- she can't act.

- no matter how big of a jerk he plays, Patrick Dempsey still has the ability to make the female masses swoon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Knowing"... I kinda wish i hadn't even asked...

It has been a while since I’ve seen a movie that has sparked this much thought. I’m not saying I liked it, I’m just saying it was interesting, Before you spend $11.50 at the movie theaters and sit through 2 hours you will never get back, keep reading this and save some time and cash. Or, if you’re into being highly disappointed ¾ of a way through an otherwise provocative and somewhat intriguing story, don’t let me discourage you with this.

Because of all the hype about this movie I really did have my doubts. Usually, the bigger the buzz, the more disappointing. The first part of the film, and really the entire screenplay as a whole (up until the last 15 minutes or so) I thought was very well done. There was intrigue, mystery, a main character you could sympathize with, a definite sense of urgency, creepy guys in black coats, a killer score, and even the token creepy little kid that everyone seems to be into these days.
It begins in 1959 when Lucinda (the creepy kid… the name kinda gave that one away, huh?) wins a school contest with her idea to bury a time capsule commemorating the first year of the school being open. Each child is told to draw a picture of what they think the world will look like in 50 years, all of which will be placed in the capsule to be opened in the year 2009. As the other children draw pictures of spaceships and robots and such, Lucinda covers her entire paper with numbers… did I forget to mention Lucinda happens to hear whispering voices and sees dead people?
So, fast-forward to present day, 2009. Nicolas Cage’s character, John, a preacher’s son, (that’s important to note, kids) is a recently widowed professor of astrophysics at M.I.T. John lives in an eerie, secluded house with his son Caleb. Caleb coincidentally attends the same school that buried the time capsule 50 years before. The day capsule is opened, each child is given an envelope containing one of the drawings of the alumni from the class 50 years before. As all the other kids are getting crayon drawings, Caleb is highly disappointed to find that his envelope contains a full page, front to back, list of numbers. Being the son of an astrophysicist he decides to take it home to show his dad. Because who knows, it could mean something… not to mention the minute he opened it he started hearing voices… and seeing dead people.
That night, John happens upon the list of numbers and discovers that all the major disasters in the world were predicted right down to the time, place, and number of people killed in each tragedy, with only 3 dates left (which happen to fall within days of each other AND the encryption being found).
This is where it gets interesting. Did he happen to find all this by chance, or was there some greater plan to him finding this? The preacher’s son background in him tells him yes. The scientist in him tells him no. Throughout the hi-tech, mostly computer-generated events that follow, we see John as he struggles with this notion and tries to stop the next two events that are predicted. Meanwhile, poor Caleb is left with voices in his head and visions and the creepy men in trench coats following him everywhere. After stalking Lucinda’s daughter and granddaughter (Lucinda O.D.’d in a trailer park in the middle of the forest years earlier) John convinces them to help him figure out the last event predicted, which is set to take place within the next 24 hours, leaving no survivors. Here’s where I ruin the ending. After running away from John, leaving him to figure out the location of the last catastorphic event, Lucinda’s daughter dies in a car crash, and both the children are kidnapped by the men in black trench coats. John tracks down the creepy trench coat wearing men who have stolen the children. and When he finally confronts them, they turn out to be aliens or some other sexless, voiceless being that travel in a spaceship. Caleb walks to John with Lucinda’s granddaughter, each holding a rabbit. Caleb tells John that it’s ok and they aren’t hurt and that they have come to take everyone to a safe place to start over. One catch. Only the kids get to go. They will take a ride on the spaceship to run in wheat fields with their new bunnies towards a scene that looks like something out Genesis chapter 2 on an acid trip, while the rest of earth gets blown to Kingdom come by a giant solar flare.
As I said before, I think the way this film was written, technically, was very good. And it had the potential to be something great, philosophically speaking. The main question brought up in the film was whether or not we are here by chance. Whether or not we are all part of some divine plan, or if everything can be explained away through science. And while throughout the first half we are led to believe that there is a divine plan, it is very disappointing to find that the answer lies in telepathic blonde aliens in long black coats. There were, of course, gentle nods towards the Biblical truth, but they were flippant and barely subliminal. For instance, while rummaging through Lucinda’s trailer, John found an old drawing of a passage in Ezekiel thumb tacked to the wall. At that point I thought they might actually lean towards something somewhat Biblical, a real prophecy perhaps? Would have made it interesting, but when the Bible on the nightstand barely got a second glance, I knew there was nothing but disappointment to come. My suspicions were confirmed when, after watching his son get sucked up into a space ship, John returns to his estranged fathers house, and spray painted on a burning van were the words “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life”. And as the family hugged right before the incineration, John’s father consoles everyone telling them that this is not the end, and in his most innocent, almost reminiscent of his ‘City of Angels’ voice, Nicholas Cage replies, “I know”. As if seeing his son getting sucked up by aliens was enough to make him leave all of his scientific beliefs and Christian upbringing behind and hop on the right on the old L. Ron Hubbard band wagon. By the end of the film I realized that what I was made to sit through for over 2 hours was nothing more than a piece of Scientology propaganda. As a movie goer, I thought it was mildly entertaining but ultimately disappointing that they had to follow George Lucas’ last ‘Indiana Jones’ catastrophe and play the “aliens explain everything” card. Frankly I find it lazy and uncreative. In a nutshell, well-written screenplay, great special effects, entirely F&%*ed up message. If you do go see it, I suggest you go into it expecting nothing more than the sci-fi version of “Armageddon”… minus the good ending.

