Friday, May 31, 2013

Am I the only one watching Orphan Black?

I seriously hope not because I want to see a second season of it.  Orphan Black airs on BBC America here in the colonies and I am really digging this show.  But if you don't know anything about it, I don't want to spoil it for you.  Just give it a shot and see what you think.  Luckily for you, BBCA is doing a marathon on Saturday, leading up to the season finale.  So set those DVRs now.

The story is interesting (here's the IMDB description: "A streetwise hustler witnesses the suicide of a girl who looks just like her and falls headlong into a deadly mystery.") and moves along at a great pace.  My favorite part is the cast, led by Tatiana Maslany.  She's phenomenal.  I'm shocked I've not noticed her before because the girl can act. In the course of the series, she has to sort of take on other personalities and sometimes those personalities take on other personalites.  Ugh, I can't get into it without spoiling the show for you but just trust me.  Maslany is phenomenal at mastering the slightest difference in character.  Now that I'm writing this, I'm thinking of another show that asked something similar of it's female lead...Dollhouse.  Listen, I love me some Faith and I think Eliza Dushku is wonderful.  However, Maslany is much better at subtlety. 

Anywhoodle, I got sucked in by the end of the second episode and have enjoyed almost every minute of it.  There's mystery, science, science fiction and one dude even has a tail!  And MAX FREAKING HEADROOM is in it!  What more do you need?

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Office - series finale

And that's how you do a finale. 

I had my issues with The Office and gave up watching 2 seasons ago but there was no way I was going to miss the finale.  I'm so glad I didn't.  I think what I liked most about it was that even though some situations had changed, the characters still stayed true to themselves. The finale was sweet, funny and awkward just as the show had always been.  Plus the final episode had just the right amount of nostalgia, while also giving us an idea of where these beloved characters were headed.  I laughed, I cried, I wanted to go back and see what I had missed in the past 2 years.

Well done, folks.  And thank you!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Hello.  My name is Alisa and I'm a Baz-aholic.  I've spent countless hours watching his films and reveling in the opulence, splendor, romance and heartbreak.  I got on the wagon with Australia (I only vaguely remember a half-naked Hugh Jackman and have blocked the rest) but found myself back off with The Great Gatsby.

So in all bloggy truly have to be a fan of Mr. Luhrman's to enjoy Gatsby.  And it would help to also be a fan of Moulin Rouge since, as Buzzfeed pointed out, they're basically the same movie*.  If you're looking for a faithful adaptation of Gatsby then I'm pretty sure you need to look elsewhere.  Here's another admission of mine...I've not read F. Scott Fitzgerald's story in (GULP) 23 years!  Yikes.  That makes me feel old.  Anywhoodle, I will not be comparing the film to the novel.

So as a fan of pure aesthetic and as someone who can be distracted from a lackluster story ("Ooo, shiny!"), I will say that my biggest complaint was a lack of love between the titular Gatsby and the love of his life, Daisy.  I just don't think enough screen time was spent with them TOGETHER.  We got a lot of pining from Gatsby and really only a little bit from Daisy.  Gatsby seems to be in love with the idea of a Daisy he knew years ago.  Daisy is in love with idea of his wealth and the attention she'd be sure to get from him.  Beyond that...meh. 

The acting was pretty solid except that I still just don't get Tobey Maguire.  He was fine, I guess, but I was not impressed.  Leonardo DiCaprio continues to be great, even as Gatsby, and  Carey Mulligan was a good Daisy.  As expected, a number of Australia's finest turned out and gave good performances.  They would include: Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher, and Adelaide Clemmons (aka Michelle Williams, Jr.). However, I was probably most impressed with newcomer, Elizabeth Debicki, who played Jordan Baker.  I'm expecting that we'll see more of her in the future.

The story and plot were so-so and actually served as more of a distraction from the visuals (costumes, sets, etc.).  Oh the visuals.  So pretty.  Just so sparkly, fast and fun: 

I wanted the music to work because I think it did in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge but most of the songs just felt detached from what was going on in the film.  Maybe I just don't like Jay Z in period movies.

Overall I did enjoy the movie and think it's worth seeing on the big screen...BUT ONLY IF YOU REALLY LIKE BAZ LUHRMAN FILMS.  

*Also supplied by Buzzfeed are reasons why Baz sucks and why he rules

Monday, May 6, 2013

Iron Man 3 (even in 3D) was a darn good time

Did you go see it this weekend?  Everybody else did.  Now don't you feel left out?  No?  Good, you shouldn't.  You'll have plenty of time to catch Iron Man 3 in theaters considering how well it's doing both domestically and abroad.  I will say, avoid spoilers at all costs.  There a pretty cool little twist that happens that, had I known about it, would have ruined the movie for me.  I still had some nitpicky issues overall but they'd spoil other parts of the movie for you so I won't discuss them here.  Other than those, this was so much better than Iron Man 2 and maybe even more enjoyable than Iron Man Original Sauce.  Maybe.

Iron Man 3 landed in the very capable hands of director Shane Black, leaving the franchise's former director Jon Favreau only on set to reprise his role as Happy the driver/security guard.  Black and Robert Downey Jr. work so well together (please see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang if you haven't already) and it showed in this film as well.  The supporting cast, made up of superb actors such as Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce and the (specifically fantastic in this) Ben Kingsley, were all pretty great but then that's expected.  Oh and Gwyneth Paltrow was there too. 

