Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm Back . . .

. . . but I'm not making any promises! I'm going to try to write something here at least weekly, but being basically lazy and undisciplined, I make no guarantees! Someone asked me about my blog the other day, and having a very easily manipulated ego like many writers, I was inspired to come back! Someone cared enough to ask! Now if they'll just care enough to read.

While I haven't been blogging, I have been seeing some movies. And it's Oscar week! Wheee! (I know . . . I need to get a life. I really do have one, though--a life that is, not an Oscar.) For me, Oscar night is right up there with Halloween, Christmas and the anniversary of my divorce . . . um, I mean divorces! All of them! Just kidding--there's only been two. And I don't even really remember on which days the divorces were finalized.

So, my Oscar predictions: I think it will be an easy year to call, easier than usual anyway, at least as to the big ones (famous last words no doubt). I'm going with Kate Winslet and Mickey Rourke in the acting categories. Actually, as with most things on which I'm an expert, I really have no idea what I'm talking about. I haven't even seen The Wrestler. But I have seen The Reader and if Kate Winslet doesn't win the Oscar, then the Pope's not a Nazi. Oops. My bad.

In all seriousness, Kate Winslet is amazing in The Reader. She's amazing in Revolutionary Road too, for that matter, but I'm glad the nomination is for The Reader because her performance is much more gut-level powerful in The Reader. Her performance in Revolutionary Road is like a well-conceived understatement--she holds back more than she gives which is in itself an impressive feat because it gives the role much more depth and emotional clout. And both movies pack a hell of an emotional clout. Load your pockets with tissue before you go into either one. Or if you forget the tissue, get a bunch of napkins from the concession stand when you buy your popcorn. Be sure to load the popcorn up with gallons of that transfat horror show they call "butter" so that you can justify taking so many napkins. Besides, what's movie popcorn without "butter"!

And Mickey Rourke deserves to win because when he won the Golden Globe, he thanked his doggies, and you have to love a man who loves his doggies that much, and I just heard tonight that his 18-year-old chihuahua died earlier this week. That so sucks.

As for the Big One, I think The Reader is a much better movie than Slumdog Millionaire but I think Slumdog will take home the prize. It's a warm fuzzy while The Reader is more like a freezing bed of nails by comparison. I think it's a year when people desperately want and need a warm fuzzy. Plus Slumdog had a lot of momentum coming into award season. And it is a wonderful movie, very clever, and in fact I expect it to win the adapted screenplay prize as well.

I must rest now. It has taken a lot out of me to blog again. But I'm willing to sacrifice myself for my loyal readers. All one or two of you. Next time, I'll discuss the intricacies of quantum mechanics and the implications thereof on the American interstate highway system. Or maybe I'll just talk some more about movies and the Oscars.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Batman and Joker, Mulder and Scully, Meryl and Pierce, Hellboy and that Fire Chick

Been away awhile again! Lots of excitement! I got fired from the job I bitched about all the time. What a relief. Well, at least for me. My creditors aren't so thrilled, but they'll get over it eventually. Like when I give them some money, which will probably happen one of these days.

In the meantime, though, I can catch up on my movie blogging! And, by the way, anyone out there looking for a full-time movie critic (someone whom you would actually pay)?

Anyway, on with the show. Hellboy II was great fun. Ron Perlman is perfect in the role of Hellboy (all that Beast training I guess). Guillermo del Toro obviously has a knack for making movies with a lot of non-human characters! The action is fast-paced, the dialogue is quick and smart, the humor is sharp and clever. Not an award-winner but definitely a good time worth the price of admission--even if you go at night instead of to a matinee!

