Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fantasy Oscars: Edward Norton for Best Supporting Actor in Moonrise Kingdom

I must admit, Moonrise Kingdom comes somewhere between The Life Aquatic and The Fantastic Mr. Fox in my personal Wes Anderson rankings. That is, nowhere near the rarefied air of Darjeeling Limited or (pause to genuflect) Rushmore, which I think is as close to perfect as any movie has a right to be. My relative lack of enthusiasm for Moonrise has to do with what I felt was a bit of discomfort on the part of the child actors with the Andersonian dialogue, which is as precise and intricate as his notoriously detailed sets.

However, I did love what was happening on the edges of Moonrise, both on the level of direction (the background scenes at Camp Lebanon are priceless), and especially in terms of character. Top to bottom, the adult actors (Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, and Bill Murray, who should get nominated for every Anderson movie in which he appears) are brilliant. I was particularly taken with Edward Norton's performance as Scout Master Ward. He plays Ward as sincerely and wholeheartedly committed to scout mastering, in a way that doesn't play as silly or pathetic, but rather as admirable and noble. Norton is fantastic when he talks--managing to make lines like "Jiminy Cricket, he flew the coop" not precious but suffused with pathos--but also when he moves. His brisk inspection of Camp Ivanhoe, cigarette in hand, is hilarious, and his crumpled face, when unable to make the day's entry in the Scout Log due to the disappearance of his entire troupe, is almost unbearable to look at.

Edward Norton is not an actor usually associated with guilelessness. Some of his best roles (Primal Fear, American History X, even Fight Club) are enriched by the intelligence, either calculating or world weary, that he projects. All of that is drained in Moonrise Kingdom, to much better effect than a similar character he played in Woody Allen's musical Everyone Says I Love You. Bruce Willis, also playing against type in this movie, doesn't seem to get there as completely and fearlessly as Norton. And really--isn't it about time he won something other than a Boston Society of Film Critics Award?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Les Miserables - No one said this life (or this movie) would be a happy one

I just got home from seeing Les Miserables with my dear, sweet mother.  We balanced a fine line of what we know and what we experienced.  I'll explain.  We knew ahead of time that the film was not going to be perfect.  We knew that there were a few people singing above their natural octaves.  We knew that some of the shots were going to be way too tight.  We knew there would be vibrato.  But we also knew that this was the first time a director chose to have his actors sing live and not lip-synch songs that were pre-recorded.  We also knew that no matter what, we love Anne Hathaway

I so wanted to love the film as much as I've loved the stage musical, but it was not meant to be.  I liked it a lot.  I wept with the rest of my theater (no exaggeration-you could hear folks sobbing at the end of the film) and there were things I really loved about the film.  But there were things I didn't love at all.  One of those things was the frustration that came with knowing some of the actors could sing better than what I was hearing.  I know Amanda Seyfried doesn't always sound like a chipmunk.  I know that Hugh Jackman can sing differently. I know that movie newcomer, Samantha Barks was very good but I also know that no one can compare to Lea Salonga when it comes to "Eponine."

What I didn't know was that I was going to enjoy Russell Crowe's singing voice.  I didn't know that Gossip Girl's Aaron Tveit had my favorite singing voice in the entire cast.  I also didn't know that I could form an entirely different emotion to material I know so well.  I've seen Les Mis on stage three times.  I own two different cast recordings.  I love this musical and I've always been very attached to it.  This was the first time I got to see the story acted.  When you're experiencing a story from singers who can act on a stage, there's a bit of a detachment.  You can't really see their faces unless you're in the first few rows.  Their job is to project emotion through voice only.  But when seeing a story on film, with actors who can sing, well it's a totally different experience.  They have to not only sing that emotion but they get to express it through their facial expressions.  There was true, raw emotion from most of the cast but most especially Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne who put his heart on his sleeve.  Some folks, ahem...Russell Crowe, didn't quite capture that emotion (he should have been much more menacing).

So yeah, overall I liked it.  I'm a sucker for redemption stories.  It's such a downer of a story with lots of death and pain but there's hope and I love me some hope.  As for the style of the film itself, some of the sweeping camera was interesting and well-used and some of was not. Some of the tight shots on faces were great and some were not. I respect director Tom Hooper for doing this kind of production but a lot of it just didn't quite work out.  I knew I would have a problem with a lot of the singing voices but I really can't imagine other actors in these roles. 

I will leave you with part of my incredibly earnest post-movie discussion with my mother:

Mom: “If you could harness all that vibrato, what could you do with it?  Could you power a city?”   
Me: “Well…at least a train” 

Monday, December 24, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 12 Finally!

"On the twelfth day of Christmas my TV gave to meeee...Summer Glau as an elf!"

This was tough, the whole having to post every day thing.  I didn't save the best for last but Hallmark's Help for the Holidays was decent.  Sure, it was as predictable as all the rest but Summer Glau just makes things better.

So the story is this: Glau plays one of Santa's elves and is sent (by the big guy himself) to help a family who has lost their Christmas spirit.  This is perplexing because the mom and dad own a store where they sell Christmas stuff.  There's some other part of it where Christine Prancer (her non-North Pole name) falls for the brother of the mom she's trying to help.  However if she falls in love with him then she faces dire consequences upon return to the North Pole. 
Will the family find their Christmas spirit again?  Will Christine choose love over toy-making?  Could Summer Glau be any cuter?  I can't really answer the first two questions because I didn't finish the movie.  Oops.  It's Christmas Eve and I had stuff to do, family to see and a dinner to eat.  But I can answer the third question and the correct response is "No.  She cannot be any cuter."  I will be finishing the movie eventually but I'm guessing that it will all end well.  And on that note...

