Sunday, July 20, 2014

Beloved Novel of Our Time? Seriously?

The Prince of Tides
Director: Barbra Streisand
Cast: Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan, George Carlin
Released: December 25, 1991

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (what? - lost to The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Actor - Nick Nolte (huh? - lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Supporting Actress - Kate Nelligan (who? - lost to Mercedes Ruehl for The Fisher King)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Pat Conroy and Becky Johnston (lost to Ted Tally for The Silence of the Lambs)
Best Score - James Newton Howard (lost to Alan Menken for Beauty and the Beast)
Best Art Direction (lost to Bugsy)
Best Cinematography (lost to JFK)


As you can tell from my snide remarks, I wasn't a huge fan of this movie. It wasn't the worst thing ever, but I was expecting something different. To be honest, I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I only knew two things about this movie: it starred Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte and it was based on a novel. When I saw the name "Pat Conroy" I assumed that was a woman, but no, it's a man. I'm probably being sexist because my mind immediately assumed it was a woman since while not a romance, it has elements of romance in it. Plus it just seemed like the kind of story a woman would write. (There I am being sexist again). The movie is melodramatic and schmaltzy, but even after two and a half hours I was left saying, "That's it?" According to Goodreads, the book is 679 pages so they obviously left a lot of material out or didn't embellish on it. Apparently the book spans forty years while the movie is maybe a few months with flashbacks. The DVD I had skipped at one point and I missed a good twelve minutes of the movie. This happened the first time Nolte's character goes back to South Carolina. But I'll back up a minute here..

Nolte plays Tom Wingo, a forty something Southern man with an unhappy childhood. He is so over the top and overacts in this and his Southern accent is just the worst! Don't get me wrong, he sounds Southern, but it almost sounds like he's doing a parody of someone with a southern accent. It has that stereotypical vibe to it. I knew this movie took place by the ocean, hence the title, but for some reason, I thought it was Cape Cod or Nantucket, I don't know, I was just getting this Massachusetts vibes, I guess, but no, I was way too north. It's South Carolina. Where, I have no idea, although he does mention he has to drive through Charleston to get home. The Goodreads summary says it takes place in the South Carolina low country wherever that is. But the majority of the movie takes place in New York anyway. Why? Well, because Tom's twin sister, Savannah, lives in New York as a writer and tried to commit suicide. (Not her first time). Her psychologist, Dr. Susan Lowenstein (Streisand), wants to talk to a family member to "fill in the missing pieces of [Savannah's] life" since she has blocked out many of her memories because a lot of them were pretty horrific. Now I am no psychologist, but isn't that a breach of confidentiality? Can a therapist just call a patient's family member and discuss things with them, even if (especially if!) the patient in question is unable to speak for themselves? (Savannah was in the hospital while Tom was talking to Dr. Lowenstein). I'm sure this is better explained in the book.

Like I mentioned, there are flashback, but there's only a handful and they only last about five minutes. It seems like most movies that go back and forth between present day and a flashback will have the flashback for several scenes. A good recent example of this is Saving Mr. Banks. Another good example is Fried Green Tomatoes. Those flashbacks actually seemed part of the movies and not just random clips they threw in at the last minute. The flashbacks in The Prince of Tides were just very quick vignettes; it all felt very jarring. From them, we learn that Tom and Savannah and their older brother Luke had an abusive and alcoholic father and a mother who copes with her husband's incessant screaming by feeding him dog food (clever, I'll admit) and sweeping things under the rug. It is mentioned that Luke is deceased but, unless it was mentioned in the 12 minutes of film I wasn't able to see, we never find out when or how he died. 


There's a flashback (that jumps to and from the present) that Tom tells Dr. Lowenstein and it's the first time he's ever told anybody about it. One evening when he and his sister were 13 years old and at home with their mom, three convicts who had escaped from a prison came in and raped all of them. Now I was not expecting this at all. The dark things about this movie had been a father who screamed at his family and a suicide attempt and then comes this very disturbing scene where little kids are getting raped? Where the hell did this come from?  And I was confused...how did these men get out of jail? Was this the first house they came across and it just so happened to be occupied by one defenseless woman and two defenseless children? It just seemed so...random. I have a feeling there's more to this story in the book. At least I hope so! Luke wasn't there when it happened, but he came home while it was happening and luckily he had a shotgun so he was able to kill two of the men while his mother stabbed her assailant. They buried the bodies and the mother told them to never speak of this incident. I can understand why they didn't tell the father (not sure where he was during all this) because he wouldn't care, but I don't understand why they never told the police. A few days later, this is the first time Savannah tries to kill herself. She moved to New York because she wanted to get away from the South (understandably!) and became a poet and author to express her pain through writing...or something like that.

I looked up the book's synopsis on Wikipedia and there was a  paragraph about the rape scene. Tom and Savannah were 18 when it happened, which is still horrible, but it seems like the movie had them be 13 for the shock value. It sounds like they knew one of the guys who assaulted them before he went to prison so there is some history there and the older brother doesn't kill the men with his shotgun, but instead the family apparently owns a pet tiger and he released it on the men and they were mauled to death instead of shot to death. I'm almost kind of intrigued to read the book now.  It's gotten a lot of good reviews on Goodreads and not surprisingly everyone says it's better than the movie. (Well, duh!) 

Tom's wife back in South Carolina (Blythe Danner) is having an affair and Susan's famous concert violinist husband is having an affair and eventually Tom and Susan will have an affair with each other.  He stars flirting with her first, but she wants to keep things strictly professional. So she does this by inviting him to dinner at the most expensive, most fancy, most romantic French restaurant. Because that screams "business meeting". She also invites him to one of her and her husband's pretentious dinner parties at their fancy penthouse and the film doesn't even try to make the husband have any depth. He was just a one-dimensional jerk. I can only hope he's better written in the novel! He acts like he's better than Tom and insults him being Southern until Tom takes his one million dollar violin and threatens to drop it from the balcony unless he apologizes to him for the way he treated him and his wife for cheating on her. This is the last we see of the husband and when Tom and Susan's passionate love affair begins. Now I thought this is what the movie was centered around (from reading the back of the DVD box), but the entire romance lasts about ten minutes (maybe it was longer, but it seemed like ten minutes) and it's all done as a cliched montage: there they are making love in bed, there they are making love in front of the fireplace, there they are making love in a bubble bath, there they are having a picnic, there they are having fun outside playing football, there they are horseback riding. And end montage. (Okay, maybe some of those scenes didn't happen, but I can't remember if they did or not!) Then we get the scene where Tom goes back home and says good-bye to Susan and she cries and hugs him and then they go on with their lives. He returns to his wife and three daughters in South Carolina and I don't know what happened to Susan. She probably went back to her jerk of a husband for all I know. And then the movie ended and I was like, "Seriously? That's it?" 

