30.12.08

A little something to get you hooked...


In one of my previous posts, I mentioned my current obsession with a gay love saga on a british soap opera called HollyOaks. The obsession with John Paul and Craig continues. You may not think that as a straight woman, or even a straight man that you would find this interesting, but I promise you... you're wrong. So while all you readers (and I know I have about five now!) wait patiently for my reviews of The Reader and Doubt, please enjoy John Paul and Craig: The Confession! All credit goes to youtube user kimbaforeva, without whom I never would have known the wonders of this relationship. Thanks kimba!

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23.12.08

Movie Review: They'll always have Paris... sort of.


Who or what do you blame when a marriage goes wrong? Do you blame the secretary or the neighbor? The job or the kids? The gin or the bedroom? Maybe you blame yourself, or maybe it's nobody's fault, after all, some marriages just aren't meant to last. Frank and April Wheeler met a party, had a laugh and a dance. Twelve years later, they find themselves stuck in the fifties, breaking bottles and furniture all to try and figure out what the hell went wrong. I can't begin to tell you what went wrong with the marriage, but I can tell you what went wrong with the film. First off, it isn't live. This movie would have made for the most phenomenally gripping stage play, but up on the big screen, there's just too much distance to feel the real weight of their problems. Second, what this film tries to do, Mad Men does better. Third, there is no resolution and not in a good way. Let's elaborate on these three points, and then along the way I'll tell you what I actually like about Revolutionary Road, which is still quite a bit.

When you make a film reuniting the two stars of Titanic, you already have an guaranteed audience for your movie. But when that movie is about two people who can no longer stand the sight of each other, I'd be a little worried. This is, of course, unless you're the man responsible for directing American Beauty and married to the Kate Winslet. Sam Mendes is, without question, a great director, and with Revolutionary Road, he delivers on his end, yet again. The reason this film doesn't blow you out of your seat isn't his fault, in fact I'm sure he made the film better than anyone else could have. Revolutionary Road is one of those unfortunate situations where the material would be suited to live theater than it is to the screen. The movie ultimately fails to get in your face, but it's not for lack of trying. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet both give good performances as the Wheelers, and I really wish I could say that's all the film needed. Through all their ranting, kissing, screaming and hugging, you find people that you can easily relate to. You don't have to be a part of a failed marriage to understand how they feel, you only need to have had a couple of real good fights. Kathy Bates is also rejoined with her Titanic cohorts, only this time she plays the opposite of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Bates gives a fine performance in a relatively small role, but is crucial to the story in that she introduces the "nice young Wheelers" to her son, John. John, played by Michael Shannon, also plays a small role in the film, but makes an enormous impact on both the Wheelers and the audience. Shannon aptly turned John into a version of Ledger's Joker, minus the make-up. His maniacal laugh and disturbing stare, mixed with the best lines in the film, makes Shannon a definite best supporting role contender. David Harbour and Kathryn Hahn, as the Campbells, also give decent performances, more Harbour than Hahn. They play the couple you inevitably have to compare to the Wheelers. Shannon is the only one who ultimately jumped off the screen enough that I didn't need to see him in person to know how good he was. As for Leo and Kate, high marks for trying hard, middle ones for the actual outcome.

For those of you not familiar with the AMC hit show,
Mad Men, it's basically the same plot as Revolutionary Road, only more fleshed out and with an ensemble of characters instead of just two. The film is the show, if the show only focused on leads Don Draper and his wife Betty, and if Don Draper was more like the young ambitious, but unsure and emasculated Pete Campbell. I apologize if all of this means nothing to you, but I couldn't do a review without pointing out the similarities. I know that it's not exactly fair to compare two pieces just because they're both about fifties suburbia, and I wouldn't even bother with the comparison, except that Mad Men accomplishes what the film so desperately tries to, ten times better. Through the combo of performances, writing and direction, I never felt that the show was anything but perfect in its incarnation. I went into Revolutionary Road hoping to feel the same way, but came out wanting. Better writing maybe? After all, nobody says each other's names fifteen times within the span of one argument ("Listen April!... Come on Frank!...). I was looking for realism, since that seemed to be the whole point of the story. While some things resonated, others fell just shy of impact or passed over completely. And where were the kids during 90% of the movie? Still at that birthday party...

