Thursday, March 24, 2011

Karate Kids

The Karate Kid (1984)
Director: John G. Avildsen
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Pat Mortia, Elisabeth Shue
Released: June 22, 1984

Oscar nominations:
Best Supporting Actor - Pat Mortia (lost to Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields)

The Karate Kid (2010)
Director: Harald Zwart
Cast: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson
Released: June 11, 2010

I watched both of these films recently and thought I would do a double review since they're the same movie and all. I actually watched the remake before the original (even though I'd seen the original many, many years ago). Both movies are obviously similar, but there are a few differences.

Both films start out with the main character moving far from their home with their mother. In the '84 version, Ralph Maccio plays Danny, a high schooler who moves from New Jersey to California. In the '10 version, Jaden Smith (aka Will Smith's mini-me) plays a 12 year old named Dre who moves from the U.S. all the way to China. Both of them experience culture shock, but Dre more so!

Both of them have a hard time fitting in and want to go back home. They both encounter bullies who make their lives difficult. In the original, the bully doesn't like him because Danny begins dating his ex-girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue). In the remake, I'm not really sure why the little Chinese kid starts picking on him. It's like he sees this American kid and decides to start harassing him. Or perhaps he's jealous that Dre becomes friends with the cute little Chinese girl at their school.

Both Danny and Dre find father figures in their apartment's handyman. Pat Mortia plays the iconic Mr. Miyagi in the '84 film. (And I had no idea that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar) and  Jackie Chan plays Mr. Han in the 2010 film. Both are experts in karate (or in Mr. Han's case, kung fu) and teach their new proteges some moves to defend themselves against the bullies who are beating them up. However, while their students are eager to learn how to karate chop or any other cool martial art moves, their teachers start them off with what seem more like chores. In the original, Danny has to wax Mr. Miyagi's car (you may be familiar with the phrase "wax on, wax off"), paint his house and gate and sand his porch. In the remake, Mr. Han only focuses on one specific task for Dre: for him to take off his coat,  drop it on the ground, pick it up and hang it up.

Both boys get really frustrated until what they're doing is teaching them karate/kung fu in its own weird way and soon they're being taught real karate/kung fu. They both enter a karate/kung fu contest (and of course the bullies are already enrolled in karate/kung fu) and I'm probably not spoiling anything by saying that they overcome their bullies and earn their respect.

The only female characters in the film are the mother and the girlfriend. The mother is more prevalent in the remake while the girlfriend is more so in the original. (Although Danny's mother had to drive them on their dates because Danny didn't own a car. Ouch, kid, ouch.)

I have to say that I prefer the 2010 version to the original. Yes, it is much more updated, so that's probably one of the reasons why I like it better. There's a scene in the original where Danny is showing off his new car he got from Mr. Miyagi to his girlfriend and says to her, "I'll even let you drive it!" and she goes, "Really?!" and he says, "Yeah, it's the '80s!" Okay, I'm sorry, but that scene cracked me up. I wasn't around in the '70s, but from what I'm gathering, women were not allowed to drive before the '80s!  Um, okay...

Also, I was really young when the original was released, so when I first saw it, it was probably on video and it doesn't really hold any nostalgic value for me while I'm sure it does for people who were old enough to see it in the theater when it was released. Also, the remake has amazing cinematography, being filmed in China and all. But you have to give the original credit, because there were some scenes in the remake that are literally framed shot by shot as the original.

Friday, March 18, 2011

One Man Show

Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds
Released: September 24, 2010

There aren't many films I can think of where the entire movie is shot in one single location and has only one actor. Actually, I can't think of any movie like that. During the one and a half hour duration of Buried, you are with Reynold's character, Paul, an American working in Iraq as a truck driver delivering supplies who wakes to find himself in a wooden coffin buried underground. While we do get different angles and shots, the camera never leaves the coffin. I thought maybe we would be taken out of the claustrophobic location to show flashbacks of how he ended up buried in a coffin, but no, that is all explained by Paul narrating what happened to him. 

One would think that a film with only one actor in only one location would get a little boring, but that would be the last word I would use to describe this thriller. It's suspenseful, nail-biting, and suffocating. Paul only has a few items his kidnapper has supplied him with: a lighter, a cell phone, a small knife, and a glow stick. While Reynolds is physically the only actor in the movie, he does have conversations with other characters when he uses the cell, but we never see them, just hear their voices. 