What can I say about The Dark Knight that hasn't already been said? It was a three-hour thrillride and if it hadn't been for the fact that I REALLY had to go to the bathroom (damn sodas again), I would never even have looked at my watch. It was one of those movies that you just don't want to end. As I'm sure you already heard, and probably seen for yourself, Heath Ledger's Joker is amazing. As I mentioned in a comment on a previous post, Ledger's performance is breathtaking. Ledger didn't play the Joker; he was the Joker. But it wasn't just his performance that makes this movie so amazing that it's breaking all the records--everything about the movie is good. It's like a perfect storm of writing, acting, directing, filming, editing, timing, etc. While Ledger is in a class by himself, the other performers were nothing to sneeze at (what a weird cliche--anyone know the origin of that one?). Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhall, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman--Wow. Most of these actors are on my "favorites" list. (Especially Gary Oldman--this guy is brilliant in his own right, although it's not that obvious in this movie. I've been a big fan for a long time, and I believe he was destined to be one of the truly great leading men, but I think a substance abuse problem got in the way somewhere along the road, and he doesn't seem to have ever regained his earlier momentum. He's still a brilliant character actor, though, and if Robert Downey, Jr. can make a leading man comeback (and WHAT a comeback), Gary can too! I'm pulling for you, man! Oh, and I'm single and looking. Oops, I digress, again.) Most of you have seen the movie, but for those of you who haven't, I won't say anything about plot details. I will just say GO SEE IT. I'm planning to go again. And maybe again after that.

And then there was Mamma Mia. Not being an ABBA fan, I wasn't all that open-minded about this show. I didn't even go see the road show when it came through Memphis, and I'll usually make an effort to see the big ones, or I'll at least bitch interminably because I can't afford to go. But when the movie was cast with Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth, I was committed (not that I have anything against Stellan Skaarsgard; I just haven't seen enough of him to get excited about his name on a movie poster). It was actually a lot of fun. I think the actors were obviously cast for their name recognition rather than their singing and dancing talents (and it worked--it got me there), but the movie was delightful for me nonetheless. I left the theater with a smile on my face. I actually sang ABBA songs (shudder) in my head for a few days afterward. Fortunately for my friends, family and all innocent bystanders, I didn't sing them out loud, just in my head. If you haven't been yet and you're planning to go, be sure to stick around during the credits to see the men dancing in rhinestones and platform shoes--it's like a very entertaining floorshow in a very silly gay club.

Before I say anything further about The X-Files: I Want to Believe, let me point out that I'm a diehard fan from the early days right through Robert Patrick. Just seeing Mulder and Scully in the same bed and making out and stuff would have been enough for me. But the story is actually suspenseful, and it kept my interest and the interest of the people I went with, at least one of whom was decidedly NOT a diehard fan. I think she barely knew who Mulder and Scully were (inconceivable, and I DO know what the word means). But she liked the movie, too. The other person I went with was a diehard fan like myself, and she was disappointed that the movie did not include much, if any, of the "mythology" (fans know what I'm talking about). I had read enough about the movie to know that the mythology wasn't going to be there, so I was prepared. I think the stand alone storyline was a good thing. It's been a long time since the series left us. Even my diehard friend had forgotten about Mulder's and Scully's child. So a less diehard audience would have been lost with anything but a stand alone. I was entertained, and I got enough of Mulder, Scully (and even Skinner) to feel as if I'd had a sufficient fix. The movie is not for the squeamish, though. It contains some body-hacking and dismembered limbs and unattached heads and such.

So, there's my update. If anyone has any paying work for me out there, by all means, leave me a comment! Especially if you're looking for "snarky movie reviews" as one blogger friend of mine describes my blog. Oh, yeah, and Terminator: Salvation!!! Omigod! Next summer. I'm such a dork.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hey, Scaredy Cats--Give The Happening a Break!

I finally saw The Happening over the weekend and it left me wondering: What is all the bitching about? Could it be, gods forbid, that Phil Gramm is right? (Okay, I just slapped myself for that one.)

Seriously, I thought it was a good movie. It’s not a GREAT movie, but it’s good. It’s suitably intense and horrifying. SPOILER ALERT! I’m about to give away the whole movie, so do not read any further unless you REALLY want to know! If you still want to see the movie, I can recommend it with a clear artistic conscience. Just don’t read any further.