Here's some other random tidbits about the movie: George Carlin plays a gay man who is a friend of Susan's and throws fabulous parties. It was really weird seeing him in this because I knew him as a comedian and while the movie may try to attempt to throw a funny line or two in there, it is no way a comedy. It just felt like very random casting.

There's a lot of screaming and yelling and shouting in this movie. My God, EVERYBODY SCREAMS AT EACH OTHER ALL THE TIME! IT'S SO OVERDRAMATIC! Tom screams at Dr. Lowenstein, she screams back at him; Tom screams at his mother, she screams back at him; Tom screams at his wife, she screams back at him; his father screams at everyone in the flashbacks. I bet that 75% of Nolte's acting is just shouting at someone! 

I cannot believe this movie was nominated for Best Picture. It is a hot mess! And Nick Nolte nominated for Best Actor is laughable too as he overacts in pretty much every scene. Skip this one. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mayday

Non-Stop
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Nate Parker, Lupita Nyong'o
Released: February 28, 2014



I'll first write this review with no spoilers, then give a huge warning when I'm about to go into that territory because I don't want to spoil this movie for anyone who hasn't seen it and may want to. 

I love my air disaster movies (Air Force One, Executive Decision, Flight) and this was no exception. It was a lot of fun although there were many scenes where you would be left wondering, "Huh...that seems implausible." 

Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a federal air marshall who is an alcoholic with a depressing family history. He's on a flight from New York to London when he starts getting texts from someone who claims they're on the plane and tell him they're going to kill someone every 20 minutes unless he puts $150 million into an account number he is given. He knows the person isn't fibbing he's on the flight because he told Bill he saw him smoking in the bathroom. The kicker is that the account number is in Marks name so it looks suspicious and that he's behind the whole thing.

For a movie called Non-Stop, you think of non-stop action and it makes me laugh a bit because there are several scenes of long stretches where it's just Neeson texting and reading his received texts. This is just another movie in a string of films I've watched where texts messages or e-mails or Tweets will be typed out on the screen instead of them just showing a shot of the phone and what's being written on it. The other text happy movies have been The Fault in Our Stars, Chef, and Fruitvale Station and I'm sure there have been others as texting is a huge way of communicating. Don't get me wrong: the texts are threatening and there's eerie music, but they're not the most action-packed scenes. 

And every twenty minutes someone does die, but we never see who's behind it and it's always either a set-up or made to look like an accident like when the pilot dies of what looks to be a heart attack, but he was actually poisoned. 

There were many people who could have been the suspect because they looked suspicious or Marks had had an earlier encounter with them so all through the movie I was wondering who it was. At one point, I was pretty sure I knew who it was (and I'll get to that in my spoilers), but I was wrong. The movie had me guessing the entire time and by the third act I was dying to know who was behind it. This person (or persons...don't want to  spoil it) put a bomb on the plane because they wanted to prove how dangerous flying was and how crap airport security is. 

Marks finds the bomb and puts it in the back of the plane with a bunch of luggage covering it and demands the pilot (the one who didn't die!) to fly to an altitude of 8,000 feet because somehow that will....I don't know, do something so the entire plane won't explode. The bomb does goes off and there's a huge hole in the plane and the landing is a little bumpy but everyone survives (except for the bad guy (or guys!). Please. There is no way in hell anybody could survive a plane crash like that. It was so ridiculous. At one point this young girl sitting next to Marks begins to fly out (because the entire ceiling of the fuselage is gone!) and he hangs onto her and pulls her back in. If this happened in real life, everyone would be dead. But despite that, it was a fun movie and I enjoyed it a lot. Now for the spoilers...






DO NOT CONTINUE TO READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN NON-STOP AND WANT TO BECAUSE I AM ABOUT TO DISCUSS SOME MAJOR SPOILERS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING! 

Okay, so at one point I was pretty sure Julianne Moore was the bad guy, or at least working for the bad guy since we never see her text him. She's sleeping right next to him when he receives his first set of texts and then later she and a flight attendant (Michelle Dockery) are looking at a screen for anyone using their phone to see if they can see who's texting Marks. So I thought it was her husband or someone who was texting Marks and she was keeping an eye on Marks. There are a few suspicious things like she is insistent about sitting in a window seat and sits next to him and she doesn't answer him when he asks what she does for a living. There is a scene in the movie where she does become a suspect and he questions her, but it was all a red-herring. Or you could say a red-hairing. Sadly, I can't take credit for that joke...I heard it on a podcast of a review of this film. 

There is a man Marks bumps into when he's getting out of the taxi at the airport and the man asks him where he's flying and I'm thinking, "Hmm, this could be a suspect" and then we are introduced to a bunch more people that could be potential suspects, but in the end, he was one of the two bad guys! So it was the first guy Marks has any dialogue with in the whole movie. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Deja Vu

Groundhog Day
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Stephen Tobolowsky, Chris Elliot
Released: February 12, 1993

 
Before I get into my review, I just had to mention that I saw Edge of Tomorrow about a month ago, which is like a sci-fi Groundhog Day where Tom Cruise lives the same day over and over again to figure out how to win the war against aliens. His co-star, Emily Blunt, plays a character named Rita, which is Andie MacDowell's character's name in Groundhog Day. Now it had been awhile since I last saw Groundhog Day, so I didn't remember her name in the movie, but I was listening to a podcast movie review of Edge of Tomorrow and one of the hosts mentioned that Blunt's character was named Rita as a shoutout to Groundhog Day which I thought was really cool. It's just too bad I couldn't appreciate that while I was watching the movie! And if you want to go deeper, Tom Cruise's character's name is William, which can be shortened to Bill, which rhymes with Phil, which is Bill Murray's character's name....except that Cruise goes by Cage, his character's last name.

Edge of Tomorrow is just one of many narratives where the same day is repeated over and over. I'm sure Groundhog Day wasn't the first to do that plot line, but I'm willing to bet it's the most famous. And whenever someone mentions Groundhog Day, you think of the movie, not the actual holiday which is probably the stupidest holiday ever. (Sorry Groundhog Day fans!) I can never remember if it's six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow or not...and let's be honest...there's ALWAYS at least six more weeks (if not more!) of winter when it's only February 2nd...duh! 

So we all know the basic plot: Pittsburgh weatherman Phil Connors is sent to Punxsutawney, PA, home of Groundhog Day and the actual groundhog (also named Phil) who does the predicting. He goes with his producer, Rita, and cameraman, Larry (Chris Elliot). Phil thinks the job is beneath him and just wants to get it over with and go home. Only he can't because they get stranded there when a blizzard hits. The next morning, he wakes up to the same song playing from the previous morning ("I Got You, Babe", the Sonny and Cher classic) and thinks the radio station accidently put on the broadcast from yesterday, but when he looks out the window, there is no snow and he  has the same interactions with the same people from yesterday. There's a funny scene when he asks a woman where everyone is going and she says, "The Groundhog Day festival" and he says, "Is Groundhog Day everyday now?" He then repeats the same day over and over for who knows how long. Another funny exchange is when he acts the woman who works at the inn he's staying at if she ever has deju vu and she tells him she'll check with the kitchen.

