Category Archives: movies

Moviefest

This past weekend the fall weather finally caught up with us here in the PNW. What do you do when it’s dreary outside and you want to entertain yourself? Watch movies. A LOT of movies. πŸ™‚

I saw six movies this weekend. Two were second viewings and four were fresh viewings. There were good, bad, better than expected, and even more awesome than I remembered. Here’s my list (in the order I watched them)

Snow White and the Huntsman

I reviewed this one the weekend it came out. The verdict after a second viewing? Not much has changed about my opinion on this one. If you haven’t seen it yet, I don’t think you’ll be mad you spent money on the rental.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This delightful dramedy takes place in Jaipur, India at a rundown hotel whose owner would like to make it a destination for retirees but hasn’t quite got the dream down yet. An all star cast of scenery chewing British thespians, including Jude Dench, Maggie Smith, Billy Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson struggle with settling themselves in India with varying degrees of success. Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) is the hotel’s manager and co-owner with problems of his own and a dream of a successful hotel and marrying the woman he loves.

I totally enjoyed every moment of this movie. It was pitch perfect. I totally recommend it!

The Raven

John Cusack plays Edgar Allen Poe in this earnest but ultimately unsatisfying attempt to mash Poe’s greatest hits into a horror thriller. While the performances of the leads (Luke Evans as the Inspector, Alice Eve as Poes’ beloved, Brendan Gleeson as Emily’s father) are solid, the story and the writing are horrid. I was bored the entire time I was watching it… So, I took it out and went to sleep. Which is a rarity for me. Final verdict: skip it.

It just doesn’t get better than this!

The Avengers

In the interest of not making this post fifty years long, I’ll just say this: Perfect. If you’ve seen and you don’t think so, you’re one of the ones who just doesn’t get this kind of thing and you won’t understand no matter what I say. If you have an ounce of fanboy/fangirl in you… well, YOU know! You can see my gushy opening week review here. πŸ™‚

Dark Shadows

I have never watched the original show so I had absolutely no expecations going in other than what I’ve come to expect from a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration. That said, whatever expectations I did have were desperately put to death by this clunker. While it had the typical dose of Tim Burton beauty/grotesquery and some genuinely funny moments, the whole thing seemed rather joyless. Even though I really wanted to be able to going in, I can’t really recommend it after seeing. Definitely not one of my faves. Check out Willy Wonka, Alice in Wonderland or, my personal favorite, Sleepy Hollow if you want a Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collab at it’s best.

Rock of Ages

I was a teenager in the late 80’s and while, at the time, my favorites were Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and a smattering of somewhat mainstream leaning Industrial, I listened to radio like everyone else and secretly loved as much hair metal as I heard. So, when I first saw the commercials for this movie I got a little ecstatic.

Yes, it is cheesy. It’s a musical for goodness sake! But I sang along at the top of my lungs and I cared whether or not the boy meets girl story was going to have a happy ending. But my favorite part of this movie (and this will seriously shock anyone who knows me well) was…

Wait for it…

TOM CRUISE.

Yes, I said that in public. No, I’m not generally a fan but he was born to play a drunk, drug addled, arm and a half into a straight jacket crazy metal band rocker. He made the movie for me. I haven’t checked online yet to see if he did his own singing or not but if he did… well, I think Tom may have missed his calling in life. If you’re a child of the 80’s you will LOVE this one. Go rent it now!

So that was my movie fest. I’m looking forward to catching Cloud Atlas, Skyfall, and Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 in the coming weeks. What movies are you looking forward to seeing soon?

Looper

Back to the future…

I went to see Looper last Friday when it opened. I’d been waiting impatiently for it to come out ever since I first heard vague rumblings on the net about a scifi movie with Bruce Willis in it. You may chuckle to yourselves at that statement, especially given that his most famous science fiction movie before this is either a cult classic or the worst movie ever made, depending on who you ask. From my level of breathless anticipation, you can tell that I fall firmly in the former camp.

I like scifi. I like Bruce Willis (yes, I admitted that in public). Turns out that Bruce Willis was the icing on a brutally good cake.

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis play Joe, a looper (basically a mob hitman) whose hits are delivered to him from the future via time travel. The technology is outlawed but used in secret anyway by the mob as an efficient means to carry out hits, since bodies are apparently too impossible to hide or dispose of in the late 21st century.

Joe explains the rules of the system to us in a slow but satisfying build up to the main action of the movie. You show up, do the hit, collect payment (silver bars strapped to the victims back), take care of the body, go blow your cash on drugs and women. Rinse, repeat. Until… You are sent back to be killed by your younger self (this time with gold bars strapped to your back) and you “close the loop” by executing yourself.