I’ve heard people all over the place saying with mock horror things like: “Ooooo . . . it’s the scary plants!” or “Oh my god, the grass is attacking! Run for your life!” Come on, people. No one had a problem with the man-eating vines in The Ruins. There is certainly cinematic historical precedent for plants that kill: When I was a kid, Attack of the Mushroom People (1963) scared the fungus out of me and my little bro! 1963 was clearly a landmark year for killer plants—it also gave us Day of the Triffids, which I still hear people talk about. And how many versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are there? Off the top of my head, I can count four! And when that tree crashed through the window and grabbed up Carol Anne's brother in Poltergeist, don't tell me you didn't scream like a little girl. So, WHY do so many people have a problem with these killer plants? Personally, I think these folks are in denial.

Mushroom people and pods from outer space just aren’t that believable, now, are they? But an ecological event of the type shown in the movie? That’s believable. It or something very similar really could happen. Life forms on this planet do adapt; they evolve in response to their survival instinct, survival being a key word there. Considering how abusive we have been and still are to the planet and its other inhabitants, we probably should be scared. To slightly alter some consumer manipulation from the distant past: “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!”

Believable stuff is just plain scarier than the unbelievable. Hence the need for mockery. It’s hiding the real fear.

Armchair critics everywhere (except me) are also complaining about Mark Wahlberg’s performance. I thought his performance was more than acceptable. I think the problem is that we’re all used to seeing our Markie Mark as a tough guy, a cool guy, but in this film he’s, dare I say it, a science nerd. The public has apparently typecast Wahlberg and won’t be happy unless he’s shooting someone or blowing up something or doing something with his shirt off. Come on, let the guy stretch a little! He’s probably capable of so much more.

I do have to admit, though, that Zooey Deschanel’s performance was a little on the weird side. I mean more weird than usual.

Anyway, M. Night Shyamalan, I still love you, dude! Don’t mind all the whiners out there. They’re really just scaredy-cats.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Incredible Hulk Is Too Good to Deserve My Immediate Digression

Superhero movies seem to be attracting a higher caliber of actors these days, and my life is all the better for it! First we had Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, and then we had Edward Norton as The Incredible Hulk. And of course, we can’t forget the upcoming Dark Knight which stars Christian Bale as Batman and the late, great Heath Ledger as the Joker in what I’m hearing is an Oscar-worthy performance. Oscars for comic book villains? Cool.

Don’t get me wrong, Christopher Reeve as Superman stole my young collegiate heart at the time and made me want to be Lois Lane. When several people told me I looked like Lois Lane from the Superman movies, I was thrilled. At least until years later when poor Margot Kidder was found wandering, toothless and crazy and dirty, in the shrubbery of Southern California. That was kind of a buzz kill. But I still watch that series of films with a bittersweet thumping of the heart (the second movie was the best—we got a little Superman/Lois Lane action). The other actors who did turns as Batman—Micheal Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer—are all definitely on my personal A list. And those Batman movies started raising the bar on the level of superhero actors, so that we now have the likes of Downey and Norton, two of the best at their craft. I love America.

Well, this was supposed to be a review of The Incredible Hulk, so I guess I’m just a little unfocused today. Kind of like every other day. Anyway, let’s get to it. Just as Iron Man is an exceptional movie for its genre, The Incredible Hulk is likewise a cut above. I have nothing against Eric Bana and I enjoyed the last Hulk film, but this one is just so much better. With Norton and William Hurt and Liv Tyler and Tim Roth, it has an impressive line-up of talent, but it’s also well-written with a plot that is much easier for the audience to connect to. I felt much closer personally to the characters in this Hulk than in the last one. (In fact, on some days at work, I actually feel like I’m becoming the Hulk!) The movie is well-paced and has a nice mix of explosive action and characters connecting. I really enjoyed it. Go see it.

I just hope Ed Norton’s rumored tiff with the fledgling Marvel studio over the final cut of the movie doesn’t keep him from reprising his role in a sequel. I guess that's one of the dangers of having a higher caliber of actors. What’s the male equivalent of “Diva”?