Happy Christmas!  Happy (belated) Hannukah!  Happy (belated) Festivus!  Happy (early) Kwanzaa!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 11

"On the 11th day of Christmas, my TV gave to meeee...The Mistle-Tones!"
For some reason I'm terribly ashamed of myself for actually liking this movie.  ABC Family delivered with The Mistle-Tones this year.  Ok, it was totally cheesy, not terribly well-acted, and I'm pretty sure not too many people were doing their own singing (with the possible exception of Tia Mowry and the male lead, Jonathan Patrick Moore).  Sure, Tori Spelling was in it but it was a goofy role and she cheesed it up just right.  The performance-y songs were way too Glee-esque but it was still fun to watch.
So the story is this: Tia Mowry's "Holly" (of course) is obsessed with being part of a singing group, the Snow Belles, that performs at the local mall on Christmas Eve.  Her mom was an original Belle and it's always been Holly's dream to follow in her since-passed mom's footsteps.  She auditions and is fantastic but the Belle's leader, Marci (played by Spelling) doesn't want to be outshined, so Holly doesn't get in.  Instead she convinces the manager of the mall to hold a competition because why should the Snow Belles get to be the center of attention every year.  In another plot line, Holly falls for her boss "Nick" (of course), played by Aussie cutie, Moore.  Of course there's some deal with him getting a promotion and moving to the company's office in India.  I guess that even love gets outsourced.  Sorry.

Yes, it all works out in the end.  Yes, it's corny as heck.  Yes, there is a massive amount of obvious lip-synching.  But it was still fun and I would watch this one again. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 10

"On the 10th day of Christmas, my TV gave to meeee...NICK FREAKING ZANO!!!"
Thanks to ABC Family's Desperately Seeking Santa, I got to see my obsession, Nick Zano, in a cheesy Christmas TV movie.  It was a Christmas miracle, I tell ya! wasn't awful!  It wasn't great but it wasn't awful.  How could it be when this guy is in this hat?
 Plus he dances!!!
Ok, the dancing and original music was not good.  But the rest of it was pretty good so I excused the dancing and the music.  There was some bad acting but the two leads, the aforementioned Zanooooohh and Laura Vandervoort, did just fine. Actually the story was pretty dang weak too.  Ugh.

The story is this:  Mall manager Jennifer (Vandervoort) needs to boost her sales numbers or her mall will get shut down and she won't get a big promotion.  Isn't that always the way?!?!  She decides to have a search for a sexy Santa instead of the same old, big belly, bearded type.  Because the holidays are all about competition!  But it's ok...Zano shows up and wins the competition.  Zano's character, David, works at the family restaurant but is also studying to be an EMT and then a doctor.  David's dad thinks he should be focused more on school and less on being a sexy, dancing Santa.  David entered the competition for the prize money, which he uses to hire a lawyer to help the family fight some big development that is going to buy up the whole neighborhood for some new building.  Convoluted?  Yes.  But who cares?!?! 

Dancing Zano!!!

She's pretty too, I guess:
She has the best eyebrows!
So, naturally, it all works out.  Jennifer is offered the promotion but passes on it in order to save her mall from closing as well as saving the neighborhood where David's family's restaurant is.  The plot actually happens in the last half of the movie and it's a blink and you'll miss it situation so don't even bother looking for it.  I mean, all I want for Christmas is you:
Oops! How did this get in here?!?!

Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 9

"On the 9th day of Christmas, my TV gave to me...a real tearjerker."
My mother forced me, not by gunpoint but by guilt and manipulation ('cause that's what the holidays are all about), to watch Liftetime's The Christmas Hope.  Hope is the third in a series of overly-sentimental tearjerkers based on novels written by one Donna Van Liere.  It's my impression that she sees Nicholas Sparks's movies as happy-go-lucky fare.  With Sparks you usually get one dying character.  With Van Liere's, it seems as though you get three or four. 

The series started with The Christmas Shoes, starring Rob Lowe.  The second, The Christmas Blessing starred Neil Patrick Harris.  The series ended with The Christmas Hope starring Madeline Stowe, pre-Revenge.  My mother informed me that it took her three hankies to get through Hope.  I love me a good tearjerker and even though I could predict the tears, I still succumbed. 

The story is this: well...let's see...there's a little girl whose mother gets hit by a car and dies just days before Christmas.  There's a sick baby who was abandoned by her meth-head mother and never gets adopted by the end of the movie.  There's a grieving couple on the edge of divorce following the loss of their son, also death by car accident, two years earlier.  There's a doctor and his wife who are expecting a baby but they're happy because their heartbreak happened the movie previous.  Um, there's an angry kid who hates when people see potential in him.  Um, I'm sure someone had a bad hangnail or a flat tire too.  But guess what?!?! Yup, you guessed it.  It all works out in the end (except for the poor, sick, abandoned baby).  I mean, the dead mother doesn't come back to life or anything but the little girl gets a new family.  The couple is able to fix their marriage and love a kid.  The angry kid gets a free trip to California where more people can see his potential.  And I'm guessing the hangnail went away too.

