Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dr. Watson, I Presume

Sherlock Holmes
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
Released: 12/25/09
Viewed in theaters: 12/26/09

Oscar nominations:
Best Score - Hans Zimmer
Best Art Direction

Would you believe me if I told you I have never read a Sherlock Holmes book, much less ever seen one? Of course I know who he is as he is everywhere in pop culture. Everybody has heard of Sherlock Holmes, the world's most-renowned detective.

I went into this movie expecting it to be boring and dry, but was pleasantly surprised. The movie may be a little long with a two and a half hour running time, but there are plenty of action and suspense scenes to move it along smoothly. This was the first Ritchie movie I've ever seen and he has a very stylized way of directing. Normally, I find too much slow-motion (such as the scene in the boxing ring) to be distracting and gratuitous, but he does it in a clever way where it works as part of the story. His view of Sherlock Holmes is a little different from the traditional Holmes we're used to; I'm pretty sure the original Holmes wasn't an action figure, but in Ritchie's vision, it works.

If there's any actor who should win Comeback of the Decade, it's Robert Downey Jr. Despite winning a Golden Globe for his work on Ally McBeal in 2001, he veered off track, but managed to make an impressive comeback in the latter half of this decade with Iron Man (and a sequel), an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder (and remember, comedic performances are hardly ever noticed by the Academy), and now Sherlock Holmes (which inevitably has a sequel in the works).

Jude Law plays his sidekick, John Watson, and well, let's just say Downey has more chemistry with him than he has with Rachel McAdams who plays the only person who has ever outsmarted Sherlock. I can't even remember her name because she's barely in the movie and the character is very unwritten. I like McAdams as an actress (who doesn't love Regina George, after all?), but I didn't quite feel she was right for this role.

This is a fun movie with (mostly) great performances and the background of old England is stunning.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It Is Written

Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor
Released: 11/12/08
Viewed in theaters: 1/20/09

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Danny Boyle (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Simon Beaufoy (won)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Sound (won)
Best Editing (won)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Dark Knight)
Best Original Song - Jai Ho (won)
Best Original Score (won)


Remember ten years ago when a little game show hosted by Regis Philbin called Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? invaded our living rooms and was on at least three or four nights a week for the first few months or so it aired? And then remember how we all got sick of it and nobody now watches it during its pre-primetime slot? Well, if there's one good thing to come out of this addicting but quickly tiring game is that it lent the backdrop to one of my favorite movies of '08, hell, one of my favorite movies from the decade.

This movie has no big names (although Patel and Pinto are now pretty well known!), no special effects, and isn't based on a popular or beloved book, so how did it manage to be so popular and win the most coveted prize of all film awards? Well, the story, for one, is quite engaging and it's quite clever how they connect the game of Millionaire with Jamal's upbringing and how all the questions seem to tie in with his life. There are three young actors who play the three main characters of Jama, Latika, and Salim - young children, pre-teens, and teenagers. The young actors who play the children are absolutely adorable.

This movie is depressing and heart-warming; funny and horrifying; romantic and sad; but most of all it is a great movie.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear

Elf
Director: John Favreau
Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart
Released: 11/7/03
Viewed in theaters: 11/8/03 and 11/28/03

It may be too early to call Elf a Christmas classic since it only came out six years ago, but I have no doubt it will end up as one. It's one of my favorite holiday movies, if not my favorite. I always watch it around this time of year and no matter how many times I've seen it (I think this was my 7th or 8th viewing), there are certain lines and scenes that never fail to make me laugh. If you've never seen this film (GASP!!!!), then you aren't only missing out on one of the funniest holiday movies, you're just missing out on one of the funniest movies.

I can pretty much recite the dialogue verbatim and have used many of the lines in my own life. Who haven't we called a "cotton-headed ninny muggins"? And I can proudly recite the four main food groups of elves: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.

Ferrell is infectious and has a childlike earnest as Buddy that you can see why he's so likable, but you can also see why people would get impatient with him! I loved the way they created the North Pole; very reminiscent of those classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

I'm not ashamed to tell people that I cry during Elf. The scene at the end where everyone is singing Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town so Santa's sleigh can run on Christmas spirit. That scene gets me every time. EVERY TIME!

The illustrated book about Buddy's journey from the North Pole to New York was really cute and I'm surprised they didn't make that as a real book as a tie-in with the movie. (Or did they?) I would have bought that!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Alternate Endings

Warning: major spoilers for the film and book!

My Sister's Keeper
Director: Nick Cassavettes
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack
Released: 6/26/09

I had pretty low expectations while watching this, knowing that the book is always better than the movie, at least 90% of the time. The film wasn't horrible, but it definitely had flaws. A lot of them. It seemed more like a made-for-TV (perhaps Lifetime? Of course, many of Picoult's books seem like they would fit in perfectly with Lifetime's lineup.