At first, understandably, he is annoyed and confused, but then he just learns to accept it because there's nothing he can do about it. He learns small details to watch out for. The first few days, he keeps stepping into a deep puddle when he's crossing the street, then remembers it's there and jumps over it. 

He goes through different phases of how he reacts to his time loop. He feels invincible because whatever he does, will be erased when he starts anew the next "day". He recklessly drives a car and ends up in jail, only to wake up in his B&B room, he steals money and goes shopping, he eats a bunch of fattening food and desserts just because he can. (Hey, why not!) He asks an attractive woman where she went to school and what her English teacher's name was and the next day pretends to be an old classmate and sleeps with her and doesn't have to worry about her calling him the next "day" because she won't remember him.

Then he starts being interested in Rita and takes her out to a fancy dinner. She tells him she studied French poetry in college and he comments how useless that was, then the next "day", he takes her out again and this time when she tells him what she studied, he fluently says something in French, impressing her very much. They have a near perfect evening until the end when she suspects that he's only interested in sleeping with her and storms off. He tries to repeat this perfect day over and over, but to no avail and ends up getting slapped by her many times in a montage. 

This makes him depressed and he's tired of being in his constant time loop, so he decides to kill himself...many times. He runs his car off a cliff, he jumps from a building, he electrocutes himself...only to find himself waking up in the same bed again each morning. 

He then goes into an almost existential phase when he gives a homeless man money who's been there since day one and he's always ignored. He later finds the man passed out on the sidewalk and takes him to the hospital where the nurse tells him he's passed away. The next few times, he tries to help the man by giving him lots to eat, but whatever he does, the man still dies because that was his time and Phil no longer feels like he's in control of everything. 

One of the most memorable characters and sequence of events is when he meets an old classmate, Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky) who is an annoying insurance salesman. They filmed the five or six scenes one right after the other so they would have the same cars in the background. It's fun and interesting to see how Phil reacts to Ned each time. The very first time, before the time loop begins, he's annoyed and wants to get away from him. The first few times after the time loop, he's still annoyed and tries to avoid him, but whatever he does, Ned still finds him. He punches him one time, he becomes the annoying one and scares Ned off, then towards the end, he befriends Ned and gives him a hug and buys insurance from him. 

Of course when Phil realizes what's important in life (and wins Rita's heart), he is freed from his repeating day. I'm sure everyone, after seeing this film, has pondered what would they do if they were in a situation like Phil's. It would drive me crazy if I was repeating the same day over and over again, but on the other hand, it would be a great way to read more books and watch more movies and just do and learn more things. (Phil learns French, how to play the piano, and reads some classic books). It would be nice to have more time to do things and not have to worry about a deadline. And if you screwed up on something, it would disappear the next day when you would get a clean slate. On the other hand, any relationships you might make would not last as the person(s) would not remember you the next day. I would definitely not want to be stuck in a small town with no way to escape like Phil was because, for one thing, I would miss my cat!, and I would rather just be home where I have everything I need and can go forever repeating the same day! Well, maybe not forever! 

I started this by bringing up Edge of Tomorrow, so I'll end with another thought concerning it. Groundhog Day will always be the go-to repeating-the-same-day movie and I like it better than Tomorrow, although that was a good movie, but there is something I loved about Tomorrow that didn't happen in Groundhog Day and made the movie a little different: there were several times where the audience would be in a new scene with Cruise and Blunt and you figured this was their first time there too, but then you learned that they had already been in that situation several times before. I thought that was nicely done and always kept me wondering. Just add Run, Lola, Run (although her repetition only lasts a mere three times!) and you have the perfect trifecta of time loop movies.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

DragonCon

How To Train Your Dragon 2
Director: Dean DeBlois
Voice talent: Jay Baruchel, Gerald Butler, Cate Blanchett, America Ferrera, Dijmon Hounsou, Craig Ferguson, Kristin Wiig, Jonah Hill
Released: June 13, 2014
Viewed in theaters: June 29, 2014


Spoilers ahoy!

Much like the first movie, I loved this one too, and much like the first movie, I cried during this one as well. Also, like the first one, I saw this one at nine in the evening to avoid young children talking or crying or kicking the back of my seat. Unlike the first one, I did not see this one in 3-D, but that's only because the theater I saw it at wasn't showing it in 3-D! Otherwise I would have as I kept seeing the obvious scenes that were meant for the 3-D viewers and how cool it would have been to be able to see it that way.

I probably should have seen the first movie before seeing this one, but I thought I didn't need to since I saw How To Train Your Dragon twice, but I sure couldn't remember how Hiccup lost his leg...or even that he did lose his leg!

 The sequel takes place five years later (I thought they should have made it four years since it's been four years since the first movie!) and the village where our hero, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Barachel) lives has become littered with dragons now that everyone owns one. The town, once fearful of dragons, now has a dragon feeding-station, a large stable for the dragons to sleep, and a fire prevention device.

Besides Hiccup and Toothless, his fiercely loyal dragon, we are re-introduced to some old familiar characters such as Stoic (voiced by Gerald Butler), Hiccup's father and the town's chief; Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), Hiccup's girlfriend; Hiccup's ragtag team of misfit friends (voiced by many including Kristin Wiig and Jonah Hill); and Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson), the chief's right hand man. We are also introduced to some new characters, mainly the film's villain, Drago (voiced by Dijmon Hounsou) who wants to control all the dragons. I guess because his name is "Dragon" without the N, that gives him the right. I first heard his name as "Draco" and was thinking, "Harry Potter already did it!" And we are introduced to Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), Hiccup's mother who he thought was deceased all these years. She has a Scottish accent (by the way, I love that both Hiccup's parents have strong Scottish accents and he doesn't) and when I first heard her in the trailer, I was curious to see who voiced her.

We learn of her backstory where she has become a savior for dragons who have become hurt or neglected and need care. Everyone thinks she was killed by a dragon because the last time anyone saw her (when Hiccup was a baby), she was cornered by a dragon and carried off by it, but it never had any intentions of hurting her. Valka is reunited with her family (complete with a cute Scottish ditty she sings with her husband) and they're off to stop Drago from controlling all the dragons. There's a huge fight between his alpha, a humongous black dragon, and Valka's alpha, a humongous white dragon and Drago's dragon wins, thus making him in control of all the other dragons. This is yet another reason why I wished I had seen the first movie because I remember a huge dragon being in the movie, but don't recall if it was the same kind.

Toothless, under Drago's control, is ordered to kill Stoic, which he does and that was the scene I cried at (and several scenes after I was still crying!) It would be bad enough to have our main character lose his father, but have him die at the cost of his beloved friend is really a punch to the gut! Like Hiccup, I was even angry at Toothless for what he did, but Valka, being the voice of reason tells her son that it's not Toothless's fault; that he was tricked into doing it.