And yes, I'm just as surprised as you are that he was able to communicate with people via a cell phone when he was underground. The movie does address this and one of the FBI agents who's trying to locate him mentions he must not be that far underground for the cell to be able to work, so okay, I guess we'll go with it. I don't really mind that this might be implausible because if he wasn't able to communicate with other people, the movie probably would be considered boring. I do find it pretty amazing that the cell was less than half charged and never ran out of battery power the duration he was down there. 

Since he's lost the contact emergency number he was given from his company, he frantically starts making calls to anybody who might be able to help him: 911, the FBI, his wife, his company...he even gets in contact with the terrorist who demands five million dollars for his release. (His kidnapper was kind enough to leave him his number).

Even though the space was (obviously) very confined, he surprisingly has a lot of room for being in a coffin. In the photo posted above you can clearly see he is laying on his stomach. He is easily able to take off his jacket without too much of a struggle and even is able to rotate from one end of the coffin to the other. Now it's been awhile since I've seen Kill Bill 2, but I remember when Uma Thurman was in the coffin, she could only move her arms to punch her way out (uh, hope I didn't spoil that for anyone!)

I will give the film props for keeping me guessing. I really had no idea if he was going to be rescued or not by the end. There were times when things were looking hopeful, only to be diminished by bad news and there were times when you didn't think he had a chance of getting out, but then there was a glimmer of hope. If you have not seen this film yet, I would advise you not to be spoiled before watching it because knowing if lives or dies will probably ruin the viewing experience (and the suspense!) for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The other Facebook movie

Director: Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost
Released: September 17, 2010

It's difficult to discuss this documentary without giving away major plot points, so I will warn you when I'm about to start talking about spoilers just in case you haven't seen this movie/ don't know the big twists and want to keep it that way.

Ariel Shulman and Henry Joost are young directors in their mid-20s who live in Manhattan and document everything. It doesn't matter how mundane it is - they find everything fascinating to film. Ariel's brother, Nev, is a photographer and he discovers that an eight-year-old girl from Michigan named Abby has been transforming his photographs into pictures she's drawn. He thinks they're really good and she's quite talented for someone so young, so he e-mails her to compliment her and say how he really likes the drawings and sends her more of his photos for her to draw. He soon develops an online correspondence with Abby (and it's not as creepy as you might think) and becomes Facebook friends with her mom, her half-sister Megan, and a bunch of Megan's friends.

Megan is a few years younger than Nev and she's very pretty. Of course he develops a crush on her and Nev isn't bad-looking so there's an instant attraction. They start flirting with each other over Facebook and texts and he even talks to her on the phone a few times. He also talks to the mother who tells him that Abby's art has been in shows and the most one has ever sold for was $7,000.

He and the filmmakers start to get suspicious because there are a few things that just don't add up. For instance, he googles Abby's name and the town she lives in, but there's nothing about her even though she should be somewhat of a local celebrity for being so young and having art exhibitions. When they're in Vail, Colorado to do some work, they decide since they're "so close" to Michigan to drive to the family's house and see what's going on. Well, they fly to Chicago first, then drive up to the northern peninsula.

Okay, so for the rest of this review I will be giving away major key plots, so here is your  **** SPOILER WARNING *****
Do not read any further if you don't want to know the big reveal...

...which isn't really that big of a reveal because it's kind of obvious when we learn it: Megan does not exist - it was the married forty-something year old mother who was posing as this young, attractive girl and basically having an affair with Nev online. While she does have an older daughter named Megan (who sounded like they were estranged probably because this woman is bat**** crazy!), the girl she had posted photos of on Facebook was just some random model she found online. And it was pretty obvious she was a model because while there were a few candid shots, a lot of the photos of her were obviously shot by a professional.

While I could see that reveal coming a mile away, it didn't occur to me that the mother was the real artist of all those drawings. Abby does exist, but she is not the artist in the family. The mother was pretending that her young daughter was painting all those because they were better received by a young girl than by a grown woman. The paintings would have been pretty impressive by an eight-year-old, but looked juvenile by anyone over the age of 12.