As you probably already know, this movie is based on Jodi Picoult's best-selling novel of the same name about a young girl named Anna (played by Breslin) who sues her parents for the rights to her own body because she was genetically conceived to have the same blood type as her older sister, Kate, who is ridden with cancer. I read it three and a half years ago and it was one of those can't-put-down books. The problem with the movie is the way they translated it to the big screen didn't quite work. If you've read the book, you may remember that different characters alternate telling the story in their POV with each chapter. There's random voice overs from the different characters that just seem out of place. One second, two characters are talking to each other, then the next you hear a voice over from one of the characters. Very distracting. The film is very manipulative and the director tries way to hard beating the audience over the head with his "okay, you're supposed to cry now because this is sad, damnit!" scenes. And every other scene involves a sappy, melancholy song set to the characters in slo-mo whether they're playing at a beach or blowing bubbles while jumping on a trampoline. After a while, you start to roll your eyes.

Baldwin plays the lawyer Breslin hires and he plays his character exactly the same way he plays Jack Donaghy that I kept preparing for a punch line. Diaz plays the mother and she is a shrill little harpy in this movie, but I suppose her character has good reason to be so upset.

But those little flaws aside, the film does follow the novel pretty faithfully...until the end. And here's where the major spoiler comes in place, so stop reading if you've never read the book and don't want to be spoiled, don't read the next paragraph...

In the book, there is a huge twist and Anna dies in a car accident and her kidney is given to her sister who goes on to live a relatively normal and healthy life. There's a scene in the movie where Anna and Kate are talking about heaven and I was thinking, "Aha! Foreshadowing! Everybody thinks it's going to be Kate, but it's really Anna!" Turns out I was the wrong one. In the film, that never happens and Kate dies, as one would expect someone that sick with cancer to do. I'm not sure why they changed the ending (perhaps too lazy?), but it is a little funny that the more preposterous ending is from the book. Hollywood loves those kinds of crazy twist endings, so you think it would eat that up.

If you've never read the book, you might enjoy the movie (if you can stand really cheesy scenes), but I would recommend the book before the film.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Very Long Review

Um spoilers...and please ignore how crappy this looks (especially towards the end)! I have not mastered Blogspot yet; why can't it be simple to use like LiveJournal?

Batman
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger
Released: 6/23/89

Oscar nominations:
Best Art Direction (won)



Batman Forever
Director: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman, Chris O'Donnell
Released: 6/16/95
Viewed in theaters: 6-7/?/95

Oscar nominations:
Best Cinematography (lost to Braveheart)
Best Sound (lost to Apollo 13)
Best Sound Effects (lost to Braveheart)



The Dark Knight
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman
Released: 7/18/08
Viewed in theaters: 7/20/08 (Um, my first viewing)

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger (won)
Best Sound Editing (won)
Best Art Direction (lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Cinematography (lost to Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Editing (lost to Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Makeup (lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Visual Effects (lost to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Best Sound (lost to Slumdog Millionaire)


As you can see, I watched three different Batman films. Three different decades, three different directors, three different Batmans (sorry, Clooney, you didn't make the cut - there's no way you can make me watch that dreck!) Now I should preface this by saying that I'm not a Batman fan in the least; I know nothing when it comes to the world of Batman. In fact, for the longest time, I had no idea he was referred to as the Dark Knight. When I first heard of Nolan's title, I thought he was the one who came up with it (I'm being serious, people) and thought it was a catchy title and could totally see Batman being called the Dark Knight. Little did I know... Actually, they refer to him as the Dark Knight twice in Batman Forever, but I didn't remember that since it's been at least ten years since I've seen that movie. I also didn't know that Harvey Dent and Two Face were the same person. I remember Eckhart doing press before TDK was released and didn't understand why all the interviewers kept bringing up the character of Two Face and then I put two and two together. Aha!
So in this review I'm going to compare and contrast the different elements of these three movies. I totally won't discriminate - oh, who am I kidding? I so have a clear favorite and you might be surprised by which one it is. Or not. Probably not.

Director: Burton v. Schumacher v. Nolan
All three movies are very different in style. Burton's has a certain athestic where you definitely feel like you're watching one of his films. There's a very gritty and almost nostalgic feel to '89. It kind of reminds me of an old mafia movie, especially with the way the men dress: trenchcoats, bowties, vests, fedoras. Watching it is almost the equivalent of watching a comic book come to life.
Then there's Schumacher who took over when Burton's movies were deemed too dark. (While I didn't find '89 scary, Batman Returns is pretty twisted and dark). Forever is a flashy summer blockbuster. It's almost like watching a live-action cartoon. Most of the characters are caricatures with over the top performances and it's clear Schumacher chose the actors based on their attractiveness or popularity at the time. Watching this is like eating a bag filled with fun-sized candy bars: enjoyable at first, but the more you have, you start to get sick of it and want to stop and make it go away. It gets very tiring very fast.
Nolan's version is the most realistic and I mean this as a compliment when I say it's like I wasn't even watching a Batman movie (except when Bale showed up in costume). All the characters felt real, not as though they were taken from Saturday morning cartoons and there was no dialogue that sounded like it came from a balloon bubble. It's insane how well this movie did. Look at it this way: according to IMDb.com, it made more money in the first six days of its release than Batman Begins made in its ENTIRE run. As Brian Fellows would say, That's crazy! Oh yeah, you should know Begins made $205 million. Crazy! (By the way, TDK made over a billion dollars around the world).

