Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Many Mini Movie Reviews

I've been slack in reviewing some movies I've seen this past year. When a movie gets reviewed on my blog, its because I found it profound enough on some level to write about it. For most other films, though, it depends on whether there's a "slow news week" and during eventful weeks, they often get lost in the shuffle. Originally, this blog was going to be a movie review blog. In fact, my first blog post was a movie review (Blood Diamond). I'm glad that I decided to allow it to be whatever I feel like writing about. A movie review blog would be boring.

While each of these six films deserves their own post, I really don't want to devote that much time to reviewing them. Instead, I'll give my brief impressions of each film. That's good enough for me, if its good enough for you.

Alrighty, then...first up is The Time-Traveler's Wife. I had wanted to read the novel before watching this movie, but just never got around to it. I'm a sucker for time-travel movies (somewhere up there with biopics and foreign films). Of course I had to see this one! Plus, it has Aussie actor Eric Bana, who is quite good in all the roles he plays (see Romulus, My Father if you doubt this!). This film is an unusual love story (think Somewhere in Time meets The Philadelphia Experiment). Bana plays a man who has a strange affliction: he has the ability to time travel. Before you get all envious, there are two downsides to this afflication: (1) he has no control over WHEN his body decides to disappear and reappear; and (2) whenever he reappears somewhere in time, he is always naked, so the first item on his "to do" list is snagging some clothing. Sometimes, this proves harder than he realizes.

What I love about this movie, though is how challenging it is to keep the storylines straight. For example, the lady meets this time-traveler for the first time when she is just a girl and he is a grown man. However, he meets her for the first time when they are closer to the same age. How is that possible? The movie makes sense of it all. In fact, the brilliance of this film is that even though being married to an unintentional time-traveler can be annoying for the lady, she gets surprise visits by him at any age. One beneficial blessing to his affliction is his ability to visit his mother while he's a grown man (she died when he was a child). The take home message? Love lasts forever and when people are gone, they aren't truly gone.

When I had problems with the needy co-worker who I suspected had a crush on me, I thought of asking her to see this movie with me when it played in theaters. It would have been a subtle hint, but I thought that she probably wouldn't catch my ulterior motive. She was so man-crazy that any guy who gave her any kind of attention would blind her from understanding that "he's" (or "I am") "just not that into you!"

I LOVED this movie (I watched it on DVD earlier this year). It is freaking hilarious! And so true, when it comes to how guys play off a lady's affections. The problem with our gender is that no man wants to be responsible for making a lady cry or hurting her feelings. Its far easier to play the role of a jerk or asshole until she hates you and moves on. I'm guilty as charged! Done it. Plenty of times. Why not? Its better than blunt honesty, right? What do you expect me to do, tell the truth: "Um, I'm just not into excess blubber!" Yeah, that's a ticket straight to hell.

I'm a big fan of ensemble casts, where there are multiple storylines, and many well known actors and actresses playing diverse characters. Its fun to see which character is connected to one another and what those relationships are. My favourite character in this movie is the sweet lady played by Ginnifer Goodwin (who also stars as the third sister-wife on HBO's excellent series Big Love). She is so adorable! I have a hard time believing that she only gets guys who aren't so into her. If such a lady fell for me, I'd be into her. She's sweet and I truly rooted for her to find love by film's end. This film probably cemented the reputation of Bradley Cooper as a major asshole. He has a wife as gorgeous as Jennifer Connolly and he still wants to cheat with someone like Scarlet Johansen? Yikes! Not that there's anything wrong with's just that Jennifer is nothing short of AMAZING!

Take home message for women who watch this film? If a guy is into you, he'll call. Obviously. But don't wait by the phone. Enjoy life, get out, do things. There is a guy out there who will dig you...if you're not obsessed with height or bank account.

Another cool ensemble film is Valentine's Day, which features a large cast of well known actors on a single day in L.A. This movie was surprisingly good. Love is covered from all aspects...from a grade school boy's first crush to an elderly couple's long, enduring love, and everything in between. There are also people who hate Valentine's Day and have special parties on that day, featuring heart-shaped pinatas to bash with a baseball bat.

So many good characters and story arcs. Some of the amusing ones include a teenage couple who decide that Valentine's Day is the best day to lose their virginity (the dog protector doesn't seem to think so!) and Queen Latifah's discovery that her secretary moonlights as a phone sex gal (on her lunch break!) to some unusual customer kinks. I love Queen Latifah in every movie I've seen her in. She has such a positive vibe about her that I find her to be one truly beautiful woman. She's freaking hilarious!

My favourite storyline in the movie, though is when two characters finally realize that their friendship is more than just a friendship. Its what true love should be based on. I'm a big believer in friendship growing into a romantic relationship. Its my preferred modus operandi (because I have a tendency to lose my attraction to a lady if I don't get to know her over a longer, slower period and base it purely on physical attraction). On the flip side, though, it is difficult to watch when a lady you're friends with falls for someone else and disappears out of your life. But, the romantic in me still believes that this friendship first, blossoming into love eventually still exists for me.

Anyhow, I was surprised by how profound this film was on aspects of love, especially when one character learns the truth about the other person and has to deal with what's acceptable. Is a person's flaw enough to discard all that is good about the person? Each person has to decide that for him- or herself.