Now the town has no chief and no dragons, but Hiccup steps up to take his dad's place and defeat Drago and free the dragons from the hypnotized state they're all in. Not only does Hiccup become a hero, but so does Toothless, who fights through the mind control of the alpha and defeats the alpha, thus becoming the new alpha. Now Toothless doesn't kill the ex-alpha since he is a million times smaller, but the ex-alpha retreats into the water like a whimpering puppy.

The first movie came out the same year as Toy Story 3 (2010), so I knew it had no chance of winning the Best Animated Movie Oscar, but I hope it can win it next year for this movie because it's such a great movie and deserves to! I'll see you in another couple years for How To Train Your Dragon 3

Sunday, July 6, 2014

This time we're saving Mr. Banks, not Private Ryan

Saving Mr. Banks
Director: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak, Collin Farrell
Released: December 20, 2013

Oscar nominations:
Best Score - Thomas Newman (lost to Steven Price for Gravity)


This is the story of how Walt Disney (portrayed by Tom Hanks) got the rights to P.L. Travers' (portrayed by Emma Thompson) beloved book that the movie Mary Poppins is based upon. Now I had no idea Mary Poppins was based on a book. I always figured it was an original script. It's been a long, long, LONG time since I've seen it, but I would have figured I would have read the book or at least heard of it, right? In fact, it's been such a long time since I've seen it that I had no idea who the "Mr. Banks" in question was until I realized it's the father from the book she wrote. 

I suppose no other studio could have made this movie other than Disney since they have the rights to Mary Poppins, the songs from it (you hear a lot of familiar classics!), and Walt Disney himself. I have a feeling this movie would have gone into darker territory if another studio had made it. It sounds like Disney (the studio) took a few liberates with Saving Mr Banks. True, they do make P.L. Travers very unlikeable, but they do give her a few moments of redemption and scenes where you kind of feel sorry for her, but it sounds like she was a lot worse in real life than how they portrayed her in the movie. Disney wants the rights to her book, but she will have final word in the script. I can understand an author wanting to protect her script, but some of the demands she bestows upon them is a little ridiculous. For one thing, she insists the color red not being present in the movie. And she just doesn't mean wardrobe, but anything that is red. The movie never tells us why she has such an aversion to the color red, like she does with pears. Since it's been so long since I've seen Mary Poppins, I don't know if they caved in to that ridiculous demand, but I'm guessing not since she also insist that there be no animation or musical numbers and, well, I know for a fact that both of those are in the movie! I'm guessing the scenes where she's dancing and singing along to Let's Go Fly a Kite with screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and the Sherman brothers, the music composers (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) did not actually happen in real life! In fact, she disliked them so much that when they made the stage production of Mary Poppins, she insisted only that British writers and composers be part of the team so she wouldn't have to work with the people from the film.

We see a scene where it's mentioned that Dick Van Dyke is being mentioned for the role of Bert and Travers is just appalled at this and we all know he got the role. There's another scene where they sing a song for her (and of course she hates it) and there's a made up word in it and she mentions how she hates it because it's not a word and we see one of the composers quickly cover the sheet music with the title "Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious". There's cute little scenes like that.

The movie flips back and forth between writing the script for Mary Poppins and P.L. Travers' childhood in Queensland, Australia, where she was known as Helen Goff before adopting her pen name and we can kind of see why she ended up the way she did. Both her parents were pretty horrible at being parents. Her mother, despite having three young children, tried to commit suicide (but didn't) and her father (played by Collin Farrell) was a drunk who could never keep a job and that caused the family to have money problems. He loved Helen very much and told her to always keep her active imagination and Helen returned his adoration and was crushed when he died. Travers was her father's name and thus the reason she used it as her surname for her writing.

The movie shows her more tender side by having her befriend her driver (Paul Giamatti) who takes her to and from the studio and her hotel while she was in L.A. She's cold to him at first, but overtime they develop a very nice friendship, which surprise, never happened in real life! And I mean that Giamatti's character did not exist in real life.

Travers was not invited by Walt to the premier of the movie (which I guess really happened in real life - in fact, I heard that Walt was on vacation the two weeks she was there to help work on the script because he couldn't stand her!), but she attends it anyway because it is her book being made into a movie. She watches the movie and cries because she's just so overwhelmed by emotion, and Walt, who is sitting behind her, puts a tender hand on her shoulder, and again I can guarantee this never happened in real life. I don't know if it's true, but I'm willing to bet it is, I heard that Travers hated the movie! It's too bad she was such an unpleasant woman because I remember being charmed by Mary Poppins and now that I know it was written by her, it kind of tarnishes the movie for me. Looking at her Wikipedia page, I found a lovely quote that pretty much confirms how much a horrible person she was: "Travers died in London on 23 April 1996 at the age of 96. According to her grandchildren, Travers "died loving no one and with no one loving her." Yikes! How can a woman like that write a charming story like Mary Poppins! Good thing when I think of Mary Poppins, I think of Julie Andrews!  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Top Chef

Chef
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr.
Released: May 30, 2014
Viewed in theaters: June 17, 2014


I'm a big fan of Top Chef and since I don't have Bravo, I have to buy the season pass from iTunes and while watching last season, they had an episode where Jon Favreau was a guest and he was there to promote his upcoming film, Chef. I am also a fan of Master Chef (US version is great, but the Aussie version blows it out of the water and sadly I have not been able to see the past couple of seasons because I can't find them on YouTube!) and I knew I would enjoy this movie about a chef who quits his job at a fancy restaurant to follow his dream of owning a food truck. 

Before I get into the movie, let me tell you something a little irritating that happened at the theater. I went on a Tuesday afternoon because movies cost $5 on Tuesdays and I was the only one in the theater when I arrived which didn't surprise me since it had been open for a month. I was thinking I would be the only one in the theater (and it has happened before) as I took my seat in the middle of the theater in the middle of the row. Then, a few minutes later, a guy comes in and out of ALL the empty seats in the theater, where does he choose to sit? Right behind me! I mean, not in the chair directly behind me, but he was sitting in the one next to it. Seriously, out of all the seats he could have chosen, he had to sit in that row? Sheesh, he could have at least put a row in between us. Yes, I am the kind of person who likes to have my own space especially when there are all those empty seats! Then, during the previews, the guy's wife comes in with the popcorn and drinks and I'm sure she thought her husband was there first and that I chose to sit right in front of them! 

Luckily they didn't talk or do anything annoying so I was able to enjoy the movie and forget that two people were sitting right behind me. 

Favreau plays Carl Casper, an acclaimed chef at a Los Angeles restaurant where he clashes with the owner (Dustin Hoffman). When a well-known critic, Ramsay Michael (Oliver Platt), is set to review their restaurant, Carl wants to cook something special, but his boss tells him he can't and stick to the regular everyday menu the restaurant is known for. 