Gotham:

Obviously, the look and feel of the Batman's hometown differs in all three films. There's a very 1930s New York vibe to it in '89. It doesn't look like a place I'd visit because of its dark and gritty appearance. I read a review that said the exterior shots of the city looks like "a diagram of an artificial city" and yeah, I have to agree. Of course, this film came out twenty years ago, so of course the special effects are going to be outdated and crappy. I'm sure twenty years from now we'll all have a good laugh over how big the cell phones are in TDK.
If Burton's Gotham looks like a place I wouldn't want to visit, then Schumacher's vision is a city I would avoid at all costs. Good Lord. His Gotham makes Las Vegas look like the small Iowa town where my mom grew up. There are neon lights everywhere and the GCI exterior just looks cheap. Forever's Gotham gave me a huge headache and can you imagine living there? Ugh!
Nolan's Gotham is a real place where real people live. Of course, that's because it's Chicago, but they film it so it's not obviously Chicago and it works. No stupid and cheap made-up Gothams.

Batman/Bruce Wayne: Keaton v. Kilmer v. Bale:
In all three movies, I prefer Bruce Wayne to Batman because I cannot take a grown man in a bat costume seriously and all three actors are way better when playing Wayne. Keaton is charismatic as Wayne but it bugs me he didn't alternate his voice as Batman and the delivery of the line about "dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight" to the Joker is just awful. Another thing that bugs me is the scene where he's sleeping hanging upside down. There are so many things wrong with that. First of all, Batman is human, not a bat, so WTF? And if he was a bat-human, wouldn't he be sleeping during the day? Duh! And second of all, Vicki Vale was there and saw him; wouldn't she be suspicious? It was just stupid.
Kilmer at least attempt to change his voice as Batman, but he gives off a very metrosexual vibe (perhaps its the nipples on the Batsuit?) as Bruce Wayne as in he wouldn't want to break a nail. With Bale, you could totally see him taking some names and, well, pulling a Bale on them. Now his Batman voice is unintentionally funny but you have to give the guy credit for at least trying. Maybe he should've used his natural accent as Batman, though people would all be "why the f--- does Batman have a British accent?"

The Women: Basinger v. Kidman V. Gyllenhaal:
The love story in the Batman films always seem like filler to me and they're just thrown in there to fill a quota. As photographer Vicki Vale in '89, I thought Kim Basinger looked better with her hair pulled back and wearing glasses then when she was "glammed up" in those ugly pouffy dresses. She has so much hair that it's almost her supporting co-star.

As Chase Meridian, Kidman's role in Forever is pretty much only to seduce Batman and make booty calls and come off as a desperate. See, she's in love with Batman, but Bruce is in love with her (she's his psychiatrist - and whose therapist looks like that anyway? Please!) and she doesn't know her patient is the Caped Crusader. Hijinks!
So of course everyone knows Katie Holmes played Rachel Dawes, Bruce's childhood friend and love interest in Batman Begins, but due to "schedule conflicts" (please, Joey Potter, we weren't born yesterday!), Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped in for her in its sequel. So here are my thoughts about TomKatGate:



I like Maggie, but I found her to be the weakest link in TDK only because I didn't really care for the character of Rachel and found any scenes with her to be boring. While I was semi-spoiled about her death (when I was walking into the theater, I walked past these guys who said, "I can't believe they did that to Batman's girlfriend!" So yeah, it wasn't that hard to figure out something terrible was going to happen to her), and while I felt bad for Bruce, I was kinda glad she was gone from the movie at that point. Oh, well, at least a certain someone's sister played her so I can write hilarious captions like this:


"Hey, didn't I make out with your brother once?"