When young Joe and older Joe lay eyes on each other is when this science fiction movie really takes off and spreads its wings, a mean feat considering how stellar the set up is. The dichotomy between these two versions of the same person is palpable. Young Joe is looking out for #1. He still wants to please the higher ups and retire to France (probably because that seems romantic to him) when his loop is closed. The elder Joe has lived a lifetime full of what the younger version’s choices have set him up for; he wants to hold on to what he has at any cost.

I don’t want to give away anything by explaining anymore plot points. The two leads are fantastic in their respective portrayals of the same character. Extra kudos to Joseph Gordon Levitt for picking up the the voice, cadence, and physical tics that we expect to see on Bruce Willis and making them believable.

The supporting cast, including Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, and Piper Perabo, also give excellent performances. The writing, direction, and most important, pacing, are all top notch. I highly recommend this movie even if, especially if you are not a scifi fan. At its heart this movie is a character piece and the speculative element is the purely to drive the story along in the best possible way.

I’ll be seeing this again and definitely adding it to my collection.

Total Recall

Totall Recall: Remade.

I saw the big budget remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sharon Stone scifi actioner, Total Recall. This new version stars Colin Farrell (taking over from Arnie), Kate Beckinsale as his wife/watcher (originally played by the Mars hating Sharon Stone), and Jessica Biel in the rebel/lover role (originally played by the sleazy but demure Rachel Ticotin).

The plot for this “remake” > and its predecessor is very loosely derived from a short story by Philip K Dick. In this version of the story, Farrell’s Douglas Quaid is a lowly factory worker with a beautiful, devoted wife (Beckinsale) who lives in the oppressive confines of The Colony but commutes to work (via a world spanning train tunnel) to the seemingly utopian Britain to work. He feels a deep dissatisfaction with his daily life and has dreams about being trapped in a place, trying to escape with the aid of an equally beautiful mystery woman (Biel).

One of the things that I like most about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall is that it has a sense of humor; it’s a wild romp and had a “damn, doesn’t that make you grin at the shittiness of it all” kind of pluck to it. It took itself just seriously enough to carry you along for the ride. The fact that at the end of it you, as the viewer, we’re left to decide if it was real or all in Quaid’s head was icing on the cake.

This version is humorless, joyless and filled with hard, ruthless people who aren’t even enjoying being hard and ruthless. It doesn’t help at all that the script and direction don’t bring anything new to the table as far as ideas are concerned. You’re left realizing at the end of it all that you just watched a fairly standard chase movie with a lot of special effects thrown in purely for the sake of spectacle. Themes of identity and purpose are present but so eclipsed by visual bombast that you just don’t care whether Quaid finds out who he is or isnt.

I was disappointed by this effort in the extreme. I will take the Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger version over this one every time because as cheesy as it is, it has a heart. Wiseman/Farrell and Co? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I really think that instead of rehashing movies that were pretty great in their original versions (Footloose and Spiderman, anyone?) Hollywood should focus on taking a chance on creating something new and different. There are some great scifi stories out there that could be crafted into the next big thing. I’d rather have somebody try and fail at that than get served another helping of “been there, done that”.

Final recommendation? Skip it. Go see The Dark Knight Rises again.

Snow White and the Huntsman

image

Friday, I went to see the fairy tale epic, Snow White and the Huntsman, with my cousin at Kent Station. I’d been anticipating this movie for months, so I was a little excited. I’m not understating my excitement level for effect either. I literally was only a little excited; after waiting that long for the movie to come out my initial desire to see it had waxed quite a bit. Still, I got my $6 ticket. (I love the opening day matinee!)

The movie opens with a voice over by the Huntsman (costar Chris Hemsworth) giving us the back story on how Snow White and Queen Ravenna become mortal enemies. We learn that Snow is a miracle baby to her parents, that her mother (who was already ill when she had Snow) dies a few winters later, that the king is inconsolable, and how Ravenna is able to scheme her way onto the throne through the king’s grief. We also meet Snow White’s childhood friend and fellow noble, William.

Soon the evil queen realizes that the only way to prolong her reign of terror is to consume the still beating heart of her step daughter, Snow White. Of course Snow White escapes and the Queen brings in The Huntsman to track down and bring her “prize” back.

The opening is brilliant and fairly well paced but when Ravenna makes her move to kill snow the pacing starts to falls apart. There are large sections of the movie that, while beautifully filmed, drag the story down. Instead there are lingering shots of (admittedly beautiful) scenery… and Kristen Stewart’s face that don’t add anything to the story. If any thing they take you out of the story and make you think about taking a quick trip to the concession stand.

Charlize Theron delivers a solid performance despite the odd direction of her character’s motivation. She convinces as a victim that is heedless of the fact that she has become exactly what she most hates in the world. Chris Hemsworth was also a treat as a widower whose lost faith with himself and the world. He actually brought me to tears with a moving speech he gives to Snow towards the end of the show. His action sequences are a bit shadowed somewhat by the badassness of the grownup William, played by Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) who executes some moves with a bow that would make both Hawkeye and Legolas proud.