Monday, January 21, 2008

P.S. I Love You...don't cry, I dare you!

I now understand and have an appreciation for why some men actually take women to these kinds of movies. Movies with this degree of emotional value leave women vulnerable and willing to fall into the arms of whoever will take us. I have never gotten so emotional in a movie in my entire life (ok, yes i cried like a baby). I think you might have to lack a pulse not to feel anything during this film.

The opening scene is of of a married couple (Holly and Gerry) stomping through the city on the way back to their appartment, Gerry inquiring what he had done wrong that had made her so mad. As they get home they have an aweful fight, followed by the best (and by best I mean sweetest and highly unrealistic) make-up scene probably ever made...a great set up. The next scene is in a Pub (Oh yeah, thier last name was Kennedy...hint: Thier Irish) with a picture of Gerry setting on a table surrounded in shot glasses, in front of box containing his ashes. After the previous scene we're already pretty heart-broken over this whole ordeal, and if that wasn't bad enough, we are forced to listen to anecdotes and sad music to make us even more pathetically sad.

Post-funeral Holly stays in her appartment for a month, guarding Gerry's urn with her life, talking to him, watching old movies and eating crap and sleeping (and who can blame her...if my husband looked like Gerard Butler and died of a brain tumor i wouldn't want to go on with life either). On her 30th birthday her family and friends come over with cake and gifts to find her singing show tunes in Gerry's shirt and the appartment in shambles. Attached to the lid of the cake is a tape recorder, as she listens, she hears Gerry's voice and learns that he will be sending her letters in various mysterious ways instructing her to do things over the next year, because he wasn't ready to let her go. HEARTWRENCHING.

As the movie progresses Holly gets a letter about every 3 months or so, never knowing how or when it will come, telling her to do things that, while comical and endearing, will inevitably remind her of Gerry and in turn take a little piece of our heart out and stomp it on the floor of the theater. We are visually taken through thier relationship from thier meeting on led by all the things Gerry has instructed Holly to do. The entire time this is happening Holly's mother (Kathy Bates) is discouraging her, telling her that it's not healthy to keep living in the past and listening to what Gerry is telling her to do from the grave. Holly's quest to move on continues, including a few new love interests, including Harry Connick Jr. who leading up to the climax of the plot reminds her that Gerry is in fact dead and she cannot keep living in him. That throws her into an emotional breakdown and she does what every girl does in a time of emotional crisis...she ran home to mom.

As she and her mother have an emotional heart-to-heart about lost loves and regrets, Her mother reveals that she has been the source for all the letters Gerry had written before he died, and gave her the last one, which tells her that he will always love her, and a whole array of other things that brought me and nearly every one else in the audience to uncontrollable sobbing (no, Im really not exaggerating here, I had to muffle the sobbs with the inside of my sweatshirt).

Needless to say in about 4 months I will own this movie, and probably watch it until I can quote every line. What made this movie so effective I think was the first scene. there was so much packed into it that was intertwined throughout the rest of the film, and even though many of the scenes of Holly and Gerry together were sensational (and honestly a little unrealistic) they represented the little every day things that we would miss if our one and only was taken from us. It also showed a great example of a relationship between a mother and daughter. It was very honest, showing strife and resentment, as well as the unconditional love of a parent. That was another aspect that made me tear up just a little, but the concept of the story itself was amazing...not very often does a movie come out that can make you feel that much and allows you to connect with it on that kind of level.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Alpha Dog...sad but true