While she still does try to deceive them by saying that Megan isn't home, then later texting Nev as Megan saying she's in rehab because she all of a sudden out of the blue became an alcoholic, she eventually comes clean and admits what she did. And not only did she create "Megan", but she created the fifteen friends Megan had on Facebook and was managing all of them. Clearly this woman has some mental problems and needs help!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Walking on thin air

Man On Wire
Director: James Marsh

Oscar nominations:
Best Documentary (2008) - won

I begin this review by posing you this question: Who do you think is crazier - Phillipe Petit or Timothy "Grizzly Man" Treadwell? Walking across a wire between the World Trade Center sounds (and is!) a lot more insane than observing bears in the wild, but then again, Petit is still alive while Treadwell was eaten by a bear. You could say that Petit is luckier, but he also had more respect for his passion and took the necessary precautions, although walking between the Twin Towers doesn't sound very safe no matter how many precautions you take!

If you've never heard of Phillipe Petit he is a French wire-walker who has walked between the towers of Notrre Dame and across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. His most famous act of wire-walking was when he walked between the World Trade Center buildings eight times in August 1974. That's got to take a lot of guts because those buildings were ridiculously tall - 110 stories.

This film documents how he and his crew of team members snuck the equipment into the towers and set everything up. It took a lot of planning - they had models and drawings of the buildings to help them decide the best course of plan. Petit had his own wire he practiced on that was the same length that was the distance between the buildings (of course on his practice wire he was nowhere near the height of the towers!)

Not only does Petit cross the wire eight times, but he also lies down right in the middle at one point! With good reason, his crew was really nervous about this little expedition, but once Petit reached the middle, they said a big smile broke across his face and they knew that he felt "comfortable" and was able to finish his act with ease. There is not actual video footage of the walking between the buildings, only photos. The photos taken from the ground, you can barely even see him - he just looks like a speck in the sky. In fact, his girlfriend was on the ground and at one point they could see something falling and at first they thought it was him, but it turned out to be an article of clothing.

There is no mention of the Towers being no more which I thought was a little weird that they didn't ask how he felt when he found out that they were destroyed. He had such a personal relationship with these buildings, after all no one else in the world has done what he has done - and even if the Towers were still standing, I doubt anyone would even attempt to do that - that I was surprised he didn't talk about how it feels to him that they no longer exist.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Piece of Work

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Directors: Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg

This 2010 documentary spends one year with Joan Rivers, the 75 year old brass comedienne who can make you laugh one moment, and shake your head in disgust the next. (I think she's pretty funny as a comedian, though it is pretty shocking some of the things that come out of her mouth, but I can't stand her as a correspondent for E! on the red carpet because she really has no idea what she's doing and it doesn't help that her daughter, the much more irritating Melissa Rivers, is always commentating with her.) 

Due to the fact that she lives in a ridiculously lavish apartment suite (think Donald Trump's) and likes to maintain her high style of living, she will take any job whether it's a gig at some club off in the boondocks or a commercial (she doesn't care what product) or Celebrity Apprentice which she was on in the year the documentary followed her. Regarding the show, she even says that they won't kick her off until at least the fourth episode because she's the biggest name on it. While it may sound conceited, you have to admit she was right! (Of course we all know she ended up winning that season.)

She talks about getting her start and how she was good friends with Johnny Carson (often filling in for him on his show when he was absent) until Fox offered her her own talk show. The first person she told was Carson and he felt so betrayed that he never talked to her again. Her new show ended up tanking big time. 

While I knew her husband killed himself, what I didn't know is that Joan and Melissa played themselves in a made-for-TV movie dealing with their husband's/father's suicide. Joan admits that it was a bit hokey, but cathartic. O-kay. They showed clips from it and the acting was pretty terrible. 

Something that surprised me was that Rivers say she is first and foremost an actress. I was aware that she wrote and acted in plays, but I always think of her as a comedian first and foremost. (And a fashion correspondent for E! second.) The film documents her putting on a play in England and because it only got mixed reviews, she decides not to put it on in New York or anywhere in the U.S. because one of the first plays she wrote was shredded by the critics. (You would think someone like Joan Rivers would have a tough skin about those things.) 

At one point she's doing stand-up at some hole-in-the-wall club in some who-knows-where town and offends a man with a deaf son after she makes a joke about Helen Keller. At first I thought it was just a plant, but it became obvious he was a real audience member by how pissed Rivers became and kept berating him that it was just a joke and it didn't mean she was attacking all deaf people. If the guy is that easy to get offended, why the hell was he seeing Joan Rivers at a comedy club?! 