Maybe I'm being mean.  This one was good.  I hadn't seen the prequels but I knew enough about how they linked to appreciate it.  Stowe was great but she always is.  The little girl could have been obnoxious but wasn't too bad.  The writing, though predictable, was fine.  So overall it was worth a watch.

So if you want a real all three.  They will tear your heart out and sing some Christmas carols while stomping on it.  You'll love it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 8

"On the eight day of Christmas my TV gave to meeee...a ripoff of Sliding Dooooors."
Lifetime's All About Christmas Eve was an attempt at showing the two roads one's life could travel if timing, mere seconds really, made all the difference.  Sliding Doors, one of the few films of Gwynnie's that I loved, did it right.  All About Christmas Eve did it poorly. 

The movie stars the lesser of the Duffs, Haylie, a dude from Laguna Beach: The Real OC, and a dude from The O.C. (aka the fake Laguna Beach).  Throw in a performance from real-life American Idol couple, Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young and you have our movie.

Haylie Duff stars as Eve (get it?!?!), an ambitious party planner whose life goes down two different paths, one focused on career and one focused on finding oneself.  When I say it's a Sliding Doors ripoff I'm not exaggerating.  One of her selves misses a train and ends up at home to find her jobless live-in boyfriend in bed with some girl.  The other self makes the train and advances her career and meets a less-cheaty guy. I'd get into more of the story but it's really not worth it.  Suffice it to say, things work out in the end and she winds up with a fully realized self and the less-cheaty guy.

Listen, it's not good.  It's so bad that The Soup picked up on it.  Someone worked really hard on writing original music for it and that was bad too.  The writing is terrible.  It's not at all believable and I could go on and on.  It's a shame too because, for whatever reason, I find myself rooting for Haylie Duff.  I want better for her.  This was not it. 

Nat's Best of Books 2012 Edition!

Year In Reading

Everyone else is doing it . . . 

Best {nonfiction} book of the year: Quiet by Susan Cain. And, ok, really the only nonfiction book of the year. Everyone I know who read this book experienced some sort of "Thank the appropriate deity or kiss the sky, I'm not crazy/abnormal/the only one" reaction. That, of course, should tell you how many introverts I know. Cain goes off on tangents here and there and I wish there were a tad more concrete science but what she does for introverts is incomparable. NO ONE else says it's ok if you have to be quiet for an hour after a perfectly normal day of work. She breaks through the groupthink to allow introverts a place in the noisy extroverted world.

Best {fiction} books of the year: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The first for an absurdly excellent bildungsroman set on a college campus. The second for maintaining a fan girl crush and what the man is capable of with language. The third for a beautiful, fun, engaging story that still resonates visually.

Worst book of the year: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides followed closely by Binu and the Great Wall by Su Tong. Ugh. I don't think I can even talk about this first one. I love The Virgin Suicides but this book made me angry at Eugenides. It's as if he hates every character in the book and cannot contain his condescension. Binu was just so damned boring it's not worth talking about. 

Eh. I'm not impressed: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. One of my favorite books, and the single book that made me decide to study late 20th century American literature, is The Names by Don DeLillo. Eggers' book echoes the older book but, for me, fails to do anything new, better, or innovative. I know it's one of Michiko Kakutani's 10 favorites of the year. But, eh. [What I was impressed with was the McSweeney's book cover--gorgeous.]

The "classics": The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre. Dorian Grey was disappointing for me--too much talk (not even conversation) and not enough action. The le Carre, however, was fantastic and MUCH better than the poorly adapted screen version released last year.

The page turners: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins and The Strain by Guillermo del Toro. I can't say I'd recommend any of these books to anyone but I inhaled them so if you need a little fluff in your reading diet go for it.

Made me cry: Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This book packs a punch in the form of a brutally bittersweet and honest look at AIDS in the 1980s.

Awesome idea that failed: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It IS for children but STILL. The premise is that antique and vintage photographs were "found" and a story was built around them. Didn't work and the book was so obviously written with the idea that it might be turned into a film with sequels that it was absurd.

Also read:
Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody: Actually, I listened to this one. It's a good enough satire but I like others better and this one dragged toward the end.
There but for the by Ali Smith: This is interesting. I didn't dislike the book but I'm still thinking on whether I liked it.
A Million Heavens by John Brandon: Citrus County hit me in my soul so I'm a tad disappointed in this one even though it's a beautiful idea of a book.
The Angel Esmeralda by Don DeLillo: Some excellent stories, some only ok. I prefer his novels, of course.
Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books Edited by Leah Price: I'm beyond nosy so this was satisfying.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Goff: It's fun but not brilliant.

Still reading:
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter: So far, I'm loving it.
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser: The first part of this was ruined because the audio book reader is t.e.r.r.i.b.l.e. and difficult to understand. But I'll grab in it actual physical book form soon.

That's my sad little list of reading this year--a new full-time job mid-year TOTALLY cra

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 7 (getting in under the wire)

"On the 7th day of Christmas, my tv gave to me...a singing competition."

Natasha Henstridge, she of the other Species, stars in Hallmark's Christmas Song.  It was ok.  It was cheesy as heck and I had some major issues with some of the singing voices but, like I said, it was ok. 