When Carl reads the review the next day, he and the food are slammed and after getting a Twitter lesson from his ten year old son, Percy, he writes a not so nice message to the critic thinking he sent it as a private message, but instead Tweeted it so anyone could see it. His son is amazed that he has so many followers the next day then has to set his dad straight that anyone can read the messages he tweets. This starts a Tweeting war between Carl and Ramsay and soon things get out of hand and Carl is fired and blows up in front of Ramsay which results in an unfortunate YouTube video. 

Deciding that he needs to lie low for awhile and spend time with his son and get out of L.A., his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) suggests he come to Miami with her and Percy. There he gets in contact with his wife's other ex-husband (played by Robert Downey Jr. - when you're the director of Iron Man, it's easy to get him and Scarlett Johansson (who plays the hostess of the restaurant) to have small parts in your other movies!) who hooks him up with a food truck. The thing is a mess, though, so he and his son spend a day fixing it up - throwing junk out and buying a new stove and other necessities. He is pleasantly surprised when his sous chef, Martin (John Leguizamo), has quit his job to come down to help him. (Good thing too because he needed all the help he could get!) 

Carl and Martin are going to drive the truck all the way from Miami to L.A. (that makes the road trip I took from Omaha to Charleston, SC sound not so bad!) and Carl invites Percy to join them since he's out of school for the summer. Percy tells him that he'll ask his mom to see if it's okay and two seconds later he says, "She says it's okay." That was a cute running joke in the movie because he would just text his mom to ask her permission for things. Percy, being the tech savvy kid he is, promotes the food truck online with pictures and videos posted on Facebook and Vine and this gets them a lot of press and word of mouth.

While driving they see a sign for Disney World and Carl asks his son if he wants to stop there, but Percy tells him he'd rather to go New Orleans, a place they discussed going to earlier in the movie. I don't know what kid wouldn't want to go to Disney World, especially if you are right there anyway! At each locale they visit, they serve food that is familiar to that particular region. In Miami, it's Cuban sandwiches; in New Orleans, it's po'boys; in Texas it's pork sandwiches, etc. I have to say the food in the movie does look good, but the food they fix on the food truck looks really delicious. I have never ordered food from a food truck (I have never seen a food truck in real life - I don't think they have them where I live! ) I would not recommend seeing this movie on an empty stomach because it will just make you hungry! Hell, it will probably make you hungry even if you are full!

Of course, being that they are getting a lot of press out there, Ramsay decides to check out the food truck when they return to L.A. and tells Carl he would like to back him and have him open his own restaurant. The movie's ending was a little weak because Carl and his ex-wife get back together and while there were little hints of that, it seemed tacked on. 

If you are a fan of Top Chef or Master Chef, I would recommend this movie! And if you're not, I still think you might enjoy it. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Dying Love

The Fault in Our Stars
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe
Released: June 6, 2014
Viewed in theaters: June 15, 2014



I read the young adult novel this movie is based on a little over a year ago. I had a subsciption to Entertainment Weekly at the time and they kept raving about this book (which was written by John Green and was published in 2012), so finally, after I acquired a Barnes and Noble gift certificate, decided to buy the book to see what the fuss was about. I really liked it. Honestly, if I had never read the book, I probably would have never seen the movie, especially not in the theater. The movie follows the book pretty faithfully and since I only read the book a year and a half ago, I remembered a lot of what happens.

If you have not read the book, it's the story of a sixteen year old girl, Hazel, who has been living with lung cancer since she was 13 and her parents and doctor think a support group would be good for her since she's more on the mopey negative side with sarcastic quips about how short her life is going to be.  At this support group, which she thinks is lame, she meets Gus, who had bone cancer and had a leg amputated because of it. They have a pretty serious relationship for such young ages, but this isn't at all like Twilight where the "romance" is contrived. They don't fall in love within ten minutes and while there is attraction, it's not the only reason they like each other as is the case in Twilight where Bella has to remind the reader every other page how hot Edward is. (Seriously, have you read the books? I am not lying!) Hazel and Gus actually, you know, build a relationship and aren't in love with each other by page ten. 

The two main leads are played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. I have been well aware of Shailene Woodley for about ten years where I barely remember her from playing Marissa Cooper's younger sister (the first one!) on The O.C. and she played Felicity, from the American Girl Collection, in a TV movie. (Which I totally watched because I owned Felicity!) I never watched Shailene's show on the Family Channel and was only reminded that she existed a few years ago when she was in The Descendants. With this movie and Divergent, she's sort of been put in the spotlight. Now, Ansel Elgort, I have never heard of him and had no idea who he was. Apparently he was also in Divergent and plays Shailene's brother! And then they make out in The Fault in Our Stars! If that's not weird, I don't know what is! I'm glad I didn't see Divergent because that would have just weirded me out. Even knowing this information weirded me out a little.

So it's easy to see why Hazel falls for Gus because he is, for real, like the most perfect guy in the world. He's probably a little too perfect. I'm sorry, but no guy, especially no 18 year old guy like this exists! I can't remember if he's this perfect in the book. We are told the story from Hazel's point of view, so of course we're going to see her view of this great guy and it is easy to see why she likes him. He tells her she's beautiful, he is interested in HER story (and not just her caner story), he reads her favorite book (and quotes it!) and when they visit the author in Holland and do not get a welcoming reception, he tells Hazel that HE will write the sequel to her favorite book and I'm pretty sure he was being serious.

Willem Dafoe plays the author of her favorite book and he only wrote one book and then became a recluse. Hazel and Gus track him down in Holland and Gus suggests to her that she use her "wish" to visit Holland but she tells him she already used it to go to Disney World, but Gus, who still has his, uses it to travel to Holland and invites Hazel and her mom (Laura Dern) because he is Perfect Guy. When they visit Peter Van Houten, he is a complete jerk to them and it reminded me of that saying that you should never meet your hero because you will always be disappointed by them. Isn't that a saying? Well, if it isn't, I think it should be because it's probably true! Despite that, they have a wonderful time in Holland and make out in the Anne Frank house and while watching it on film it seemed highly inappropriate (despite everyone applauding for them), but it didn't seem as bad when reading the book.

Like I mentioned earlier, the movie follows the book pretty faithfully, but there are some things I noticed were left out. One of them was the explanation of the title! I can't remember in what context they use "the fault in our stars" or what they were talking about, but it is mentioned in the book because I remember thinking, "Oh, that's where the title comes from." But I don't remember the title being uttered in the film. Another scene they cut was my favorite from the book. It is when they are on the plane flying to Amsterdam and everyone around Hazel and Gus are asleep, but they are still awake (even though they took sleeping pills!) watching 300, a movie I've never seen but apparently has a lot of deaths and this leads into a fascinating discussion about how many people in the world have died since the beginning of time and I find this kind of stuff fascinating and I was really disappointed it wasn't in the movie. Once they showed them on the plane and played a song, I knew it would montage into them at the airport and getting around Amsterdam and I was right.