The weak link in the main cast is Kristen Stewart. She is wooden, uncharismatic, flubs her accent, and has zero chemistry with either male lead. Snow White is a character that should elicit some compassion because of her plight but Stewart barely manages to make her sympathetic. I kept wishing they would have cast someone who actually had the acting chops to pull off the character, taking her believably from an orphaned girl in fear for her life to an armed and ready warrior and focused less on looks.

Aside from the pace and the miscasting of Kristen Stewart, I enjoyed the production design and the soundtrack including the two songs with vocals used in the film, especially Florence and the Machines’ end credit burner.

All in all? Not horrible. If you’re seeing it on the big screen, I recommend a matinee or second run. Until next time!

The Avengers

WHOA!

Seriously, that is the best way I know how to say how totally awesome this movie was. I’ve been waiting on pins and needles ever since Nick Fury walked into Tony Stark’s life (in a frequently missed post credit sequence) and I have to say that Joss Whedon, the cast, and crew do not disappoint.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I’m not going to reveal any plot points or drop spoiler bombs but I do want to say that if anyone had any doubts about so many Marvel characters in one movie possibly cramping the story’s style: don’t. The entire character list was all handled well, everyone got screen time, none of it wasted or gratuitous. Everyone, literally, had a part to play in a pitch perfect story. All in all, I felt that all the actors filled (or refilled) their roles nicely.

Speaking of which, I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of Mark Ruffalo but he was excellent as Bruce Banner/Hulk and brought exactly the right touch of nerdy pathos to a part that has been tough to cast. I couldn’t do my overly gushy girl nerd squee review without give Mr. Ruffalo a nod for far exceeding my expectations in the part.

Iron Man is still my fave. I will always lay it down for Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. I think he had most of the best lines in the movie. Chris Evans has been surprisingly awesome as Captain America and really makes you love this guy with the huge (if constantly broken) heart who just wants to do the right thing. I would really like to see more of the Black Widow/Hawkeye partnership; the back story that we see for these two in The Avengers is intriguing and hints at a long and storied history.

I missed a few people but, like I said… NO SPOILERS! It is action packed, has an awesome story, a truly despicable villain, and pretty much rocked my socks off from start to finish! You’ll just have to see for yourself… If you haven’t already! As for me?

I plan on seeing it again.

And again.

And again! πŸ™‚

Thankfully, it’s a warm, sunny start to our week here in Seattle and the outlook for the day seems good from where I’m sitting. I hope you have a decidedly un-Monday like Monday. Until next time!

Downton Abbey

image

Downton Abbey is a Masterpiece Classic show that plays on PBS. A lot of my fellow design bloggers are gaga over this show, they love everything about it from plot to production design. So, while I was at my sister’s house last week, I decided to check out the episodes that were available on Netflix.

It was a little slow getting into it but by the second episode I was hooked. The setup is that an aristocratic English family whose estate is entailed. They have arranged a marriage between their oldest daughter and the nearest male relation, a cousin that we find out has died in the sinking if the Titanic. With his death, the families hope of retaining the estate, money, and title goes out the window. The show takes off from there.

This is a very well produced, written, and acted upstairs, downstairs drama with The family and their staff is wonderfully played some very fine actors, including the venerable Maggie Smith. It’s a delight to watch the interactions between the different social strata during a time with classic was a very important consideration in social circles. It seems the production team has made a real effort to get period details right.

Only seven episodes were available on Netflix, so I didn’t see the whole first season but I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the rest of this series… As I told one of my blogging buddies, “OK, OK! I get it!”.

The second season is airing now on PBS and as I mentioned before, the first seven episodes of season one is available to stream on Netflix. I totally recommend it if you’re the type that likes period dramas, you won’t be disappointed!

I hope you’re all having an awesome Monday. See you tomorrow!

Haywire

image

I saw this movie on Friday (followed by Underworld: Awakening) and I liked it… for the most part. Mallory Kane (played with wooden aplomb by Gina Carano) has been double crossed by her employer/ex-boyfriend, Kenneth (Wide eyed faux innocence and easy charm? Could it be anyone other than Ewan McGregor?). Being the bad*ass name taker that she is, of course she’s going to get even.

That’s the downfall here: you know you’re getting a B grade revenge action film from the start. What makes it remotely interesting are the delight with which the all male cast (aside from Carano) throws itself into harms way (again, Carano) and the absolutely brutal way in which she dishes out that harm. Another reviewer wrote that when you see her dishing out mayhem on screen it’s more believable than watching an Angelina Jolie or Zoe Saldana do the same. There is a case for that. Carano is no waif; when she was hitting Michael Fassbender in one scene, I winced for him very time she made contact.

If she’d been a better actress she might have carried the movie. A truly bad*ass chick’s fighting chops are just not enough to do it. See it at a matinee if you’re a hardcore action junkie otherwise wait until it comes out on video.