Monday, July 7, 2008

John Hancock and Independence Day

No, not him. I'm talking about the other John Hancock, the one played by Will Smith (who is also of Independence Day fame for that matter).

Hancock ended up being the number one movie for the July 4th weekend which isn't surprising because who doesn't love Will Smith? He's Mr. Everyman. So I hate to say it, but I was disappointed. Apparently I'm in the minority, though, along with most of the REAL critics (the ones who get paid). Five of us went to the movie on the 4th, and four of us walked out loving it. I was the odd man (woman) out.

SPOILER ALERT--I may talk about the big "twist" in the movie and give other things away in the rest of this post.

I loved the way the movie started out. What a great concept--a miserable, alcoholic, rage-filled, amnesiac superhero who doesn't appear to like anyone! And the feeling is mutual--he's almost universally despised. Then along comes professional PR guy Ray Embrey (great performance by Jason Bateman) and gets stuck on a railroad track with a train speeding his way. Hancock rescues Ray, but rather than just lifting Ray and his car off the tracks, Hancock manages to smash up the train's engine and cause a massive derailment. The bystanders react with loud and earnest contempt. In fact, Hancock is so destructive in his heroic endeavors that a warrant is eventually issued for his arrest. In the meantime, Ray has convinced John Hancock to let Ray give him a PR makeover.

So far, so good. The movie flows well, it makes sense, and Smith and Bateman give endearing performances. Ray's wife, played by Charlize Theron, is a bit off-putting toward Hancock, but that's not surprising given his reputation. But then everything changes. The big "surprise" of the movie comes and, yes, it is startling. But the movie loses all cohesion at this point and starts to make less sense out of what was already working well. It kind of makes you want to ask the producers, writers, director, etc.: if it wasn't broke, why did you (try to) fix it?

The entire tone of the movie changes, and it seems to be a totally different story after the big twist. What appear to be attempts to explain who, what, and why Hancock is actually only confuse. Potential explanations are baffling and at times contradictory. We're never told who he is; we only get a vague answer that starts with talk of gods and angels but quickly degenerates into "who knows?" His purpose is even more indiscernable. Is he here to search out his opposite, who happens to be his soulmate/partner, whose presence will turn him human, so that then "they" will go after him to kill him? We're never told who "they" are either, and if his purpose is to become human, then why didn't his creator just make him human in the first place? Or is he here for the usual superhero objectives of saving mankind and teaching people to be better people? Both purposes are suggested at different times in the movie. I still have no clue what the answers to any of the questions are, and I'm usually damn good at figuring out the surprise twists in movies before they happen--movies like The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Village, etc. If I remember correctly, I think I even figured out the truth about Luke's dad before it was revealed. The Usual Suspects got me, though. I love it when one gets me. But I digress (how unusual, huh).

The post-surprise portion of the movie left me dissatisfied and disappointed. I wanted more of the first half of the movie. But in someone's defense, the other four people who went to the movie with me LOVED the twist and LOVED the movie, and apparently most of the viewing public who saw the movie over the weekend LOVED it. I'm clearly in the minority.

Oh, well, I didn't like The English Patient, either, and I think Gone with the Wind is absolutely dreadful. Come on with it; I can take it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuesday Tiny TV Tidbits

How many Rescue Me fans are out there? I love this show. I love Denis Leary. He and his creative baby Rescue Me are both so politically incorrect that I titter at the thought. Irreverance is my middle name (but I spell it M-a-r-i-e), which makes this show and me kindred spirits. Since last year's painful Hollywood writers' strike pushed the new season of the show all the way out to spring of 2009, Sony Pictures or FX or Dreamworks or someone is throwing fans a bone in the meantime. Starting two Tuesdays ago, FX is airing 10 original, stand-alone "minisodes" (not my word, by the way--I do have some literary dignity left) every Tuesday night at 10 Eastern/9 Central. The first two 5-minute episodes have been great fun and have provided a small fix for fans in withdrawal, but I feel like I'm being toyed with by the dope man. I need more and he's not giving it up. C'mon, C'mon.