The Joker: Nicholson v. Ledger
It's the age-old question that's been going on for decades (okay, under two years): who was the better Joker? Who do I prefer? I was a teenager when 10 Things I Hate About You came out, so who do you think? Hey, I don't discriminate...against hot Australians. Okay, I may be a bit biased with my decision. I've always been a Ledger fan (and yes, that was an awful day for me). Plus I can't stand Nicholson and his "oh, I think I'll wear sunglasses and sit in the front row of the Oscars this year even though I'm NOT NOMINATED because I can get away with it because I'm some Hollywood legend." Did you know that he would only be cast as the Joker if only Burton billed him first? Uh, shouldn't the guy playing the MAIN TITLE CHARACTER be billed first? Dude, get over yourself!
But actor preference aside, let's just focus on the acting aspect. Now I have no idea whose Joker is more like the original one (probably Jack's since his is more like a comic-book character), but if I watched a clip from '89 without knowing who played the Joker, I would have said Nicholson in a second. His schtick is he falls in a vat of chemicals and his skin turns white (not burned as you might think) and he has a permanent smile. He kills people by using a cute array of deadly gags like hand buzzers that electrocute and acid-squirting flower pens. He's a happy clown! He likes to twirl his cane and dance to Prince. (WTF, I know). Creepy, yes. Scary, um, not really. He plays it very campy. Now I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, but I really don't see what the big deal about his Joker is and I remember when it was announced Heath was playing the new Joker and everybody was saying he would never do Jack justice and how he was going to suck and ruin the movie. I'm sorry, but if John Lithgow (who was actually considered for the part; I bet he wouldn't have demanded to be filled first!) had played the Joker the EXACT same way as Jack did, nobody would be saying anything about his performance. And now it's funny that people are saying Heath was the better Joker (except for the stubborn Burton fanboys).
Now if I saw TDK and didn't know who played the Joker, I would have never guessed in a million years who it was. (Well, except for the three second he's not wearing make-up, then it's pretty obvious). I think the voice he used (which Entertainment Weekly described as "Al Franken mixed with a nerdish pedophile" - thank you, EW, I couldn't have said it better myself) was the big reason that made Ledger almost unrecognizable. In real life, Heath's voice was like buttah, but his Joker voice is so damn creepy! Now, undoubtedly, he is scarier than '89 Joker, but I would dare say that he is funnier too...and he didn't even have all those cutesy gags. I laughed when he overheard one of his goons describe him as "the crazy clown in the cheap purple suit" and tells him "Oh, by the way, my suit wasn't cheap. You should know; you paid for it." And by the fourth time he asked somebody if they wanted to know how he got his scars, all I could think of was '08 Joker at some dinner party, asking guests that same question and people thinking, Oh, God, not this schmuck again!"
Also, did anyone else think he rigged those detonators on the boats so they would blow up their own boat instead of the other one?
Two Face: Jones v. Eckhart:
In Forever, Two Face is every bit
the comic book caricature
with his "normal" side and his
"wild" side. Not only is his
appearance and suit divided into
two, but also his head-
quarters and he has two, uh,
concubines, I guess: Sugar and
Spice. We never see him as D.A. Harvey Dent, although there
is a quick explanation of how he
turned evil, but I didn't really
understood what happened to him physically.
In TDK, Eckhart doesn't
actually become Two
Face until the third act; we see
him as good guy Dent for the
first two. His Two Face makeup is definitely more gruesome
than Jones'. In
fact, the only thing I would say is not very realistic about TDK (well, besides, some of the Joker's 24-style terrorist activities; seriously, you would need to know some serious access codes to pull off what he does in that movie), is the fact that this man is walking around with half of his FACE burned off right in the open. Even if you lived to survive that, there's no way anybody could go out in the open like that and not get infected. But that said, it is still a Batman movie. I have to give Eckhart props, because even though Heath Ledger steals the movie, he definitely held his own.
Harvey Dent is also featured (in a very small role) in '89 and played by Billy Dee Williams. Burton never got to use him as Two Face, but there was some serious foreshadowing when he reads a letter from Batman at the end of the film and states, "If the forces of evil should rise again, call me." Hmmmmm....he was talking about himself! And speaking of foreshadowing, there was some of that in TDK when Fox tells Bruce that his newest weapon of choice "should do well against cats". Whoever could he be referring to?

The Riddler and Robin:
To get a good sense of Jim Carrey as the Riddler in Forever, take Ace Ventura and the Grinch and smash them together, multiply that by ten and you have the Riddler. Carrey is ridiculously over the top and I have a feeling that Schumacher was encouraging him to be as obnoxious as possible. Unlike '89 and TDK where the villains are feared, I never got that sense with the Riddler or Two Face. They were used more for comic relief, and honestly, they weren't that funny. While I wanted more scenes with the Joker when I watched TDK, the Riddler
couldn't get off my screen soon enough when I watched Forever. Now I've seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so I know Carrey is a capable actor, but man, he is awful
in this. There's even a scene where he says something to Batman, then asks, "What that over the top?" YES! Yes, it was!
The real person we should feel sorry for, though, in this
movie (after all, Carrey laughed
his way to the bank), is Chris O'Donnell. Not only did he have to play the useless Robin (who is
Batman's answer to Scrappy-Doo), but he is the only one from this film who went on to be in
the even worse Batman and Robin - which I've never seen and never want to judging from the
few clips of it I have seen.


Okay, to wrap things up, because I'm sure nobody is reading
this anymore, I actually preferred
Michael Gough's Alfred in '89 and Forever to Michael Caine's in TDK because with the former
that's the only character I've ever seen him play, so he is
Alfred to me. With the latter, I've seen
Caine in other movies and at award shows, so I just saw
Michael Caine. (Though he did have
some funny lines). Commissioner Gordon is hardly used in
'89 and Forever, but is very much
used in a great storyline in TDK and Gary Oldman is right
behind Ledger and Echkart in terms
of performance.

Why so...Sirius?

Somehow my font keeps changing and and I have no idea why and this review is going to look really messed up and I'm about to go all Christian Bale on this stupid site, so I better wrap this up. Anyway, here is my final evaluation of the movies:
Batman: See it if only for it's a classic and it did jump start the whole franchise (which is a good and bad thing). And if you don't compare Nicholson's Joker to Ledger's, he's not entirely that bad. I still think Lithgow would have make a better '89 Joker, though.
Batman Forever: This movie sucks. Don't see it if you haven't already.
The Dark Knight: This movie is awesome and if you haven't already seen it, you must live under a rock. There's a reason this movie made a boatload of money: because everyone and their grandma went to see it...multiple times!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Delusional Betty

Nurse Betty
Director: Neil LaBute
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear
Released: 9/08/00
Viewed in theaters: 9/15/00



What makes this dark comedy a great movie is that it's an original story, which is something you don't see a lot in Hollywood with all the remakes and sequels you see at cinemas. For instance, a couple weeks ago I saw The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and while it was an entertaining movie, there was nothing new to the hijacking plot we've all seen a thousand times before. Yes, I realize it was a remake of an older movie, but even if it wasn't, there would still be nothing original about it.

