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 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!!

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

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. Though 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!


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!

The Man in Black

You'll have to excuse me if my fonts aren't always the same size or are different. I'm new to this Blog site and I'm still not sure how everything works!

Walk the Line
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon
Released: 11/18/05
Viewed in theaters: 11/25/05

Oscar nominations:
Best Actor - Joaquin Phoenix (lost to Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Capote)
Best Actress - Reese Witherspoon (won)
Best Costume design (lost to Memoirs of a Geisha)
Best Sound Mixing (lost to King Kong)
Best Editing (lost to Crash)

So I'm a little embarrassed to admit that before I saw this movie I only knew three Johnny Cash songs : Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line, and I've Been Everywhere. Luckily now I'm more familiar with his music as I have the soundtrack and The Legend of Johnny Cash. My favorite Cash song is Highway Man. A friend of mine once said that it's un-American to not like Johnny Cash, and yes, I agree! He is a musical legend.

I have to give major props to Joaquin and Reese because I've always thought the two hardest things for an actor to do is to portray a real person (especially someone as famous as Johnny or June) AND have to sing in a movie. So props to them! Even though Reese, who is infectious as June Carter, won the Oscar for Best Actress, you could debate her role is more supporting, because after all she's supporting Phoenix's Cash and doesn't have nearly as much screentime as he does. This always makes me confused about how actors are placed in the lead or supporting categories, especially in a case like Reese's. Yes, she is the main female lead, but so was Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind, but she was put in the Supporting category. Maybe they decided to put Reese in the lead category because it was a bit weak that year (though she still would have won in the Supporting category) or because when you're a huge star like Reese Witherspoon, it's much better to have a Lead Oscar rather than a Supporting one, which is totally fine if you're a character actor.

Of course my favorite scenes were anytime when Johnny and June (anyone else love that song by Heidi Newfield?) were performing (especially Jackson). Even though I wasn't familiar with all the songs the first time I saw the movie, I still got into the music. Since then I've listened to the soundtrack many times so I knew all the words. No, I did not sing along. I noticed there were a couple songs in the movie that weren't on the soundtrack, hmph!

Getting their rhythm on

There's a question the man in the recording studio asks Johnny Cash and it's what song he would sing if he was hit by a truck and left on the road to die and had enough time left in his life to only sing one song so that God could hear him and it made me wonder, which song would I choose? Imagine? Calling All Angels? What if God Was One of Us? Or maybe something more upbeat like Walkin' on Sunshine? (Hey, I might as well make my last minutes on Earth a good time!)