While half of the film explores their downward spiral, the other half is spent with a rejuvenated and hopeful couple, filled with dreams of a life changing move to Paris. They never seem to be able to pull it together though, leading both them and us back to the inevitable doom and gloom of the story. This is not a happy tale, pretty much from top to bottom. It has a lot in common with Mendes'
American Beauty, but unlike Beauty, you don't feel that the end of the film conveys a message (or at least a message worth hearing). If the point of the film was to show how marriage can disintegrate a life, than kudos to everyone involved. But if there was a deeper message somewhere in there, fighting to get out, than I'm not sure that point was made. Perhaps the point was just to show how we're all finding ways to cope, and maybe that should have been enough for me.

Short and Sweet

Revolutionary Road tries so very hard to smother you with tension, but doesn't end up playing into realism as much as it should have. The film is beautifully shot and well directed, but the performances didn't jump off the screen as much as I would have hoped, with the exception of the outstanding Michael Shannon. I think Kate and Leo did their best, but it just wasn't enough. Viewer BEWARE! This is not a easy film, and it will not leave you very hopeful, but it's still important to see nonetheless. I may be a little harsh on it in my review, but Revolutionary Road is worth seeing, just not worth an Oscar nod.

Fav Quotes

"You're just some guy who made me laugh at a party once." - April Wheeler




22.12.08

Zooey, Blagojevich, and X-Men, OH MY!

Film.com has put together a little photo gallery of one my favorite actresses/singer, Zooey Deschanel. It's kind of hard not to like her, she's just so adorable! The gallery gave me a chance to look over some of her amazing fashion choices, and some of her more questionable ones. If indie had a spokesperson, she'd probably be it.

Despite the rise of Chicago's golden boy, lately the city's been looking more corrupt than ever. Oh Rod Blagojevich... tisk tisk! Did you really think no was going to find out? Your hair can't hide all your secrets. You would have made a great host for "Lets Make a Deal."

David Denby gives his take on Revolutionary Road (btw, my review of it will be up soon!), Gran Torino, and The Class. As per usual, he makes some great points. "Winslet had played American women without straining, but this time she enunciates with laborious precision-you can see her propelling vowels and consonants like smoke rings." Denby proves again why he's one of the best critics in the biz.

And now, for a little trailer catch-up!

Ché - I can't tell you yet whether it looks epicly brilliant, or long and worn out. Benicio Del Toro in the lead seems like a perfect fit, but I'm afraid he might ultimately come off as too course. I think back on Gael Garcia Bernal, who played young Ché in The Motorcycle Diaries, and almost wish they'd brought him back to reprise the role. But I guess he doesn't look old enough to play the part. The trailer does move me to want to see the film, but they are dividing it into two parts... Not since Kill Bill has such a risk been taken. Will it pay off? The trailer makes me think, yes.

What Doesn't Kill You - Dear movie producers, please stop making movies about South Boston. Thank you.

Monsters Vs. Aliens - This looks like the best thing to come out of Dreamwork's Pixar stealing labs (sorry, that was harsh) since Shrek... oh wait, I hated Shrek. Well, in any event, this looks way better and considerably funnier. With a great cast of voices (Seth Rogen, Reese Witherspoon, Rainn WIlson, Stephen Colbert, Will Arnett, etc.) this is one animated feature that looks like it will give us what we want. For the record, I loved Shrek 2.  