I'll admit, I only wanted to watch When in Rome because of ROME! I expected a movie set in Rome and I was in the mood to be transported back to Rome (ah, how I love "the eternal city"!). How disappointed I was to learn that Rome takes up all of 20 minutes or so. The rest of the movie is set in New York. To put it bluntly, this film is a piece of shit! It has every romantic-comedy cliche in the book: a beautiful lady who is cursed by not having love in her life because she's so focused on her career; a handsome man seen as almost too perfect that the heroine tries every way imaginable to sabotage the good vibes both are feeling for one another; and a lineup of some of the quirkest secondary characters you're liable to ever see in one romantic comedy. This all adds up to a recipe of disaster!

The premise is so outlandishly bad, it makes you wonder what the screenwriter was thinking. Basically, the beautiful career woman suffers a public humiliation with her ex-boyfriend making a scene in front of her co-workers and friends. To add insult to injury, her younger sister shows up at her apartment late at night with startling news: she's getting married the following weekend to an Italian guy she had met only two weeks earlier! Yeah, right! The whole premise is to get the heroine to Italy so she can meet the dashing man she's destined to be with, but when she sees him helping a drunk and sexy Italian lady back into the wedding reception, the heroine goes loco in the local fountain: la fontana d'amore! (the "Fountain of Love" for all you non-Italian speakers). Supposedly, there is a curse that if you steal someone's coin from a fountain, they will become obsessed with you!

Tragicomedy ensues. One of her many crazy suitors is the nerd who played Napoleon Dynamite (he trades in his nun-chuk skillz for magic tricks)! There's even a cameo appearance with Pedro from that same God-awful Mormon movie. The movie only gets worse. All I wanted to see was Rome! What a rip-off. Maybe I should've rented Roman Holiday instead.

Last year's The Lovely Bones was one of the "big pictures" that was hoping for Oscar consideration (big name director in Peter Jackson and based on a best-selling novel). After seeing the film, I understood why it was shut out of critical praises and Top Ten lists. Its not a terrific movie. In fact, its kind of creepy. Granted, its pretty loyal to the novel, but somehow seeing Stanley Tucci as the creepy abductor and murderer only makes one's skin crawl. Yikes! If I remember correctly, he did receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this role.

The actress did a fine job carrying the movie, though. The problem wasn't with the acting, but with the way the film flowed. Something was off about it. Of course, when the film got to the scene where Tucci's creepy neighbour entices Susie Salmon ("like the fish!") into his specially built hideout for kids, I wanted to yell at the screen: "Don't go down there!" What is a 14 year old girl thinking to trust a strange man? But, that's the whole point of the novel and movie: its about how the murdered girl looks after her family until justice comes to her killer someday.

I had a problem with the afterlife sequences. Its not representative of any book I've read about the afterlife. Even though she's in the "in between place", she still lusts after the boy she has a crush on and still wants to see her murderer suffer the same fate as her. That's not very "spirit-like." In fact, her attachments would make her an earthbound ghost, not some floating spirit hanging out in the "in between world."

The book is better. Though I read it several years ago and can't remember all the details. What I do remember is that this was a novel that could have only been written by a woman. A teenage girl gets murdered and all her soul wants is the first kiss she missed out on with her boyfriend? Yeah, whatever.
A couple weeks ago, I finally made it to a cool Portland theater I've been wanting to see a movie in for a few years now: Living Room Theaters. The theaters are on the smallish side, with really nice "lazyboy"-type chairs. You can order meals, beer, wine, and other adult beverages to enjoy with the movie. Very upscale! This was the only theater in the downtown area that was playing Toy Story 3 in 3-D, which is odd, because the theater caters to foreign and independent films. What are they doing playing such popular fare as Toy Story 3? Not that I was complaining.

The 3-D glasses were pretty fancy and we were definitely not allowed to keep them after the movie (unlike with Avatar in 3-D). I only saw Toy Story 2 once, a decade ago, so I don't remember the details of that movie. I'm a huge fan of the first film though (particularly the aliens. I love those aliens!). I wasn't certain that I would see the third one in theaters, though, until I read the amazing reviews. Plus, its only my second 3-D film, so it was a rare treat.

I like the story line, where Andy finally grows up and is off to college. The toys are supposed to be attic-bound, but end up being donated to a daycare center from hell. The under 4 years old set of children are manically abusive towards the toys that after one afternoon of rough play, our favourite Toy Story characters are plotting their escape.

My favourite addition to the cast is Ken (surprisingly voiced by Michael Keaton). He's freaking hilarious! When Ken meets Barbie, he falls in love. She loves his "ascot". My favourite scene is when he's modeling clothes for her. When she threatens to destroy his "Nehru jacket", he finally relents to her demands. I found that particularly hilarious because I've always wanted a Nehru jacket. When I saw an old picture of my dad wearing one, I asked if he still had it. He said that he got rid of it long ago, much to my disappointment. He thought it was horrendous, but probably cool at the time (the Beatles popularized it in the late 60s after their famous trip to India). Ken has good taste! I say its high time that the Nehru jacket comes back in style. I'll definitely wear one.

This film is pretty sweet and nostalgic, filled with some clever surprises. Definitely worth seeing in the theaters. Was it worth the high price of the 3-D ticket? Well...while I find the 3-D to be an awesome way to watch movies, it did not have the awe-inducing visual wonders of Avatar (which had me actually reaching out to "grab" one of those floating light beings).

Not sure what movie I'll see next in the theater. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot worth seeing this summer. I'm thinking George Clooney's The American will be the next film I see in theaters, but that's not until Labour Day weekend. In the meantime, Netflix and Redbox will keep me plenty busy with film options.

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