Zellweger plays the titular character, a naive, young sweet-faced waitress from Kansas who is an aspiring nurse and obsessed with the cheesy soap opera A Reason to Love. She is fanatical about Dr. David Revell, the handsome main character of the show who is played by Kinnear's character. She goes into shock after witnessing the gruesome murder of her sleazeball husband (played by a mullet-coiffed Aaron Eckhart) by two hitmen played by Freeman and Rock. That scene will definitely make you squirm if lots of blood makes you squeamish... or skin being sliced off. She sets off for Hollywood in her husband's car (which contains drugs the hitmen are after) to find the object of her affection who she believes to be a real person and tells people she meets along the way that she's going to Los Angeles to find her ex-fiance. Meanwhile, the hitmen are trying to track her down.

Betty meets her favorite actor at a charity event and starts reciting lines to him and one of his co-stars and the head writer (played by the awesome Alison Janney) from an episode of the soap. They are all delighted by her, thinking she's just a super fan of the show, even though they think it's odd she keeps referring to Kinnear's character as David, but they assume she's an aspiring actress and has created her own character for herself on the show and is trying to stay in character. Kinnear is smitten with her and invites her to join the rest of the evening with him. I can't think of any instance where an actor (even a D-list soap star) would want to spend some alone time with a crazy fan who thinks they're really their character. That's like if some thirteen year old (or forty year old) saw RPatz and called him Edward and asked him why he wasn't sparkling in the sunlight. Even if the actor was stupid enough to want to spend time with this person, I highly doubt their publicist would let them.


Kinnear invites Betty to have a cameo on his show and of course when she gets to the set she is confused by all the lights and cameras and scripts because of course she thinks Dr. Ravell is a real person who works in a real hospital and it's there that it suddenly dawns on her what's happening.

If I knew a Betty in real-life, I'd probably want to shake her, but Zellweger plays her with such a sweetness you can't help but be charmed by her.
This was Zellweger's first lead role and while she did win a deserved Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy, she was totally robbed of an Oscar nomination. There was no way she would have won since the Oscar was Julia Robert's to lose that year, but Renee should have at least been nominated. I would have replaced Juliette Binoche from Chocolat with her. (Hey, she already won her Oscar; I'm sure she wouldn't have minded!) Nurse Betty is my favorite performance by Renee Zellweger and a great movie that I highly recommend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bite Me, Vampire Boy

New Moon, the second movie in the Twilight saga is opening this Friday, so I thought I would share my review I wrote at goodreads.com of the first book.


I talk about how moronic the MTV-watching people are (yes, this has something to do with Twlight):

Friday, November 13, 2009

Who is Keyser Soze?

The Ususal Suspects
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Bryne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollack, Benicio Del Toro
Released: 8/16/95

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Kevin Spacey (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Christopher McQuarrie (won)

Google "movies with twist endings" and chances are The Usual Suspects will always appear on all of them. While, yes, this film does have a great twist ending and is best known for it, the appeal of the movie diminishes when you watch it a second time, already knowing who Keyser Soze is. The reveal for me the first time I saw this movie was like opening a great birthday present. Watching it again is like opening a birthday gift that you already know what's inside and there's no element of surprise.

Of course, there's always benefits to watching a movie a second time to see if you can spot the clues that lead up to the big reveal, which of course is my favorite scene (and probably everyone else's favorite scene from this movie!) My second favorite scene would have to be the line up. I read that Singer meant for that scene to be a very serious, but all the actors kept cracking up (probably because of the line they had to say; I wouldn't be able to stop laughing either) and finally just went with the funniest take.

There is no one lead in the movie; everyone is supporting. In fact, if there was a lead, it would probably be Spacey even though he won the Oscar for SUPPORTING actor. But I would say he has the most screentime.

And just for fun, I thought I'd share five movies with my favorite twists. If you haven't seen any of the movies I start talking about, I would advise you not to watch any further! SPOILERS!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Real person + villain + total transformation = OSCAR!!

Monster
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci
Released: 12/26/03
Viewed in theaters: 1/30/04

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Charlize Theron (won)


If there's one thing I learned from watching this movie, never pick up a hitchhiker because they might KILL you! If there's two things I learned from watching this movie, it's that even Charlize Theron can look unattractive. To play Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute and one of the first female serial killers in the United States, she gained thirty pounds, her hair looked unkempt, her eyes were all red and puffy, she wore fake (and crooked and yellowed) teeth, she wore no make-up and her skin was made up to look blotchy. Charlize was around 27 when she made the movie, but she looks 40! And, thanks to some quick research on Wikipedia, Wuornos was 33 around the time she killed those seven men.