Star Trek - I don't think I'm the only one who's really excited about Heroes' Sylar (aka Zachary Quinto) following in the great Leonard Nimoy's footsteps and taking up the reigns of Spock. He couldn't look more the part if he tried (even without make-up). Is it weird that I have a little bit of a crush on him? I thought so... From the trailer, the film looks like it will cover a "Star Trek: The Early Years" story line and be heavily action oriented. Not sure how Chris Pine will fair as Captain Kirk, I think Chris Evans might actually have been a better choice (did you see Sunshine?). The cast has a few other big names; Simon Pegg (Hot Fuzz), Eric Bana (Troy), and John Cho (Harold and Kumar). All put together, I think they may end up with Star Trek meets Animal House

Nothing but the Truth - I have a hunch that Nothing but the Truth will be this year's Michael Clayton, only with less acclaim. From what I gather, Kate Beckinsale finally nabbed a role where she can actually do some real acting. Anymore of this Underworld crap and she'll end up on "Where are they now?." The story centers on a reporter who faces a possible jail sentence for outing a CIA agent and refusing to reveal her source. Vera Farminga stars as said agent and I've been hoping to see more of her since The Departed. Here's wishing you luck Kate on your foray into real film!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Considering the level of flop-dom that X-Men 3 ended up achieving, some might wonder why they even bothered making a prequel (it's not like we're dealing with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit here...). The answer for making it, is money (did you know they're making a Sex and the City 2? God help us). Even though X-Men 3 went down as the worst in the trilogy, it still made a ton of cash, and now producers are hoping to do it again. This time though, they are focusing on a simpler story and one character. Even though the star will be Wolverine, we'll get a chance to see some new heroes and villains. Taylor Kitsch of Friday Night Lights fame will play Gambit, Ryan Reynolds will play Deadpool and Dominic Monaghan will take on Beak. We'll also get a chance to Liev Schreiber (also in Defiance) as Sabretooth, and interesting casting choice in the sense that I wouldn't have picked him but I think he could be great. The trailer is well edited, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really excited to see Riggins as Gambit, but I'm gonna head into this one with low expectations. Hopefully it will overcome them.

Fanboys - Those of the Apatow crew that aren't in Adventureland (see below), you can probably find in Fanboys. The basic plot is that a group of good friends get together to achieve the impossible; successfully break in George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Can they do it? I don't think anyone really cares, cause with the cast of guest stars they've racked up no one will be focusing on the plot. It looks like it could have moments of comedic promise, but I think this one will probably be hit or miss, leaning towards miss.  
 
Gomorrah - Based on the tell-all book that caused it's author to go into hiding, Gomorra is a tale of Italy's mafia. Critics are already comparing it to The Godfather but I don't know if I'd go that far based on what I've seen. I think this is one of those movies that most people won't get a chance to see, but may just end up blowing those that do away (literally).

Adventureland - Superbad director, Greg Mottola, returns with Apatow cast in tow to bring us Adventureland. But this time, he wrote the movie himself, perhaps based on his own experiences spending a summer working at an amusement park... The story takes place in 1987, when a motley crew, run by two off-their-rocker bosses (Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig), find ways to slack on the job. It looks pretty predictable, and I'm sure it won't be the next Superbad (it's too soon for that anyway), but with Ryan Reynolds, Martin Starr, Jesse Eisenberg, Hader and Wiig, it may make us laugh so hard we don't care. Here's hoping it's better than the trailer lets on. Oh, and Kristin Stewart returns to play the pretty intellectual girl once again.

Terminator Salvation - CHRISTIAN BALE! Man I love this guy, he can do anything! He can play a newsboy who bursts into song, a piano playing victorian in love with a tomboy, an anorexic machinist, even Batman! But, can he play John Connor? The answer is, of course he can. In fact a simple "duh" would probably suffice. In the fourth, and hopefully last, installment of the Terminator saga, John is still fighting that damn Skynet and trying to figure out who to trust. In the trailer, you can hear Bale's Batman voice kick in as his says "I don't know if we can win this war." Please let the answer be yes, and give us the Star Wars ending we so desperately need. They killed his mother and his father, and now it's time for John to finally have something go his way. CGI looks promising as do the performances (at least by action flic standards).