I guess I don't have much to say about it.  And as I said before, my complaints would spoil the movie so I won't go there.  Honestly, pretty much everything worked.  The action was great, the jokes all landed, the acting was solid, the story moved along and I was pretty darn pleased with it.  And really, stay through the credits.   There were only about 8 of us who stayed 'til the bitter end and it was worth it.

I did want to share one thing about my experience and that was the 3D aspect.  This looked relatively good and I wasn't sorry that I saw it in 3D, especially because I got to use a gift card.  I arrived at the theater nice and early (11:40 for a 12:15 2D showing) but that one was sold out.  Instead we had to decide between waiting around for the next 2D show at 1pm or go into the noon 3D show, WHICH WAS BASICALLY EMPTY.  I'm pretty sure the only reason our showing had a half-full audience was because we were all hoping to get into the 2D show and could not.  This just confirms my suspicions that most people still really prefer 2D.


Am I the only one watching The Bletchley Circle?

I suspect I might be. And that's a shame. This series was originally produced for ITV, which is, to the
best of my Wikipedia, the British version of PBS. It's been airing on PBS (motto: "The British version of everything is better") in three parts, the third of which aired last night.*

The premise is thus: Four women who worked as codebreakers at Bletchley Park (like Downton Abbey but much, much smaller and wartorn) during WWII team up nine years later to solve a series of brutal murders in London, using the very mathematical and logical skills that they employed during the war. These women have been largely reabsorbed into civilian (i.e., domestic; i.e., patriarchal) life since the '40s, and additionally, they are unable to tell anyone, including their husbands, about their wartime service. Susan, the ringleader and pattern-finder, has a husband who thinks she's merely "the devil at the cryptogram." The other members of the "Circle" consist of Lucy, an ingenue with a photographic memory, who has married an abusive troglodyte; Jean, the former supervisor whose work as a librarian speaks to her uncanny ability to get information; and Millie, a progressive proto-feminist whose economic circumstances caused her to curtail her world travels and work as a waitress. The series manages to riff on post-war "getting the gang back together" movies, detective fiction, and procedural dramas, all with a feminist twist.

The serial killer is chilling, but what I find most compelling about this series is the way it argues for the pervasiveness of all sorts of emotional and physical threats against women in the post-war world. In addition to the domestic battery that Lucy endures, Millie is sexually harassed and Susan's aspirations to think are kindly, but firmly, dismissed by her husband. The Bletchley Circle argues that disregarding women in small ways creates a climate where it is more likely, if never excusable, that a sick man views women not as humans at all, but rather as playthings he can torture and violate while calmly smoking a cigarette.

In addition to the smart gender stuff, the clothes are fabulous. If you've missed this little bit of British methadone to the heroin of Downton Abbey, it's available on DVD!

* And I have NOT watched yet, so if I'm wrong and everyone on the planet has been watching this series, please spoil not.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Trailer Park Thursday!

Here are 10 movies I will be seeing. Guaranteed.  You should probably see them too. 
But first, watch the trailers.

Violet & Daisy - I'm happy to see Alexis Bledel branching out a bit.

Red 2 - I really, really hope it's as fun as the first one.

Prince Avalanche - This is so totally my kind of movie.

The Bling Ring - Wow. I just don't get these kids today.  
And I wasn't too sure about the movie but this trailer is winning me over (however the title is not).

The Grandmaster - Not much going on here except for some superb martial arts

Only God Forgives - Refn and Gosling together again?  Yes, please!

R.I.P.D. - Ok, so it's a little Men In Black but it still looks fun.  Alright, a LOT MiB.

Man of Steel - Can't wait! Can't wait! Can't wait!

Romeo and Juliet - I will preface this by saying, just rent the Zeffirelli.  
HOWEVER, I'm curious to see what writer Julian Fellowes can do with Shakespeare.

The Way, Way Back - This is the film everyone talked about after Sundance.  I can see why.

(There was) Pain & (there was no) Gain

I've been putting this review off because the movie has left such a sour taste in my mouth.  Listen, I'm the first person to try and find something good about any movie, even Michael Bay movies.  I'm not one to argue his value in Hollywood.  However I know what to expect when I see one of his movies.  Usually.  And dammit if I didn't really dislike Pain & Gain.  Truly I was hoping it would be a fun, mindless summer action flick.  It really wasn't.  I like the three main actors (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Anthony Mackie) a lot. I've seen these guys be really great.  Ok, I've seen two of the guys be really great, the other just has tons of charm and is good at his wheelhouse-type stuff.  They were not great in this. 

So what was good?  Um, well, it was fun seeing them try to recreate Miami in the 90s.  Though I will say I spotted some vodka on the wall behind the bar in a scene and that brand just came out this year.  When it comes to vodka, I have an eagle eye.  No, I'm not proud of this.  Rebel Wilson was her typical fun self.  Oh and I kind of liked Ed Harris and Tony Shalhoub but then those guys are usually good no matter who the director is.  Again, the Miami part of it was bright and sunny and whatever.  There were a few funny jokes in this warehouse (if you've seen the movie then you know the location) where they spend a good chunk of the film. 

Other than a few of the actors and bright, sunny Miami, there wasn't much to like about Pain & Gain and I'm honestly disappointed by that.  The story is or could have been funny, especially if it is as true as they wanted us to believe it is.  Bay tried to over-stylize it with excessive slo-mo, almost constant moving camera, and pauses with notes on the screen to tell you what's going on.  Anywhoodle, don't bother seeing the movie.  Just enjoy these GIFs that Buzzfeed put out there for you.