Last night I sat at home with a bag of popcorn and watched "Alpha Dog", mostly out of morbid curiousity...morbid indeed. outside of the fact that it completely pissed me off by the end and further justified my views on capital punishment which I will discuss later, it was an all around badly made film. The back of the cover said "controversial"... the only controversy I could find after finishing it was whether I should take it back to the video store, or save them the trouble and destroy it myself. It's not that the plot was even that fact, the plot was pretty much the only good part of it, mostly because it was based on a true story, and, lets face it, real life is so much more messed up than even the most vivid imagination. The story was based in the Inland Empire, Ca...yes, the 909 (home, sweet home) and was based around 2 white drug dealers and their "posse"'s. For some reason or another, one owed the other money, so the one owed, Johnny, kidnapped the other one's 15 year old brother Zack on a whim, with every intention of returning him for the money, until one of his guys told him that he would get 25 to life if he was caught. Frankie, (Justin Timberlake) who was in charge of making sure Zack didn't escape, basically made it so that he didn't want to go home, and by the time the orders came through to kill him, Zack was looking to stay and become a part of the gang, until, of course, they shot him in the face with a semi automatic. engaging plot, right?
Every other element was a trainwreck. The entire script consisted of three primary words; "fuck", "bitch", and "fuck" again. Cutting out these words would have dropped the roughly 120 page script down to about 50 pages, so naturally, they had to fill it with something, why not a few thousand unnecessary obscenities just for good measure?
And really, who decided it would be a good idea to cast JT as a thug? It was like watching a dog try to dance on it's hind legs...sad really....and what's even more sad, is that he actually ended up to be one of my favorite characters, mostly because I was just waiting for his skinny, stick-on tattooed ass to bust out with "I just wanna love you baby, yaa yaaaa".
I honestly have no Idea what Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone were thinking with this they really need the work that badly? There was one point where they stuck Sharon Stone in a fat suit, and she bore an uncanny resemblace to Wynonna Judd. I think the film's only saving grace acting-wise was the kid who played Zack. He was actually pretty good. The rest of the cast, outside of the kid, JT, and the two out of work A-listers, were brought in from movies like "Lords of Dogtown", and the stupid girl from "Mean Girls"...can we say "typecasting"?
I hate that it had subtitles for every other scene. e.g. " Circus Liquor, Claremont, California, 11:48p.m." and, "Mrs. Sublette and her black Toyota Sequoia, Pomona, California, 12:27a.m.". Absolutely frustrating, first, because they were there, and second, they didn't stay up long enough to read once you got over the annoyance that you would be lost if you didn't read them.
They did find an interesting way to edit the under lit, hard to watch, and poorly acted scenes, however, the off-center split scene editing momentarily took my mind off how bad the rest of the movie was.
On a personal note...
But, being the eternal cinematic optimist that I am, i did manage to find that although technically, and really, artistically as well, "Alpha Dog" was like watching the Titanic sink for the 99th time, it did piss me off...a lot...I mean other than they allowed this film to be released mainstream. The fact that these ass holes are still sitting on death row for murdering an innocent 15 year old kid seriously desturbs me. We as taxpayers are paying 100,000 dollars a year for each of these little shits so that they can sit on death row in San Quintin for the next 25 years. It costs $8 to administer a leathal injection. we could save the state of California $299, 976 this year, and $300,000 every year after that if we strapped these murdering little bastards down and injected them. better yet, I heard an idea on XM comedy that really didn't sound so bad, and yes, you'll probably call me bad names after this one, but que sera. Since there are so many American soldiers dying in Iraq due to mine fields, and freak accidents, I say, if people are given a death sentance, instead of setting them in prison for 30 years to live, and take up our tax money, give them a one-way ticket to Iraq, put them in thier little orange jump suits, and set them running out in front of our brave soldiers (who don't deserve to have thier leg blown off by a landmine or be mangled by a handgranade) and have them clear the mine fields Alquida can use them as target practice instead. Not bad, eh? I bet the murder rate in America would drop by 50%. It's rediculous that they use the "scare" and punishment" tactic for DUI's but heaven forbid we deter rapists and murderers with the death penalty. just a thought.