9 - Brought to you by creep king Tim Burton, but directed and written by newcomer Shane Acker, 9  looks like an animated cross between Corpse Bride and this year's Coraline. Even though I adore Tim Burton and his zany world, this does not look very promising so far. But, watch the trailer and maybe you'll find something in it I didn't.  


That's all for now. I'm still working on my t.v. segment and my Revolutionary Road review will be up soon. I hope everyone's Christmas shopping is coming to a end!

19.12.08

Movie Review: Button? Button? Who's got the Power Button?


As someone very wise said to me, "It's this year's Pearl Harbor." The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ended up trying very hard in many ways, but not in the ways that counted. Not only does the film lack passion between it's two leads, but passion of any kind (memories of Music and Lyrics come to mind). At the end of 160 minutes of film, I was left baffled by how David Fincher can come out out a film like Fight Club, and then do something like this. Hollywood King Brad Pitt gives no life to the character of Benjamin. He may be good looking, but that's far from what's needed to carry the weight of a nearly 3 hour film. It seemed as if because the premise of the story was already so interesting, Pitt felt he didn't even have to try and put more effort into the character. Well Brad, congrats, you took what could have been a very interesting story and made it dull. Sadly, Cate Blanchett (one my favs) is guilty of the same thing with Daisy. Being a dancer does not automatically make you an scintillating individual. The film may be a fantasy in many respects, but the characters are still supposed to be based in reality. They needed soul, buckets of it, if possible. They were given every opportunity to show heart, but at each turn, played it flat and predictable. There were moments when Pitt as Benjamin could have lashed out and lost his cool, or even showed a little bit of vulnerability, but instead he chose to play him as an even tempered, lifeless individual. I just couldn't care about these people, when they didn't seem to care enough themselves. If you want to give the film props for technical achievement, go right ahead, but you can find better emotional performances on Gossip Girl, and that's saying a lot.

During an interview with ET, Blanchett spoke of her early concern for getting involved with a movie whose themes could easily become relegated to cliché, but decided to move forward when she found out David Fincher would be directing. "Knowing that David Fincher was going to look at it, I mean, the man doesn't have a sentimental bone in his body. FIncher talking about love, Fincher talking about longing and yearning, hope and possibility, birth and death, then I think you're in for an interesting ride." That's certainly what you would hope and expect from the man who gave us Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac, but Fincher fell prey to tech giddiness. He neglected focusing on the potential personality and verve of these characters. Why should I invest time in them? Just because they existed? That's just not enough. Blanchett went on to say, "What I really admire about what Fincher's done with the film, is that I think in lesser hands, people would have gone to town with the technology, and often people make films like this to experiment with technology. But he was in complete control. It's got a lot of heart". Wrong again Cate. And what's worse, the rest of the interview is spent with Pitt and Blanchett cooing about the incredible leaps in technology...

The simple sum-up of Benjamin's plot is that it's a man's life story in reverse (think Forrest Gump if he was born at the end and ended at the beginning). I'm sure that plenty of people will come out of Benjamin Button with a contrary opinion to mine. When all is said and done, it's still cool to see Brad Pitt get younger. You get a chance to see him return to his Thelma and Louise days, and damn, he was cute wasn't he... Although overlooked in the trailers, you're also treated to a much younger Cate Blanchett, who looks so much like a life-size porcelain doll, you're surprised she doesn't shatter at Benjamin's touch. There are a couple of cute montage scenes between Benjamin and Daisy, and some fun scenes of Benjamin globetrotting, that gave me hope the movie might start to move in a different direction, but no. They are beautiful people, going to beautiful places, and even that wasn't strong enough to hold my interest (it's far from Marie Antoinette). Taraji P. Henson gives a fairly memorable performance as Queenie, Benjamin's adopted mother, and ends up being one of the few to try and bring some soul to her part. The character does unfortunately fall more into stereotypical territory, thereby endearing typical reactions from audiences. But, she does have some verve. More than anyone else, Tilda Swinton leaves an impression. She plays a very important role in Benjamin's life, but unfortunately her role in the film is short lived. She actually had a personality, and I only wish it could have been developed more.