I'm used to Charlize looking like this:

So it's almost shocking to see her look like this:




The first guy she murdered, well, I can't say I blame her. I was rooting for her to kill him. He was an asshole and deserved it after what he did to her. However, she seemed to get it in her head that every guy who picked her up was out to rape her and that's how she made killing those men justifiable. There's one scene where she's with a guy (and this is after she's killed two men) where she lets him go because he was nervous and it was his first time picking up a hooker, so she did her business, took the money and left. She was a messed up woman who did horrible things, but somehow Theron makes you hate her AND feel sympathetic toward her. Well, up until the point where she murdered the ex-cop and that man who was being a good samaritan by giving her a ride. (And that is why we never pick up hitchhikers!)

But I actually did feel some sympathy for her when she was attempting to turn her life around and find a job and that one jerk was really condensing to her. Okay, it wasn't smart of her to walk into a job interview with no degree, no skills, no resume, but that guy was a jerk and I did laugh when she started sprouting off obscenities at him and his assistant. Totally unprofessional, but hilarious.

One of the best scenes in the movie is the phone call between Theron and Ricci, who plays her lover and is cooperating with the police to get her to confess to her over the phone. That scene definitely helped Theron win the Oscar. It also helped that she played a real person who was a villain and had a complete transformation. Usually one of things things will help you win the Oscar, but when you have all three, you're pretty much set for the gold.

Trivia: Charlize won her Oscar on Wuornos's birthday (even though she had long been executed).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quick Review

I recently saw Transformers 2. What did I think of the film? Find out here:

Princes of Maine and Kings of New England


The Cider House Rules
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine
Released: 10/21/99
Viewed in theaters: 3/25/00

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to American Beauty)
Best Director - Lasse Hallstrom (lost to Sam Mendes for American Beauty)
Best Supporting Actor - Michael Caine (won)
Best Adapted Screenplay - John Irving (won)
Best Score - Rachel Portman (lost to John Corigliano for The Red Violin)
Best Editing (lost to The Matrix)
Best Art Direction (lost to Sleepy Hallow)




I don't love this movie, but I don't hate it either. I think it tried to hard to be Oscar-bait and is a bit over-rated. This was my third time seeing the movie, and honestly, I was kinda bored through the whole movie.

The Cider House Rules is a film that can get a little sappy even though it deals with themes such as abortion, incest, suicide, and adultery, but they kinda skim over all those or they just don't make them as big a deal as they should be. Caine plays the proprietor or an orphanage in Maine (the locations in the film are gorgeous) who also gives abortions if the mother asks for them and throughout the first hour of the movie you're bombarded with so many cute orphan children that it makes you want to do a Jolie-Pitt and adopt all of them. Look, there's Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle who needs a breathing machine! And poor Curly; that nice couple won't adopt him because he's a boy and they chose Mel Gibson's daughter from The Patriot instead. And there's Keiran Culkin being all emo!

Tobey Maguire, who was about 23 when he filmed the movie (which means he looks 15 in the movie) plays Homer who also grew up as an orphan and Dr. Larch wants him to take over for him when he retires, but Homer has other ideas and wants to see life outside of the orphanage. So he decides to work on an orchard. Actually, that's when the movie started getting a little slow for me...I guess I missed seeing all the cute orphan children.

Do I think Michael Caine should have won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar? Find out here! (Those of you who know me already know my answer!)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I am a golden god!

I'm going to do something a little differently with this review: besides the written part of the review, I've also added some video clips of my own thoughts and comments about the movie. Enjoy!

Almost Famous
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand
Released: 9/13/00
Viewed in theaters: 9/13/00

Oscar nominations:
Best Original Screenplay - Cameron Crowe (won)
Best Supporting Actress - Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand (lost to Marcia Gay Harden for Pollack)
Best Editing (lost to Traffic)




Almost Famous is based on Crowe's real-life experience as a writer who went out on tour with all these famous rocks stars and bands and interviewed them for Rolling Stone when he was only 15 or 16 years old. Fugit plays William, the pseudo-Crowe who goes out on the road with the fictional band, Stillwater, in 1974. McDormand is a gem as his overprotective, but well-meaning mother. ("No, this is NOT Mary Anne with the pot!"; "Don't take drugs!"; "Rock stars have kid-napped my son!")

Here I am reminiscing about seeing the movie for the first time:



Do I think Kate Hudson deserved an Oscar nomination? Find out here:

And, I forgot to add, that I think her mother being an Oscar winner helped nab her the nomination.

I talk about my favorite scene in Almost Famous:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anything but a ball

Again, I apologize for the different font styles and sizes. I seriously have no idea how to tame this blog; I'm more used to my LiveJournal!

Spoilers follow
Monster's Ball
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger
Released: 12/26/01

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Halle Berry (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Milo Addica and Will Rokos (lost to Julian Fellowes for Gosford Park)

Monster's Ball and Boys Don't Cry are similar in some ways because they're both small movies that won Oscars for Best Lead Actress and both movies are difficult to watch and deal with some heavy stuff. In this film you'll find racism, graphic sex scenes, parents abusing their children (physically and emotionally), and three emotional death scenes of pivotal characters within the first half hour, and yet, compared to Boys Don't Cry, Monster's Ball is like a walk in the park. That's not to say this is an easy movie to watch, far from it, but honestly, if I was given a choice between the two, I'd rather watch this one just because Boys Don't Cry was so emotionally raw and it's hard watching know that it's based on a true story, whereas Monster's Ball is a piece of fiction.