So the story is this: Two private schools, one for boys and one for girls, have combined and now there are two music programs.  The girls have Miss Deason (Henstridge) who teaches them with a more classical approach.  The boys have Mr. Stoddard (played by Gabriel Hogan [son of Michael Hogan, aka Col Tigh from BSG]) who teaches with a more current flair.  The school can only afford one music program so it's up to the teachers and a few chosen students to compete in a local singing competition.  Whichever teacher's team wins gets to keep their job.  Woo!  Each teacher recruits kids with stories (popular wrestling boy and wheelchair boy; popular, spoiled girl and shy girl) and lessons will soon be learned.  In the meantime Miss Deason and Mr. Stoddard keep getting set up by an online dating service even though they are sure it's a mistake.

Will one of the teachers lose their job?  Will Miss Deason and Mr. Stoddard fall in love even though they're competing?  Will shy girl get over her shyness?  Will anyone ever actually care that these movies are so terribly predictable?  Will a Christmas go by when I don't insist on watching these cheesy movies?

Natalie on Killing Them Softly!

Due to a minor eyesight issue (better known as J looked at the wrong theater listings--oops) J and I ended up in Killing Them Softly instead of Lincoln on Saturday. I didn't think anything of it since I wanted to see both. Killing Them Softly has a respectable 76% overall rating on RottenTomatoes . . . certainly not my definite barometer but an ok judge of whether a movie might be decent.

Killing Them Softly was in no way decent. I'll try to avoid plot spoilers but, seriously, that will be difficult because there isn't much of a plot. So, problem number 1: thinner than melted ice plot. 

I'm a postmodernist. I can deal with no plot if you give me characters. Problem number 2: undeveloped characters that do nothing. The film tried to make Brad Pitt's Jackie into a sort of warped embodiment of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and he's so cool he doesn't show up until about 20 minutes in to the film. Once on screen he tries valiantly to be the guy about which he can say "Very few guys know me." But that's a giant problem when everyone in the film, except the guy he delivers the line to and one other guy, knows him (and, well, they know him once he shows up). We're working with a tiny cast of characters ultimately and when one of two existing plot points is that Pitt can't hit a guy because that guy knows him, um, well, it seems Pitt is not the unknown hit man.

Beyond Pitt, there is something vaguely resembling an ensemble cast. James Gandolfini shows up in a foregone conclusion of a washed-up role. Ray Liotta is, well, Ray Liotta. And Richard Jenkins is an unnamed guy who reports to an unnamed committee and pretends to restrict Pitt's actions (this is not at all Orwellian as I'm sure it was intended). But these guys aren't used to their full potential. And, none of the characters evolve or come to any understanding or DO anything. More happens in an episode of Law & Order.

So, no plot, no character development . . . That's my main problem with the film. I unapologetically love gangster movies. Even bad ones. But this is NOT a gangster movie, not even a cerebral one. Problem number 3: poorly advertised faux gangster movie.

So, what's left when your gangster movie has no plot, no characters, and no gangster movie to it? Political commentary, of course. Sigh. The film is incredibly heavy-handed and absurdly lazy with audio and video clips of mainly Obama and McCain during the 2008 election talking about economic matters. Do you really think two bottom-tier hit men drive around listening to NPR? I don't. But, let's suspend our intense disbelief and assume they do just for a second. Now we have two bottom-tier hit men driving around listening to economic commentary in the film--the MASSIVE problem is that the film just ignores that for oh, 99% of the run-time. No one comments on anything except a comment here and there about the recession or times are tough. The comments do not justify the obnoxious voice-overs throughout the film. 

Now, SPOILER ALERT: the film attempts to "wrap it all up" and justify the whole damned thing (political "commentary" included) by having the last thing we see be an interaction between Pitt and Jenkins wherein Pitt is paid less than he expected. Miraculously coincidentally, Obama is on TV giving a speech (IN A BAR--right, 'cause there was no game on clearly) about community and whatnot. Pitt suddenly bursts out in a poorly conceived, poorly spoken, cockamamie speech about how we're not all equal and Thomas Jefferson had slaves and blah blah blah nonsense. And Pitt delivers information about a character not seen in the film that makes not one ounce of sense, is a complete tangent and unneeded, AND is annoying because it would be interesting if it were explained, used, or developed in ANY way.

REALLY? Really, Andrew Dominik? First, you want to occupy shaky ground with a bad movie and THEN you want to add bullshit "commentary" on top of it? Seriously? *eye roll* That does explain the higher than deserved Rotten Tomatoes rating a la Crash.

Perhaps what pisses me off the most about this film is that hitmen who are impacted by the economy is an interesting idea. That a recession lowers prices for hits is something most of us don't think about on a regular basis. But, if one wants to make a movie about said topic, one might have to actually USE the information about the economy and well, write a plot, characters, etc. to actually compose a film. As it stands Killing Them Softly is on par with the worst of the freshman essays I've ever had the annoyance to grade--no argument, no soul, no effort.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 6

"On the sixth day of Christmas my TV gave to meeee...Hallmark's The Wishing Treeeee."

Everyone's favorite Iron Eagle, Jason Gedrick, stars as Evan, a quirky English teacher at a boarding school whose job is on the line.  Oh and he's a widower.  And he gets stuck taking care of the school's orphan kids, the ones who had nowhere to go for Christmas.  One of those kids is a spoiled rich boy whose parents are too busy getting divorced to spend any time with him.  One kid is a poor girl from the west coast who can't afford to go home.  The third and final kid is a nerdy guy who wants to get extra work done or something.