Since the film is almost 3 hours long, the assumption would be that everything you see of Benjamin's life is critical to understanding him as a character or furthering the plot, but in this case it's more an assemblage of dreamy, jumbled sequences leading nowhere. It's not the first time this has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Fincher, please go back to doing what you do best; getting inside the heads of real men and women. Long Hollywood epics about pretty people just isn't your thing.

Short and Sweet

For a film that supposedly addresses life's "big issues," it falls short in too many ways. I would have enjoyed seeing a youthful Brad Pitt had he put some heart into Benjamin. Blanchett uses her standard American Katharine Hepburn voice to bend Benjamin's ear, but it doesn't have the payoff that it did in The Aviator. "They look SO young!" you'll gasp, but is that enough to warrant a nomination? Technically, it accomplishes some new things, but that's also not enough to carry the film but Ultimately Benjamin Button is another over-hyped cog in the Hollywood machine, leaving me to revisit the trailer and wonder "what happened?" If you're a Fincher fan, be prepared that this film doesn't hold up against his previous ones, and is done in a completely different style than you're accustomed to. I wish it would have been better, I really do, but in this instance, the blockbuster just didn't deliver. The middle rating is really more for the technical wow factor than anything else.

Fav Quotes

"They said I was gonna die soon, but, maybe not..." - Benjamin Button

"Did I ever tell you I was hit by lightning seven times?" - Mr. Daws


Happy Chanukah Everyone!

14.12.08

"What are you doing here?"

It's impossible not to admire his style. It's just too purple to ignore. Reviews of Milk and Adam Resurrected are soon to come, and this week I'm seeing a preview screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, so that review will be on it's way too. Here's a few weird, fun, gay things.  

  • If you're in the mood to spend approximately 48 hours watching a gay love saga on a British soap opera, than look no further! John Paul and Craig This is part 1 of 54, all of which are posted on youtube. It's epic in every sense of the word. They say fabulous things like "What are you doing here?" and "I'm not your bit on the side!" Every time a door closes, someone gets laid... it's that amazing.
  • Despite my self-professed love of all things Twilight, I feel it's always important to showcase other opinions. So here is EW's Twilight: A Hater's Guide. View it if you must...
  • BIG NEWS! Netflix is finally offering instant watch for Mac users!!! Lord knows it took them long enough... Watch anything from Mommie Dearest to 30 Rock
  • By now, it's pretty evident that it has been a weak year for film. We have a few winners coming out now (maybe), but overall the year has been lacking in real jaw-dropping cinema. Film.com begs the question, was this the worst movie year ever? You decide.
  • The Golden Globe nominations just came out, and there's a few big upsets. First off, no best picture drama nomination for Milk? I loved Frost/Nixon, but c'mon, I think Milk deserved a spot. In best supporting actor category, Emile Hirsch really deserved a nod  for his role in Milk. He was incredible and completely snubbed. Also, did anyone else notice that 4 out of the 5 nominated films haven't even been released yet? The comedy best picture nominees are a joke from start to finish. No matter how much fun Mamma Mia was (and it really was),  it's madness to honor it with any kind of award (other than an MTV one). Also, when a movie like Wall-E comes along, I would love to see it leap out of an animation category and compete in the "real" races. I think if a movie's really good enough, it shouldn't be banished to the doldrums. But the Golden Globes may be the worst of the awards, so heres hoping the Oscars and the SAG awards are better. And did 'ya hear? Hugh Jackman is hosting the Academy Awards this year! Please let him sing, dance and wear tight pants! Finally, Allah willing, next year in Jerusalem (aka give us better movies!). 
  • Last, but definitely not least, is a video most people have seen by now, but still had to share, The Prop 8 Musical. Better late than never I guess...

And this is just scary as hell and needed to be remembered. Also coming soon, my television catch-up session. Get the DL on what shows need watching!