I'm sure there are more, but I found one little shout out to the book. One of them (I think it was Gus) has a V for Vendetta poster in his bedroom or basement (I know, I have the worst memory ever) and in the book he tells Hazel she looks like Natalie Portman from that movie and that was the first movie they watched together. He doesn't say this to her in the movie because Shailene Woodley does not look like Natalie Portman!

Of course, if you've read the book, then you know the ending and it is the same in the movie. Let's just say a film about two teens with cancer is not going to end well so bring your tissues! I would recommend reading the book, then watching the movie.



Thursday, June 19, 2014

Not So Wicked

Maleficent
Director: Robert Stromberg
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley
Released: May 30, 2014
Viewed in theaters: June 8, 2014



Slight spoilers even if you've already seen Sleeping Beauty
I watched Sleeping Beauty about 10 years ago and found a review about a paragraph long I wrote for it. I was not impressed. I called it "hokey" and declared it had me "rolling my eyes most of the time." Ooh, burn!  Princess Aurora has to be the worst Disney princess ever (EVER!) She's just there to look pretty and sleep. She is so lame! And I know a lot of people think "Aurora" is a pretty name,  but I hate it. It sounds like you have a mouthful of marbles when you say it...it also sounds like a name Scooby-Doo would have no problem pronouncing...Aurora! Obviously if this film had been called Aurora, I would not have seen it. Maleficent, on the other hand, is way more interesting and a frightening Disney villain. She's evil, she knows it and she owns it.

I was curious to see if they were going to keep Maleficent evil from start to finish or give her an origin story and redemption arc and was not surprised when it was the latter since just making her like the animated version would be too one-dimensional. I was thinking it was going to follow the story of Sleeping Beauty but have flashbacks of Maleficent's backstory and twist the ending to make her redeeming. Well, it took some liberties with the original. I can't remember what stayed the same and what they drastically changed.

We learn that Maleficent is from the Moors a magical land filled with CGI creatures. Some are so ugly they're cute and some are just terrifying. She is a fairy who was orphaned as a young girl and the first time she ever sees a human is when she's about 12 years old. His name is Stefan and he will later grow up to become Aurora's father. As teenagers, they have a romance, but eventually he starts coming around less because he's more interested in becoming King which he does when the King at the time declares whoever brings him Maleficent's wings, he will give him the throne. (He was attacked by Maleficent and died from his injuries). In a scene that's been compared to rape, Stefan drugs Maleficent, then cuts off her wings leaving her to wake up in agony and disbelief. He is shown about to kill her after he drugs her, but can't go through with it.

If she wasn't already angry at Stefan for ignoring her before, you can bet she's irate at him now and has become full blown evil. We see how she acquires her staff and raven (who can turn into a human...can't remember if he did that in the animated movie! ) The one scene they do almost verbatim from the 1959 version is Aurora's christening when Maleficent comes in to crash the party which is pretty bad-ass. As Maleficent, Angelina Jolie plays her very theatrically and you can tell she's having fun with the role. Now while she did come off as a little menacing, I didn't find her that scary, but I heard a little kid crying during this scene. She could have been crying for some reason unrelated to the movie though. This movie is rated PG but I feel like it might be scary for anyone under 6...who should just stick to the G rated movies, anyway, or just don't bring anyone under 6 to the movies... 

The baby they had for that scene to play Aurora was seriously the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. And she was super smiley which was adorable. Yes, most babies are cute, but I would never call a baby "beautiful" but this baby was really pretty! And Angelina's own daughter, Vivian plays five year old Aurora in a couple of scenes because she was the only kid who wasn't afraid of Angelina in her Maleficent get-up, ha! While watching the movie, I couldn't help but be impressed with Angelina's cheekbones because those things could cut some serious glass, but then I read they enhanced those as well as her eyes with some movie magic. 

As we all know, Maleficent puts a curse on Aurora that will cause her to prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday and this will cause her to fall into an endless sleep which can only be lifted by true love's kiss which Maleficent knows doesn't exist because she had her heart broken by Aurora's father. King Stefan (Sharlto Copely) orders all the spindles in the land to be burned and locked into the dungeon but still sends Aurora away to live in a cottage in the forest with the three pixies (played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville). I found the pixies to be so annoying in the animated film and could not stand them. They are still quite annoying, but even more so, terrifying to look at! They made CGI pixies, then glued the face of the actress on the pixie they were portraying. It was absolutely terrifying and just didn't look right. They make themselves into normal humans during the time they're watching Aurora in the cottage and that was a huge relief for me! I don't know why they just didn't do what they did with Julia Roberts when she played Tinkerbell in Hook and have the actresses just acting against really large objects to make themselves small. To be fair, I haven't seen Hook in ages so maybe that doesn't hold up as well, but it couldn't have been bad as what they did in this movie. That was just scary! 

Aurora (Elle Fanning) still manages to find her way back to the castle and prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep. One of the pixies tells the King that "she's only sleeping" and he goes ballistic which I don't really blame him. She may be "only sleeping", but there's only one way to wake her and at that point it's looking impossible she'll ever wake up. 

As Maleficent has been spying/keeping an eye on/checking up with Aurora/whatever you want to call it, she's actually developed a soft spot for the girl who thinks Maleficent is her fairy godmother as she knows she's been keeping watch over her since she was a young girl. Maleficent scoffs at this, but then invites the girl to play with the magical GCI creatures of the Moors. In one scene, a generically cute boring boy comes by to say hello Aurora. Oh, look, it's Phillip! Yawn, I mean, yay! 

Phillip comes back later when he's at the castle and the pixies encourage him to kiss Aurora which he does and she doesn't wake up. At first, I thought she didn't wake up because that was seriously the lamest kiss I have ever seen. He barely brushed his lips against hers. Just between you and me, I think Prince Phillip might be gay. But no, it doesn't work because Phillip doesn't love Aurora....because he's gay? But in a scene similar to another Disney  movie that came out last year and stars Adele Dazeem (sorry, that will never get old!), a tearful Maleficent tells Aurora she's sorry and kisses her forehead...and then she awakes. She's probably not asleep for longer than an hour and in the animated movie, wasn't she asleep for a few months weeks? Months? Years? I really don't remember. 

If you're waiting for Maleficent to turn into a dragon, you will sorely be disappointed. There is still a dragon though, but it's just not her who morphs into it. And as with any Disney movie, the villain (who is King Stefan in this instance) dies by falling to his death.   