There's also a very pretty and kind of pushy lady teacher, Clarissa, who has her eye on the widowed (widowered?) Evan.  He's still having dreams of his dead wife so there doesn't seem to be much room for Clarissa.  Especially because poor Evan is trying to get spoiled rich boy under control. He destroyed the town's titular wishing tree along with the hopes and dreams of all those who left a wish on said tree.  West coast poor girl wants to be a singer but has stage fright.  And nerdy guy just wants a date or something.

Will Evan save his job, get the girl, bail out spoiled, rich boy, give west coast poor girl confidence and get nerdy boy a girl?  Gee, I wonder...  You can never tell with these sappy tv movies.  I actually did like this one but there seemed to be something a little off with Gedrick's performance.  Other than that it was sweet and worthy of a watch.

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 5

"On the fifth day of Christmas, my TV gave to meeeee...five, uh, five...this is tough. Nevermind !"

At least two stars from TV's One Tree Hill and Kyle XY bring you Hallmark's Naughty or Nice.  Aren't you excited?!?!?! Yeah?  Me too.  Ok, this one was kind of cute.  The production value was so-so and the acting was about the same.  Star Hilarie Burton has charisma and you find yourself wanting things to work out for her so there's that.

The story is this: Burton's character, Krissy Kringle (no relation, just mean parents), gets fired right before the holidays even though she was working her butt off for her company.  Krissy also happens to live in the only undecorated house on....Candy Cane Lane.  Natch.  Her boyfriend of 6 years, Lance Leigh (I can't make these up!), breaks up with her after she gets all crazy on him but really their relationship is kind of secondary to her journey.  (Apropos of nothing, I'm currently getting distracted by Nathan Gunn singing with the Mormons as I write this.  Check him out on Google Images, you won't be disappointed.)  Um, so yeah, Krissy gets tons of Santa mail and somehow ends up with Santa's book of names.  Hilarity ensues (not really) and she reads all sorts of dirt about her neighbors, coworkers, and so on.  There's a whole part about her getting a job as a mall elf and competing for a neighborhood decorating contest.  Blah, blah, blah.  But she's got a plan to fix everything she broke.

So what did I like about it?  Well the bits with Santa weren't so overly magical and that was refreshing.  Again, Burton managed to make me care even though she was goofier than I'm used to (I like her as Sara on White Collar where she's not at all goofy).  Plus Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter (Mr. and Mrs. Keaton from Family Ties) were in it (not nearly enough) and were kind of cute too.  I guess mostly it didn't irk me like some of these do.  I wouldn't rush out to buy it on DVD or anything but it's going to be on again Wednesday at 12am. So if you're up and not watching an informercial for pajamagrams then check it out.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 4

"On the 4th day of Christmas, my TV gave to meeeeee...a really crappy holiday movie."

I'm kind of bummed that Lifetime's The Merry In-Laws was sucky.  I had high hopes because it stars Haven's Lucas Bryant (squee!) as well as Diane and Norm! (Nor-man) from Cheers.  Sadly the movie was beyond cheesy and not in a good way.  It fell flat and I think the female lead and weak writing were to blame.  In fact, I need to admit that I fast-forwarded through about 75% of it. 

The story is this: The guy, Peter, proposes to the girl, Alex.  She's a single mom and he's her son's teacher.  She's a logical scientists and he's a dreamer.  They're already in love so we missed out on what could have been a cuter story. I think they wanted to feature George Wendt and Shelley Long more but I think it could have been better if we had seen the falling in love part of their story.  Instead we get two hours of Peter trying to find a way to tell Alex that he's the son of Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Yawn.

Wendt was fine but Long was over the top and flat out goofy.  Unfortunately Bryant's Peter was more like his mom.  I'm so used to his character on Haven that seeing a goofball like Peter was unnerving. Alex, played by Kassia Warshawski, was meh.  The kid who played her son was cute but the rest of the cast was pretty meh too.

I just can't help but feel like there was a better movie in here somewhere that the writer just missed.  Granted this was different than the usual falling in love movie but it was missing the magic it seemed to think it had.  Here's hoping the next one is better.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 3

"On the third day of Christmas my TV gave to meeee....three...uh...threeeee...dang.  Oh forget it."
I made the grave mistake of watching a travesty called The March Sisters on Lifetime.  Actually that's not true.  I watched about 10-15 minutes of it and had to turn it off.  Listen, I'm in no mood to be posting today so this was the perfect movie for me to think (very little) about. 

As you might be able to glean from the title, some genius decided to update Louisa May Alcott's characters, the March sisters.  Maybe if it had been better written I would have given it a chance.  Maybe if the acting had been better I would have given it a chance.  Maybe if I'm incredibly bored some night and someone has stolen all my DVDs, I'll give it a second chance.  But for now...listen and listen good:


Update Shakespeare all you want.  It's perfect for current adaptations.  So is Jane Austen, actually, so you have my permission to attack her material as well.  But leave those 'little women' alone.

The Hobbit will wait

I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey yesterday afternoon.  I was so excited to actually see a movie on its opening day.  The plan was for me to rush to the closest computer to post a quickie review.  Then I saw the news.  And The Hobbit was not on my mind anymore. 

To say we can't understand why someone would do such a thing would be the biggest understatement ever. Everything about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday is heartbreaking.  It was beyond sad.  There's nothing else I can say that hasn't already been said by many others.  Just keep the families of everyone at Sandy Hook in your thoughts and prayers.  Also, give someone you love a hug today and tell them what they mean to you. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 2

"On the second day of Christmas my TV gave to me…2 kids in Love at the Christmas Taaaaaable."