If you hate Joan Rivers, skip this, but if you like her or are more interested to learn more about her, I'd say give it a watch.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Post Oscar Thoughts

Natalie: Senor Bale, please get me away from that crazy chick next to me!

This is kinda late, but oh well.

Being the dork I am, I wrote these down during the telecast. Sure, I could have Tweeted my thoughts, except it takes me forever to text on my phone and I don't have a laptop/my Mac is in my bedroom and my TV is in not.

I liked the opening montage with Anne Hathaway and James Franco in scenes from the nominated movies (well, most of them, anyway...I noticed a few were missing). The cameos from Alec Baldwin (forgot he had hosted the Oscars) and Morgan Freeman were funny. 

Liked Anne introducing her mom and her mom saying, "Stand up straight, honey!" and Anne says, "Really, Mom? In front of a billion people?" Likewise, liked James introducing his grandma and her saying, "I just saw Marky Mark!" Hahaha. Mark Wahlberg is never going to live that name down. Although, did you notice James referred to him as "Academy-nominee Mark Wahlberg?" Now I know he has been nominated before for The Departed, so I wonder if he was referring to that? Or did Franco make a mistake and think he was nominated that night...?

I thought Anne was really charming and engaging, but James seemed a little, uh, stoned distant at times.

Okay, I know he's a "living legend" and blah, blah, blah, but I did not care for Kirk (Kurt?) Douglas presenting Best Supporting Actress. Please, no more old senile people presenting awards. Remember Elizabeth Taylor at the Golden Globes that one year? I did not think it was cute or funny when Douglas kept taking forever to read the winner's name and thought it was rude to the nominees. Just get on with it, you old geezer! Sorry, but it kinda annoyed me that he got to go on and on while people who actually WON awards were cut off by the stupid music.

Anyone notice that they read the Best S. Actress's name out of alphabetical order? It went Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Weaver, Melissa Leo, Hailee Steinfeld. Uh...I'm pretty sure "W" comes last in that lineup.

Okay, while I didn't like Grandpa Douglas taking forever, I do admit I laughed when Justin Timberlake was about to open the envelope and said, "You know..." like Douglas did.

LOL at James Franco saying "Congratulations nerds" after Marisa Tomei talked about giving out awards at the Technical Oscars. (Zzzzzz!)

Worst speech of the night goes to Colleen Atwood for winning Best Costume Design for Alice in Wonderland. I know she's won before (more than once, I believe) and she was reading in a MONOTONE voice from an index card!? WTF?! Get off the stage, you moron! 

Best speech of the night goes to the kid with the afro who won for Best Short Feature (or whatever it was). Man, that guy was hilarious! From his "I shoulda gotten a haircut!" to "I'll thank everyone later on those other cameras!" to "Thanks to my mom who was a caterer on the set!" LMAO! Loved that kid! Now that was a damn entertaining speech and he was cracking everyone up. Notice how the music didn't even play? Well, maybe he said everything in the time allotted. 

LOL at Kevin Spacey: "Good evening, I'm George Clooney."

Batman has an Oscar! LOL at Christian Bale saying, "Don't worry, I won't say the f-word. (Ala Melissa Leo) I've done that enough in my life!" Who knew Bale had a sense of humor.

The autotuned musicals was really funny, though I think they should have just stuck to it being all Harry Potter because that was the funniest. I hope Rupet and Emma saw that!

What was the point of Anne Hathaway introducing Hilary Swank to only introduce Katheryn Bigelow? Uh...., why not just have Anne introduce Katheryn? Duh.

I was shocked when Tom Hooper won because I really thought it was going to be David Fincher! In fact, I thought (and assumed) that FIncher had won the DGA, so that's why I thought he was going to win the Oscar. I guess I should have double checked who won the DGA because then I wouldn't be as shocked! Also, I wonder if Hooper is the youngest director to ever win an Oscar? I think he's 37...has anyone younger ever won?

I thought it was neat how when they presented Best Picture they showed clips from the ten nominated movies while the Colin Firth's speech from The King's Speech was playing (although it did seem a little biased).

After Hooper won Best Director, I knew The King's Speech would win Best Picture, though when Best Editing went toThe Social Network, I thought it might win BP, because usually the movie that wins Best Editing wins Best Picture.

Best Dressed:

Reese Witherspoon: real-live Barbie!

Mark Ruffalo's wife has no fashion sense.

Worst dressed:
To the people who have been putting this
on best-dressed lists, are you blind!?