There are a lot of people out there who say they can't believe Halle Berry has an Oscar; that she didn't deserve to win it for this movie. Me? I think the majority of the movies she's been in have been really, really bad and I do think she's a craptastic actress, but with the right director and right script, like she had in this movie, she can be quite good. So I do think her Oscar was deserved. Did politics play a role in her winning? Well, yes, of course they did. She's the first black woman to win an Oscar for a lead role. Her Oscar win made history. (Her speech, while rightfully emotionally, began to get a little ridiculous when she thanked friggin' Oprah. Had Obama been POTUS in '02, you can bet she would have thanked him. :::rolls eyes:::)

I'm always baffled when people put Halle in the category of "women who won Oscars by making themselves ugly" like Charlize Theron in Monster or Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry (well, she wasn't ugly, just not feminine). Okay, Halle may not wear make-up and her character may not be glamourous, but c'mon, she's still gorgeous in the movie.


If she's considered ugly, then I must be the most revolting -looking person in the world!

While Berry did deserve her Oscar and rocked the hell out of the movie, however there is one scene that just makes me cringe. It's the one where she and Thornton are both drunk and she starts going off about her son who has just died and about how fat he was. She was painfully overacting in that scene. And that sex scene? Blech...I'm sure Billy Bob is a nice (albeit weird) guy and he's a good actor, but he's so skeevy-looking! Seriously, that has got to be one of the most graphic sex scenes I've ever seen in a movie. It was very uncomfortable and awkward to watch, but at least it wasn't a rape scene like in Boys Don't Cry.

Halle and William Robert are both great (drunk sex scene aside) in the movie and they have a great supporting cast to, uh, support them. Peter Boyle, who we all knew as Ray's dad on Everybody Love's Raymond played Thornton's racist father and you just automatically hold your breath when he and Berry meet for the first time, neither of them knowing about the other. Heath Ledger played Thornton's son and this was the first really serious role that he did and showed that he was quite capable of being a future Oscar nominee/winner. Even though his screentime is very limited, you can't help but feel for his character and your heart just breaks for him especially during the scene where he asks his father if he loves him. It was very hard for me to watch the last scene with him; it was hard enough watching it before. One of my favorite scenes is when he comforts P. Diddy/ Puff Daddy whatever the hell you want to call him who plays Halle's husband who's executed in the prison Thornton works at as a prison guard. I also have to give props to Sean Combs, as he's credited in the movie. He did a pretty good job, you know, for Puffy. And Coronjii Calhoun, in his only role to date as Halle's son was also great in his small but pivotal role. I remember Halle saying in an interview how guilty she felt when she had to scream and hit him (yeah, no kidding, I'd feel horrible too), but when they were done filming, he'd go back to being a normal, happy kid.

This is truly an actor's movie. No special effects here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another time-travel movie without the traveling


Frequency
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel, Elizabeth Mitchell
Released: 4/28/00
Viewed in theaters: 4/28/00






Like Deja Vu, this movie also deals with going back in time and changing the course of history, but instead of the characters physically going back in time, they communicate via a ham radio. Quaid plays fireman Frank Sullivan in 1969 and Caviezel (who played the bad guy in Deja Vu) plays his policeman son John Sullivan thirty years in the future in 1999. Somehow they are able to talk to each other with the radio while it's '69 on one end and '99 on the other. Of course they're skeptical about who they're talking to at first as would be the case with anyone in this situation. I mean, I don't know which would be more freakier: receiving a phone call from some woman who's claiming to be your mother from 1979 (well, I wasn't even born yet, so I don't know how my mom in 1979 could call me if she didn't know I existed yet, but that's beside the point) or getting a call from someone who claims to be your kid thirty years in the future. Freaky!

John proves to his dad that he's in the future by telling him who wins the next game in the World Series and exactly how the team wins. See, I couldn't do that if I was chatting with someone from the past because I know nothing about baseball or any sport. Hell, I can't even remember who won the last Superbowl. I can't even tell you the two teams who played the last Superbowl! Instead, I would have to make people believe me by who won an Oscar that year ("Trust me, put your money on Marcia Gay Harden, not Kate Hudson," I'd tell them before the '01 Oscars) or who won that season of Survivor or America's Next Top Model.


One thing that didn't make any sense to me was when Frank burns his cigarette on the desk (in '69) and all of a sudden John sees it appear on his desk at the exact moment (in' 99). Okay, wouldn't the burn already have been there since it happened in '69? It wouldn't have just appeared like that in '99.

It had been awhile since I've seen this movie (definitely before Arrested Development aired) and the kid who played John's friend's son looked awfully familiar and I was thinking, That kid looks a lot like Michael Cera, until I realized it was Michael Cera!




Before he was George Michael Bluth

I remembered Elizabeth Mitchell of Lost fame (RIP Juliette) played the mother (and she's actually a couple years younger than Caviezel, heh), but I've become so used to seeing her as a blonde that I didn't remember she was a brunette in the movie.