If you're a firm believer Maleficent should always and forever remain evil, this movie is not for you. And even I had mixed feelings about Maleficent showing a more human side, but I knew there was no way they couldn't make a movie about her story without giving her a redemption arc. But seriously, the only reason to really watch this movie is for Angelina Jolie's performance. It's now my second favorite AJ performance...after Lisa in Girl, Interrupted, of course! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

OS Love

Her
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde
Released: December 18, 2013

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to 12 Years a Slave)
Best Original Screenplay - Spike Jonze (won)
Best Original Score - Will Butler and Owen Pallett (lost to Steven Price for Gravity)
Best Original Song - "The Moon Song" by Spike Jonze and Karen O (lost to "Let It Go" by Kristin Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez for Frozen)
Best Production Design (lost to The Great Gatsby)


This is a movie I would not recommend watching with your parents or other family members or with somebody you've just started seeing. In fact, just watch it by yourself. Let's just say there are a couple awkward scenes that I was very glad I was watching it by myself! 

This movie takes place in the future (when exactly, we're not told) and I knew what it was about going in so it wasn't a huge shock that Joaquin Phoenix's character, Theodore, has a relationship with his OS system. Before seeing the movie, I assumed he was an anti-social, socially awkward person who had never had a (real human) girlfriend, but he used to be marry (to Rooney Mara's characters) and has friends (played by Amy Adams and Chris Pratt) so he's not a total, in lack of a better term, weird-o creep.

In this future world, everyone is always walking around with a headset on and everything is automated. Theodore works for a card company where he dictates letters for people who want to send a heartfelt message to loved ones, so they hire a company like the one Theodore works for to do it for him, which is a little messed up that that they have to hire a total stranger to write their personal messages! Theodore does this by verbally saying what he wants written down and the computer writes it down for him.

When he sees an ad for a new operating system with advanced artificial intelligence, he gets one and while setting it up, he's asked a couple questions which includes things like, "What is your relationship like with your mother?" He chooses to have a female voice and soon Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is born. Samantha is the anti-Suri. I don't have Suri, but I have seen plenty of people interact with "her", and if you ask her a totally off the wall question she will say (in a very robotic voice), "I do not know" or something to that affect and even if you do ask her a simple question, she will misunderstand it and say "I do not know" or give an answer that has nothing to do with what you asked. If I had Suri, I would just get aggravated with it. I can verbally tell my iPod touch to plan a certain artist and four times out of five, it always gets it wrong! I do have a GPS that talks to me, but I don't communicate it with me. That also has a very stiff, automated voice. Samantha, being voiced by an actual person, has a "real" voice and communicates like a real person and she's very charming and makes jokes and can answer questions within seconds and reminds Theodore when he has meetings and reads him his e-mails. She is very organized and friendly and you can see why Theodore is so taken with her even though she is just a computer. She and Theodore have deep, philosophical conversations and she confesses to him she wishes she were human to see what it would be like.

There was one thing that confused me. This new OS is suppose to be super advanced and something that nobody has seen, but there's a scene where Theodore is playing a video game and at one point he gets to this weird little alien who talks to him and calls him names and while this is going on, he's also having a conversation with Samantha who's telling him he got an e-mail from a friend who sent pictures  of her friend who she wants to set him up with. He is able to post the pictures on the screen, along with the game, and the character in the game is able to see the pictures and comment on the girl and says how fat she is (obviously she is not since she is played by Olivia Wilde). If the OS Samantha is a part of is supposed to be this new marvel of technology because the OS can interact with you in personal ways, is it really that amazing if your video game characters (even if they are jerks) can also interact with you outside of the game? And to me, that is just creepy.

Samantha insists Theodore go on a date with the woman because she's noticed that Theodore hasn't had much interaction woman. Now I don't like it when real life people meddle in my personal life, you can bet that I would really not like it if some Suri-like computer was meddling in it! So they go out and here is this beautiful woman who is interested in him, but like I say, if it's too good to be true, then it is and she just goes crazy on him and the date does not end well.

He and Samantha start connecting on a more deeper level and one night one thing leads to another and then one of the most awkward sex scenes I've ever seen onscreen happens which is pretty amazing how awkward it is considering there is no nudity and only one human (perhaps that's the reason it's so uncomfortable?) It is a lot like watching people have phone sex with a lot of heavy breathing. I don't know how Samantha could know what it's like to have sex since she doesn't have a physical body, but whatever.

Theodore, the human and Samantha, the OS become an official couple and you're waiting for his friends to find out and look at him funny or ask what he's been smoking, but they seem to take it very well and are happy for him. In fact, in this future world, it is not so weird for a true odd couple like that to happen as Theodore is not the only human dating his OS. If you think about it, people are already more interested in their iPhones and other technological devices than paying attention to the real human beings around them, so maybe it's not so far fetched that people will be in relationships with their iPhones in the future....which would be so weird and I hope that never happens! But perhaps it's not so off the mark. Theodore's friends are so welcoming of Samantha that they all go on a mini vacation together, the four of them. There's a scene where the three humans are outside enjoying a picnic and Theodore's phone is also lying on the blanket and they're all having a conversation and Samantha seems perfectly content joking around with them even though she's not physically there. In fact, she even makes a statement saying she's glad she's not a human because she can be anywhere and everywhere at once and doesn't have to worry about mortality.

As with any relationship, there has a few problems. (Hmm, you think?) Samantha is worried that Theodore is coming distant and has asked a woman to be a surrogate and have sex with him so they can have a somewhat real physical relationship. The woman doesn't talk, but instead attaches a little fleck that looks like a mole to her upper lip and it allows Samantha to be connected to her...or something...I didn't quite get that and Samantha does the talking for her. I thought it would have been clever if they had Scarlett Johansson playing the woman but understood immediately why they didn't when Theodore can't go through with it and the woman, now out of character, is totally horrified and embarrassed and starts speaking.

Theodore gets jealous when Samantha says she's been talking to other operating systems (one of them with a very suave voice!) and is incredulous (as was I!) when she admits that she's in love with 641 other people because she is also the OS for 8,000 other humans. I think this shocked me because I just assumed that an individual OS was created for each human, but I guess there is only one Suri for the millions of people who have her services, so I shouldn't have been so surprised by that.

Inevitably, their relationship doesn't last, but it's not who you would think it is that ends it. A very interesting and thought-provoking movie, but like I said, make sure you watch it alone. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Raising Life

Raising Helen
Director: Garry Marhsall
Cast: Kate Hudson, Joan Cusack, John Corbett, Helen Mirren, Hayden Panettiere, Abigail Breslin, Spener Breslin
Released: May 28, 2004


Life As We Know It
Director: Greg Berlanti
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas
Released: October 8, 2010



I decided to review both these movies together as they have a similar plot: parents die in a car crash and leave their children to the least likely people (or person) to raise them.

In Raising Helen, Helen (Kate Hudson) and Jenny (Joan Cusack) are sisters whose older sister and brother-in-law are killed in a car accident. Or maybe their sister just moved to Wisteria Lane since she's played by Felicity Huffman and this movie came out the same year Desperate Housewives premiered. By the way, Cusack and Huffman, who are the same age, are 17 years older than Hudson. They are technically old enough to be her mother....I know the characters may not be the same age as the actors (I'm just going by the actors' ages since we don't know how old their characters), but 17 years just seems like a big gap.