The Last Kiss

Just got done watching 'The Last Kiss', yes, the OTHER movie with Zach Braff. Brielfy, it is about a guy named Michael who, has a perfect girlfriend, good job, the whole 9 yards, and they realize that Jenna, his girlfriend is pregnant. Michael has commitment issues as it is, and the pregnancy, as well as a close friend's marriage, send him into a state of "crisis", as the film says. At the wedding, Michael meets a cute little brunette who is ten years his junior, and who is also shamelessly hitting on him, all the while knowing full well that he has a girlfriend. At first he blows it off, until he has a fight with Jenna. One thing leads to another, a couple lies are told, he is found out, and 7 kisses later, Michael is kicked out of the house, and finds himself in the 19 year-old's dormroom. when Jenna refuses to take him back, after finding out that it was in fact MORE than just 7 kisses, Michael spends 3 days and nights on the porch, and realizing that all he wants is to be with her, he will "do whatever it takes" to get her back; including sitting on the porch, in the rain, no food or water for three days, until she finally opens the door and the credits roll.
Throughout most of the movie, after the first five minutes anyway, I found myself wanting to kick at least one of the characters in the head at all times. Whether it be Michael, for not walking away in the first place, the little slut Kim, for being a home-wrecker, or one of the various supporting characters for being absolutely stupid, even Jenna in the very end. As much as I did want her to forgive him, because, lets face it, realistically NO man would wait out on the porch for three days in the rain after being beaten and run away from, I couldn't believe she actually opened the door to him. I don't know if that shows incredible grace, or incredible stupidity.
I think the thing that had me the most confused was that here Michael had this perfect girl who loved him, yet he still found it necessary to go out and explore other options, which poses the question, are we ever truly able to appreciate what we have until we don't, or can't have it anymore? Is the grass always greener, or does it just appear to be so? And, does it take exploring other options before we can truly be happy with what we have? One might say that there's no doubt that Michael loved Jenna, but, as was pointed out in the film, it doesn't matter what you feel; what you feel only matters to you. It's how you treat the people you love that really matters. So no matter how he "changed" in the end, the fact still remains that he made the choice to go and explore other options. I thought it was very honest in how it showed the inability of people to control themselves, and the inclination to make poor choices, and the almost inevitable curse we have to hurt the ones we love the most. The thing that ruined it for me however is the dishonest depiction of Michael's remorse. I find it extremely hard to believe that if he loved her that much that he would sit out there in the rain with no food for three days, and was that devoted to her, he would not have cheated on her in the first place. He didn't have to go find Kim after the wedding. He didn't have to drive her home from school. I know that human beings all have the capacity to feel guilt and remorse, but the question still remains, what makes us do it in the first place? If we know we shouldn't, and we know it's wrong, why can we not stop ourselves?

Flags of Our Fathers

I went to see the new Clint Eastwood (who, I'm not a fan of acting-wise, but is an amazing director) "Flags of Our Fathers". In a nutshell, the film follows the lives of the three surviving men of the six who raised the flag atop Iwo jima. John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Philippe), whose son the story is being told through, Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford), and Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) are the three surviving soldiers who were brought home from the battle as heroes. They came home to help raise bonds for the war efforts, and their heroism is almost exploited in order to do so. All the while the men maintain that they were not heroes at all, and the men that stayed and fought and died were the real heroes. Each of the men had to deal with their own issues on top of being "overnight heroes". They were fighting memories of the atrocities they saw on the beach at Iwojima, watching their friends die, and feeling guilty for leaving to become celebrities.
This movie showed not only the graphic side of what our soldiers go through during battle, but also the demons they live with the rest of their lives after fighting for out country. the film also portrays the flippancy that our country has come to view war with. The three returning soldiers were seen by the government as fundraisers, and by the public as moral boosters, not as men who put themselves in harm's way so that we can live freely. I loved how the movie showed the mens human side; Ira Hayes' alcoholism, Doc's sensitivity and pain from the battle, and Rene's pride and spotlight hungry girlfriend. I think humanity is what makes a film real and honest, especially with the "hero" of the film.
I was half expecting this film to have an "anti-war" tone to it, as much of what is coming out of Hollywood these days does, but instead it had a message of appreciation, and I think it intended to help people realize and be grateful for what the soldiers did (and still do) for us, and that they weren't necessarily looking to be called heroes, they did what they did for other reasons, and its more comfortable for us as civilians to call them heroes because we have no realization of what actually happens to them, and it's the easy way for us to deal with it, whether it is because we just choose not to, or are to ignorant to recognize the sacrifice.
This movie did have a lot of things in common with your run of the mill war films, like "Saving Private Ryan" and "We Were Soldiers", the blood, the gore, etc., but it didn't necessarily revolve around it or need it for shock value... the story and the realness of the characters I felt set it somewhat apart, and the cinematography and over-all feel of the film was very cool, not quite as shaky as "Private Ryan", but still very "in the middle of the battle". The majority of the movie's mood was very sentimental, especially towards the end; I'm not going to say that I cried, but I was moved by the emotion and sentiment. When a war film is more than just blood and gore, when there is actual interpersonal relationships between the characters, and also between the characters and the audience, because you do feel for these characters, it's a very rare and beautiful thing.
highly recommended...very heavy...but recommended.
On a personal note, I think this film totally pertains to our country's current situation, on how much of the American public do not appreciate our troops and all the shit they have to face on an everyday basis, shit that God-willing we will never have to even hear about, but I think for some it would be beneficial, and they do it for us, so all of us have the right to bitch and complain about whatever the hell we want...but hopefully we can all recognize their sacrifice and be grateful.
P.S. If you DO go see this film...after wards go listen to the Johnny Cash song "Ballad of Ira Hayes" matches....or maybe I'm the only tard who didn't realize....