My favorite scene is when John is talking to his best friend in the past on the radio and he tells him he's Santa Claus and to remember the word Yahoo. I wish I had someone from the future telling me which stock I should invest in!.

Quantum Leaping

This review contains spoilers! Lots and lots of spoilers!!
Deja Vu
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton
Released: 11/22/06
Viewed in theaters: 11/29/06

When it comes to movies/TV shows/books/ anything about time travel, I am a huge geek. I get a thrill out of anything that has to do with time travel; I just find the whole concept so intriguing, so of course I find this movie fascinating. The film begins with hundreds of people boarding a ferry in New Orleans. A bomb explodes on the boat, killing all 543 passengers. Enter Denzel Washington. He's in charge of finding out what happened to the ferry and with the help of the FBI, he tries to find clues that might help him. One of these clues is a dead woman's body that has washed up on the shore, only she was found BEFORE the explosion happened, so Denzel has to figure that out too. And of course you know he's going to figure out how her death ties to the explosion because it's Denzel! When has Denzel ever let us down in a movie? (Okay, that movie he made with Russell Crowe really sucked..., but we'll blame that on Crowe. No, not American Gangster, the other movie they made together). Denzel goes to the deceased woman's house to look for clues and while he does find them, they don't make any sense to him. What he doesn't know is that his future self has already been there (coming back to the past) and present Denzel sees plastic magnetic letters spelling out "u can save her" on her fridge. There's also bloody rags in the sink which is also from future Denzel who was shot by the bad guy when he went back to the past to save the woman. You're probably saying, "Wait, hang on a minute? What the hell? I'm confused?" Okay, so to explain it a little better, Denzel meets these geeky computer techies (who are led by Val Kilmer) who have invented this device that allows you to go anywhere in the city and look at what's going on...four days ago, but yet they're live in the present. It's a bit confusing (and this movie has more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese), but it's a cool concept. Thought it would be highly illegal as they were using it to spy on the dead woman (well, she was alive since this was four days before she died) to see who she had contact with. Since Denzel already saw the note on the fridge he already knows that he DID go back in time to save her, so they send him back four days ago (the day of the explosion) so he can save the woman and stop the ferry from exploding. The ending was tripping, though. It was also kind of confusing... The Denzel who has gone back in time died (he drove the car off the ferry and into the water when the bomb exploded), but present Denzel is still alive. Okay, I'm not exactly sure how that works, but it's good to know that if I ever go back in time (within my life span, of course) I can be as reckless as I want because it won't matter if I die because myself from the time I'm going back to will still be alive! Uh, yeah. And then it didn't make any sense when present Denzel has a realization this his plan worked. Well, that makes no sense because the Denzel AT THAT TIME did NOT have ANY knowledge of the possibility of time traveling four days into the past! At that time he had not met Kilmer and his team.
So that Denzel was killed, but luckily the other Denzel from the past lived, but that Denzel had no knowledge that his future self time traveled, so is it still the same Denzel? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around does it still make a sound?

I like the movie, but it gives me a huge headache!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not the most "feel-good" movie ever made!

Spoilers!

Boys Don't Cry
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Cast: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
Released: 10/22/99

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Hilary Swank (won)
Best Supporting Actress - Chloe Sevigny (lost to Angelina Jolie for Girl, Interrupted)


You know how some families have movie night and watch a movie the entire family can enjoy? Well, this is not one of those movies that would fall into that category. In fact, this movie is not for everyone. I've only seen it twice and it was very hard to watch both times. After seeing it, it leaves you feeling depressed and exhausted. It had been nine years since I originally saw it, so it almost felt like I was seeing it for the first time again, though of course I remembered the rape and murder scenes quite vividly because scenes like those you just don't forget.

This isn't one of my favorite movies (far from it), but Swank's performance is one of my favorite Oscar-winning performances of all time. I'm glad the Academy awarded her even though she wasn't too well-known at the time (I may have seen The Next Karate Kid, but I'm sure plenty of people didn't) and BDC was a small film. Of course , the Academy does love to award tragic stories, especially when actors are portraying real people, so Swank playing Teena Brandon, a girl (or transgender, I guess) from Lincoln, Nebraska (and this movie makes me so proud to be from Nebraska! :::rolls eyes:::) who "posed" as a boy and was murdered in 1993 when she was outed was the ultimate Oscar-winning role.

Actually, Swank really can pass for a boy. A skinny, wimpy boy who has a smooth face and hasn't quite gone through puberty, but still, I could believe it. Or maybe she can at least pass for androgynous. If you think about it, it's pretty amazing that she went from this:

to this:





Like the character she portrays, Swank was born in Lincoln, but unlike Brandon, she didn't spend most of her life here since she moved to Washington state at a young age. I remember when the movie was getting a lot of attention, the local newspeople were going crazy. Not because the movie takes place in Nebraska (because, really, it's not the kind of movie you want your state to be represented by) but because Hilary Swank was born in Lincoln and she was getting a lot of Oscar buzz and I remember they went to the house she lived in when she was a baby and talked to the people who currently lived there and asked what it was like to live in the house where a (most-likely) future Oscar winner had grown up in. It was kinda funny. That's the kind of entertainment news you get when you live in Nebraska, folks!