In Life As We Know It, Holly (Katherine Heigl) and Messer (Josh Duhamel) are set up by a couple they're best friends with, but the date is such a disaster that there's not even a date because they piss each other off even before they drive to the restaurant. However, they keep seeing each other since their friends get married and they are the godparents of their daughter, Sophie. The parents, too, are killed in a car crash. Why is it always a car crash? I suppose that's the easiest way to kill off a couple of people. Having them murdered would be too traumatizing and a plane crash would be killing many more innocent people.

Guess who the parents left as the guardian to their children in both movies? That's right, Helen, the young party girl who is single  and has a full time job as a booking agent for models is left to raise her two nieces and one nephew. Hayden Pana-whatever (I never know how to pronounce her last name, so that's what I call her in real life!) is ten years younger than Kate Hudson and even in the movie they have more of a sister relationship than an aunt/niece one, forget a mother/daughter one! Spencer and Abigail Breslin are the other two kids and Abigail is so young she looks like she was a fetus not that long ago! And Holly and Messer are left to raise one year old Holly on their own.

In both movies, nobody knew that this was the wish of the deceased parents and if they should die, they would be raising their kids. That seems odd to me. I don't have kids so I don't know how the legal stuff  works if you and your spouse die, but I would assume once you choose someone to be your guardian, THEY SHOULD KNOW and maybe even have to sign a contract prepared by your lawyer SO THEY KNOW!! Because in both movies they're all like, "WHAT? They chose me/us?" Really, movies, really?

I don't know which deceased parents were more stupid. It doesn't make sense for the parents in Life to leave their daughter with two people who aren't married and can't stand each other. Since the house mortgage is paid off, they both move into their dead friends' house together which is just weird. Not the fact their their living in their dead friends' home...hey, if you have a free place to take care of a kid, go for it. What's weird is that they're both living there together raising a child, but yet they have separate lives. You think that would be weird for their dating lives, but they don't seem to have any problems with it. At least they explain why nobody in their immediate family would be fit parents for their daughter because Holly and Messer see if there's anything better and we meet a sister who's a stripper, another sibling who has ten kids, and a frail old father. It would have made more sense if they left Sophie to Holly (the more responsible of the two). Were they not thinking that their friend might get married (to different people!) and the situation would be awkward for everyone? Of course, they do end up together (like you didn't see that one coming) and after sleeping together, Holly says to Messer, "Do you think our friends had this all planned out so we would end up together?" Well, if that was their intention, that was pretty stupid because what if things hadn't worked out? Then they probably would have gone to court to see who would raise Sophie and everything would have been a mess. Stupid deceased parents!

And then why do the parents in Raising Helen (a title I still don't understand) have the younger sister as the sole guardian when Jenny already has two kids with one on the way and is married and knows how to deal with kids? It is established early on that Jenny is the black sheep of the family while Helen and Lynette are very close. Lynette leaves a note for her two sisters explaining why she made the choice she did and she basically chose Helen because she was more like her. Uh-huh. Not buying it, movie! By the way, I'm willing to bet that the two kids who play Cusack's children are one of the crew member's because they have no lines and are only in a couple scenes. They're just there to show us she is a Mom.

Out of the two scenarios, I think Helen is in the worst situation. She has to take care of three children by herself who are all old enough to remember their parents (and while there's the sad funeral scene, except for a few tears shed by the youngest, they seem to get over there parents pretty quickly!) while at least Holly and Messer are only dealing with one baby who will have no recollection of her parents and even calls Holly "Mama" by the end of the movie. Also, Sophie is a really cute baby (although they do have their crying baby and dirty diaper baby moments) while those three kids are super annoying. Hayden plays a very bratty teen who screams at everybody and the Breslin children are there to be the annoying kids, especially the boy. There's a scene where Helen is smoking and the boy tells her, "We don't need any more dead parents" or something to that effect. I know they were doing it for the comedy, but there is no way a child who just lost their parents days earlier would say something like that! They would not make a joke out of it!

Both movies have many wacky scenes where the new parents are taking care of their newly acquired children. There's a scene in Life where Messer has to take Sophie to work with him because Holly already had other engagement and he leaves her with the taxi driver to take care of her! And then there's a scene where Holly has just changed Sophie and has baby poo on her nose when the neighbors (one of them is played by Melissa McCarthy) come over. And in Raising Helen, there's a scene where Helen is helping with a fashion show (her boss is played by Helen Mirren who is much too good for this movie) and she brings Abigail who sees a model with a dog (played by Paris Hilton...I don't know why she just didn't play herself!) on the other side of the runway and crawls across the runway to get to it causing the models to topple over one another and thus gets Helen fired from her job. One of the most ridiculous part of the movie is that the four of them live in a tiny apartment in Queens with one bathroom. Four people and one bathroom? No, thank you! And there's a scene where Helen find out that Hayden has gone to a hotel with her boyfriend after a dance and she and Jenny go over there to confront them, but Helen chickens out and doesn't want to make Hayden mad at her, so she asks Jenny to do it. The scene was really weird because inside the room, the boy is in the bathroom and Hayden is in the room. You can tell that nothing has happened yet and when she hears someone knocking on the door, it looks like there's this flash of relief that crosses her face, but then she starts screaming at her aunt for ruining her life...maybe I just read too much into that look on her face and I'm giving this movie too much credit.

I read a review of Raising Helen that said that the funny parts weren't funny and the dramatic parts weren't dramatic which I agree with. The movie was just really boring. I didn't care about the characters and I found it annoying how Helen had this great amazing glamorous life. Not that Life As We Know It was a great movie by any means, but at least they made Holly and Messer a little more "real" and the movie kept my interest more than the other.

Actually, the more I think about it, while these two movies have similarities, Raising Helen reminds me more of Stepmom.

Here's a quick review I wrote of Raising Helen I did when I first saw it on DVD about ten years ago...as you can see, my opinion did not change!


Raising Helen - This movie has the stupidest, most unrealistic plotline ever. As you all probably know, Kate Hudson's sister and brother in law die in a car crash and they have 3 children and who do they ask to care for them? Cool Aunt Helen from New York who's lifestyle includes clubbing and partying and a busy career. I can just picture the writers now thinking of how they’re going to make a depressing situation into a wacky! Funny! Hilarious! one! Kate acts more like the kid's cool older sister than a mom. She doesn't give them to Joan Cusack's character who actually already has children, thus has the experience. Duhhhh. God, this movie was so friggin unrealistic. And why did Dead Mom choose cool Aunt Helen? Because she was the most like her! The whole movie reeked of bs. The oldest daughter was such a brat who needed a good bitch slappin'! Gary Marshall seems like a nice guy, but honestly, Gar? Do you really need to keep reminding me that Kate Hudson plays Helen Harris during the deleted scenes segment? Got it the first time! Thanks!