In all honesty, Love at the Christmas Table is now my all-time favorite cheesy, holiday made-for-tv movie.  It is the cheesy, holiday, made-for-tv movie against which all others will be measured.  Lifetime aired it and I’m so glad I watched it.  I’m a sucker for uber-romantic movies, especially holiday ones so this one got me right where I live.  Even though I don’t mind the cheesiness, there was hardly any cheese at all in this one.  The guy, Dustin Milligan, is cute and the girl is Winnie freaking Cooper.  Plus throw in a little Lea Thompson and Luke from Gilmore Girls and I’m in.  I’m totally and completely in.

Maybe what I liked most was that Love was different.  Sure, it’s still a predictable romantic movie but there were some subtle differences.  It featured the guy and girl equally and maybe the guy just a bit more.  Plus, unlike other tv movies, they didn’t fall in love in a week.  The guy and girl have been friends their whole lives and are, at one point, brutally honest with each other.

So now is a good time to get into the story.  Our guy, Sam, is home for Christmas for the first time in a few years.  Our girl, Kat, greets him warmly and the flashbacks begin.  We get to see Sam and Kat, at the kids’ table, grow up over the years.  When they’re older they realize there’s some chemistry but the timing is never quite right.  There’s also a side story with Lea Thompson and Luke from Gilmore Girls that wasn’t needed but was sweet nonetheless. 

The writing was pretty good as well and that almost never happens with these types of movies.  Lea Thompson’s character, EB, is a older, single lady who never got to be with her true love.  While trying to encourage Kat to finally tell Sam how she feels, EB reminds Kat about Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.  She was lonely and spiteful and as EB says, “The world has enough Havishams.”  So true.  And it was funny.  Another character got my favorite line, “Toby Weisman and his brothers are throwing a Three Weisman’s Party.” 

I don’t want to get all spoilery about whether Sam and Kat work things out but it is a sappy Christmas movie so I’m sure you can guess.  There’s a fun dance scene too that made me want to call in and vote for Danica McKellar on Dancing with the Stars.  So watch it!  You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Movies - Day 1

"On the first day of Christmas my TV gave to me...Christmas with Holllllyyyy."

Did you see Christmas with Holly on ABC Sunday night?  It was their Hallmark Hall of Fame movie and I knew it had to be good since it was airing on network television and not directly to the Hallmark channel.  So was I right?  Mostly!

Ok, so it was utterly predictable but it was better than most. These tv movies are incredibly formulaic but once in a while they can surprise you.  This one didn't surprise me but it wasn't OVERLY cheesy either so that was good.  I read a few slightly mean reviews and half of them didn't even get the story right.  I'm wondering if the reviewer actually watched it all.

Speaking of the story, we have young Holly mom has just passed away and she's now in the care of her uncle Mark.  Holly's not speaking so Mark decides that it'd be better if he moves her away from her school and home in Seattle and back to his home on a quaint little island nearby.  He's been renting his place so they move in with his two brothers, Scott and Alex.  Uncle Alex is a smart science guy and Uncle Scott has a bad perm and is in construction (see photo).  Honestly, Uncle Scott is super cute so why on earth did they think a perm was a good idea?!?!  Actually, his hair might have been my biggest complaint about the movie.  Anywhoodle, Mark meets a new girl to the island, Maggie, who is there opening a toy shop.  You can pretty much predict what happens with them.

What I did like about it was that the movie was less about the love story between Mark and Maggie and more about the care of Holly.  The relationship between the brothers and between them and Holly was fun and sweet. Everyone in the movie had great chemistry with each other even though the acting was, well, what you'd expect from a TV movie.

As I mentioned, this aired on ABC but will be repeating on Hallmark starting this Sunday I believe.  So keep your eye out for it.  It's fun, and tender and sweet.  Plus I want to know if I'm alone in my opinion about Uncle Scott's hair. 

Check back tomorrow for Day 2!  I hope one of the movies I've watched rhymes with 'doves.'  I'm not worried. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Life of Pi - Delicious

Aesthetically pleasing movies tend to be favorites of mine.  I'll forgive lazy or completely absent stories if a movie is visually stunning.  This time, however, there was no forgiveness necessary.  Life of Pi was beautiful...inside and out.  I should let you know that I've not read the book so I can't make any direct comparisons.  But then this isn't a review of the book so stick that in your pipe and smoke it.  Or not...smoking is bad.

The movie itself was quite lovely.  Director Ang Lee is so great at giving us beautiful movies (except Hulk, but every rule has it's exception) and he's done it once again.  It's a stunning combination of a lovely story, strong performances, and incredible visuals.  And I loved every minute of it.

The story goes like this: a young Indian boy finds himself moving with his family and their zoo animals to America by ship.  There's a terrible storm and our titular character, Pi, ends up on a boat with his new and scary best friend, a tiger named Richard Parker.  Pi spends 227 days on the boat with Richard Parker learning extreme life lessons about survival, the existence of God and the value of even the smallest life (a fish he has to kill in order to feed the tiger). If you haven't read the book I don't want to tell you much more of what happens during his time on the Pacific Ocean.  Just go see the movie, you'll be happy you did.

As I mentioned above, all the performances were very good.  This film marked star Suraj Sharma's first acting job but it didn't show.  Apparently his brother was trying out for the part of young Pi and Suraj went with him for support.  I've heard this before from other folks, so the lesson is to not bring your sibling with you for job interviews because they'll just take it away from you.  Irrfan Khan plays adult Pi (who is telling the story) and he's just wonderful in this and actually in just about everything else he's done.  But my absolute favorite was Rafe Spall (son of Timothy "Wormtail" Spall).  I love this kid and am so excited that he's getting lots of work.  In Life of Pi he's the writer who is hearing the story from adult Pi.  The other story I heard was that originally this role was supposed to be Tobey Maguire (ick!) but they went with Spall (yay!).  It's a small part but integral because he's us.  He's listening to the story and gets sucked in as much as we do.  At the end he, much like the audience, could chose whether or not to believe it as factual but honestly it doesn't matter.  It's a beautiful story and an amazing journey.  Anywhoodle, Spall's "Writer" is subtle, sweet and non-judgmental when most others would just roll their eyes at such a fantastic and hard to believe tale.

And again...the visuals.  It's just a stunning movie. If you have any desire to see it, please do so in a theater.  You deserve to see it on a big screen in all its splendor.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Does it stand the test of time? Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

I'm old enough to remember a time when we ALL liked Mel Gibson.  He was this Aussie family man who was good looking, talented and cool.  People made a point of seeing his movies.  Now?  Not so much.  I'm sorry his life took such a downturn because I still think he's a talented actor. However, he's made some REALLY bad choices in his personal life that people may not ever forgive.

So why this Mad Max and not the others?  Well the first two didn't quite have the impact on me that Thunderdome did and it's because of one thing...the kids.  When you're a kid, you like seeing other kids in movies.  This could be the only explanation for why I have fond memories of Solarbabies.  Anyone?  C'mon!  It's Jami Gertz and Jason Patric the year before The Lost Boys!  Still no?  Whatever.

The other reason for this Mad Max and not the second one, The Road Warrior, which is arguably a better flick?  TINA EFFING TURNER!  Prior to sitting down and watching the movie, all I could remember was her hair and something about the outfit she wore in the film weighing 70lbs. She's an icon but can she act?  Actually?  Yeah.  I think she did a great job in Thunderdome.  She seemed totally comfortable and totally into it.  Tina Turner is fabulous.

And the rest of the movie?  It's pretty good.  The music was good considering it was 1985 and could have been all synthesizers (ahem, Ladyhawke).  The story was fine but you'd really need to be familiar with the first two films to figure out why Australia looks the way it does.  The kids' performances were ok and as good as one would expect. I'm thinking I might revisit the first two as well since they're rolling out another sequel soon. Mmmmm, Tom Hardy as Max.  I see it.

But the best thing about this movie?  This song:


The Walking Dead - recap-o-rama

“Made to Suffer”

The episode opens on the woods and cuts to a walker shambling though said woods.  This gets me wondering about the state of walker life, as it were.  Do they ever stop shambling to take a break?  Do walker feet blister?  Do fat walkers lose weight from all the walking/shambling?  Do I need to stop wondering about things that don’t exist (yet)?  Anywhoodle, we meet a new guy who is following some screams in the woods.  He, TYRESE!, finds the rest of his group and leads them to an abandoned building (with a tower) that he saw.  Oh boy.  A woman in their group gets bitten and when they reach the aforementioned building, there’s some discussion as to what to do with her because she’ll eventually turn.  This has me wondering if they know the deal.  They keep her around for her 16-year old son’s benefit because he’s not ready to let her go yet.  Dude, grow up.  Chances are that you won’t have to finish her off like some other sons we know.  Sure, it’s your mom and it’s sad and all but get a grip.  They wander over a fence to the building and we get a wide shot of a…prison.  Yep that would appear to be the backside of our prison.

Actually I think I’m going to get all the prison stuff out of the way now.  Beth has the baby and Axel is complimenting her on skills in a very creepy way.  Carol sees this and stomps it out really quick.  Axel’s defense is that A) they haven’t seen women in a while; B) Maggie is taken and C) Carol is a lesbian (because of her hair).  Heh.  She straightens him out, so to speak, and he decides to warm up to her instead.  So not going to happen, Axel.

Carl isn’t convinced that Rick and the group will be returning, which is logical and shows he’s lost any sort of hope or optimism.  Poor kid.  They hear screams and Hershel half-heartedly tries to stop Carl from investigating.  The door to the boiler room is open and Carl sees the group from the woods. He helps them with a few of the walkers giving them trouble and leads them back to C-block.

The woman they’ve been carrying around finally dies and Carl offers to “take care of it.”  But Tyrese lets Carl know they take care of their own.  While Tyrese is about to shoot her, Carl has slunk off and locked them in that outer waiting room just outside the cells.  This pisses off Tasha but Tyrese understands wanting to protect your own.  He also knows that being in this prison is the safest they’ve been. 

Meanwhile in Woodbury…

Andrea is doing her hair real pretty for her creepy boyfriend and is distracted by the photo of him with his wife and daughter, Penny (pre-zombie apocalypse).  He enters the room, doesn’t notice her hair but does say that he thinks she’s really taken to life in Woodbury.  Andrea leaves to help Milty the science guy bury Mr. Coleman from last week’s episode.  The Governor stays to have some father daughter time with Penny the mini-walker.  He sings to her along with a CD and it does seem to get her attention for a second but then that’s not what really has her attention.  I watched the scene twice but still didn't quite catch what it was they were looking at.
Glaggie are catching up and Glenn wants to make sure the Governor didn’t actually touch Maggie.  She assures him that the Governor didn’t and then says something that totally sums up the entire season so far, “All this time running from walkers you forget what people do.  Have always done.”  Too true.  (Apropos of nothing…I totally (yet unintentionally) got Maggie’s haircut this weekend.)  Glenn decides to tear off the arm of the dead walker in the room with them.  It sounds really gross as it’s happening so props to the sound guys on this show.  Effective crunching that made me totally queasy.  It seems as though Glenn thinks they should use said walkers broken bones as weapons.  Clever.

Rick and crew are assessing the situation outside the wall when Michonne pops up with a way in.  Inside the wall, the Governor and Merle are discussing what to do with the group at the prison (Rick’s group, not Tyrese’s group).  The Governor wants to take them out but assures Merle that he’ll be able to convince Daryl to be their inside man.  Oh and the Governor wants Glaggie taken to the “screamer pits.”  Screamer pits?!?!?!  This is to ensure that Andrea doesn’t find out they’re there.

Merle and a unnamed Woodbury thug go to get Glaggie but the latter gets the jump on them.  Maggie kills unnamed thug but Glenn struggles with Merle and his bayonet hand.  A gun goes off and it gets the attention of everybody in Woodbury, including Rick and the gang.  Maggie pulls a gun on Merle but is then surrounded by more Woodbury thugs.  Oh well.  It’s a good thing that Rick and crew were able to zero in on Glaggie’s location from the gunfire.  They use smoke bombs as a distraction and actually get Glaggie back.  Yay!  Daryl didn’t see Merle through the smoke.  Boo. 

The Governor has to do some damage control with the townspeople who all assume they’re under attack.  They are correct in that assumption and go to hide in their homes.  The Governor tells his thugs to shoot to kill.  Michonne breaks from the group while they hide in a house and Glenn takes this time to tell Daryl that Merle has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting with their capture and torture.  Daryl wants to find Merle but Rick talks him out of it.  The Governor wants Andrea to go house to house to check on the townies but she’d much rather take part in the shootout.  She starts to check on people but then, magically, has a gun and starts shooting.  Luckily she doesn’t actually shoot anyone and luckily for the Governor the only one from Rick’s group that she sees is the black prisoner she wouldn’t have recognized anyway. 

Michonne is at the Governor’s apartment, lying in wait for him.  Rick and crew start shooting their way out and have no interest in Michonne who has basically abandoned them for her own agenda.  Luckily Rick’s group are better shots but it’s not enough for them to get away cleanly.  Daryl offers to lag back and give them cover fire.  Then Rick thinks he sees Shane but it’s just some other guy who successfully shoots Oscar.  Bummer. (If I were a conspiracy theorist I'd wonder if they have a rule about one black guy on the show at a time but I'm not so I don't.)

Michonne hears thumping behind a door and it’s very possible I yelled, “Don’t go in there, girl” but I don’t remember for sure because I’m all sorts of tense.  She finds the tanks full of walker heads and then she hears the thumping again.  Of course she decides to investigate the thumping.  She lets Penny out, unchains her and removes the bag on her head.  She’s shocked to see the state of Penny and is about to kill her when the Governor stops her.  He begs Michonne to not hurt his little girl but she does anyway.  This does not please the Governor and a fight ensues.  It’s brutal.  He even shoves Michonne’s head into one of the tanks.  She brings down a couple more of the tanks and one head is still trying to bite her.  Wow.  They’re still fighting and Michonne goes for her trusty katana but can’t reach it.  She can, however, reach a shard of glass on one of the fish tanks.  So she stabs the Governor in the eye with the glass.  THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE!!!  Andrea stumbles upon the scene and keeps her gun pulled on Michonne who has her katana out and ready.  Michonne knows Andrea’s not going to shoot her so she just walks out leaving Andrea to clean things up.  Andrea gets a load of the tanks and the Governor, still with the glass in his eye (EWWWWW!!! I. CAN’T. WATCH. THIS.), clutching his (twice) dead daughter. 

We get a close up of the Governor’s eye while the doctor lady inspects it.  Again, ewww!  Andrea questions the Governor about why Michonne returned with such a vendetta against him.  Then she asks about the tanks.  And Penny.  Milty and Merle enter and the Governor seems to remember the story Merle told about killing Michonne.  I’m thinking Merle isn’t long for Woodbury or this world.

Michonne meets up with Rick and the gang and he pulls a gun on her.  And he takes away her katana.  Do you think she’s named her katana?  Do you think she ever told Andrea what she named her katana?  Rick wants her gone but she knows they still need her to either escape or go back in to find Daryl.

At ‘biter coliseum,’ the townies are gathered and the Governor spins the story of their situation as if they were victims.  He does admit that he failed them and doesn’t lie to them about their safety.  So there’s that.  He calls out Merle, though, and says it was he who led the terrorists (Rick, et al.) to Woodbury and let them in.  He’s not totally wrong if you look at it a certain way.  They then bring Daryl into the coliseum and the Governor asks what to do with the brothers.  There is much chanting of "Kill Them!" and "Death to the traitors!"  I’ve never seen Daryl look nervous before now.

Daryl and his poncho will see you next year!