Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekly Movie #4

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Director: Stephen Daldry
Cast: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bulluck, Max von Sydow, Viola Davis
Released: December 25, 2011
Viewed in theaters: January 26, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Artist)
Best Supporting Actor - Max von Sydow (lost to Christopher Plummer for Beginners)

 This movie's title is extremely long and incredibly confusing. The movie itself is extremely depressing and incredibly sad. Okay, I'll stop. If you are huge fans of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock and are thinking of seeing this movie only for them, they are both supporting characters as the young boy's parents and are really only in a few scenes. The film is centered around nine-year-old Oskar Schell (played by Thomas Horn in his first movie role; apparently he was on kids' Jeopardy! and that was how he was discovered) an odd kid who has a different way of how he looks at the world and is extremely smart, but can also be incredibly annoying. (Whoops! I did it again!)

Oskar's world comes tumbling down when his father, who was in the World Trade Center for a meeting, is killed on 9/11. It's clear that he was closer to his father, who encouraged him to learn new experiences and talk to new people, the latter Oskar had a difficult time with. In a heartbreaking scene, he even tells his mother he wished that she had been the one who had died and instead of being angry with him, she agrees with him.

Oskar finds a key in his dad's closet in an envelop with the name "Black" written on it and is convinced that they key opens something where a message from his father is waiting and whoever this Black person is can help them. Of course there are many Blacks listed in the phone book and he estimates it will take three years to go through all of them. The kid is very precise. He's mapped out all the addresses and how much time he plans to spend with each person. He's joined by the old man who's known as the renter (Von Sydrow) his grandmother is renting a room to. Due to a traumatic event in his life, he doesn't speak, just writes on paper and has "yes" written on one palm and "no" on the other to answer simple questions. We discover something about him that's pretty obvious from the beginning.

Poor Oskar has been living with a secret for over a year about how he was home when his dad called from the World Trade Center on that day, but he never picked up the phone and he was too ashamed to admit this to anyone. Bring your tissues for this one, folks!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekly Movie #3

War Horse
Director: Steven Speilberg
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Wastson, David Thewlis
Released: December 25, 2011
Viewed in theaters: January 17, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Artist)
Best Score - John Williams (lost to Ludovic Bource for The Artist)
Best Art Direction (lost to Hugo)
Best Cinematography (lost to Hugo)
Best Sound Editing (lost to Hugo)
Best Sound Mixing (lost to Hugo)

I don't see War Horse galloping (haha) in the direction of the likes of Jaws, E.T., or Jurassic Park where it will become one of Speilberg's classic blockbusters. More likely it will trot (haha) along the lines of Catch Me If You Can or The Terminal, you know those movies where when somebody brings them up, you're like, "Oh, yeah, that was a good movie. Speilberg directed that? I forgot about that!" However, unlike those two movies, War Horse is the kind of movie that benefits from being seen on the big screen. With its lush cinematography, swelling music, and gorgeous camerawork, this is one beautiful movie. It's just pretty to look at.

The plot is pretty straightforward: a teen boy named Albert trains the horse his father bought (I wasn't really clear why he bought the horse in the first place because the family wasn't exactly rich), names him Joey, and trains him. Even though he teaches Joey to plow his family's farm land, they're still not getting enough money and his father ends up selling Joey into World War I. Albert is too young to enlist in the war and has to wait another four years before he can. We really don't see much of him after Joey is taken away from him.

We do see what happens to Joey on his journey and he ends up in many places and meets many people along the way. I would be lying if I said I didn't cry while watching this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weekly Movie #2

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson
Released: December 20, 2011
Viewed in theaters: January 10, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Rooney Mara (lost to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady)
Best Cinematography (lost to Hugo)
Best Editing (won)
Best Sound Editing (lost to Hugo)
Best Sound Mixing (lost to Hugo)

This movie is a far cry from my first weekly movie (New Year's Eve).  You don't have to see either movie to know what I'm talking about! I was a little reluctant to see this because I wasn't a huge fan of the book which I read last spring. I still haven't been enthused to read "The Girl Who Played with Fire" which I have in my possession. If I look to my left, I can see it in my bookshelf between "Watership Down" and "The Help" (both books I loved). My problem with the book is that it is SO SLOW for the first 100 pages. Nothing happens. At all. Once we find out about the mystery of the young girl who went missing back in the sixties, it gets much more interesting. I still found the book to be extremely overrated when I was done reading it, though.

So I wasn't terribly excited for the movie, but I was curious to see what Fincher was going to do with it, being the stylish kind of director he is. I read all the boring stuff that deals with Blomkvist's magazine is dealt with in just a matter of minutes and doesn't consume the entire movie the way it felt like it did in the book.

You've probably already guessed I've never seen the original Swedish movie so I have no idea if it's better or just different than the American version. When I heard that an American adaptation was going to be made, my first though was they were going to set it in the U.S. in a cold climate like Alaska, but I'm glad they kept the setting of Sweden. Everyone has a slight hint of a Swedish accent, but none of them are that strong to be distracting.

As much as I didn't care for the book, I am glad I read it before I saw the movie. Not because I would've been lost - the movie is quite straghtfoward: Blomkvist is hired by the young girl's great uncle to find out what happened to her and he is aided with the help of computer hacker Lisbeth Salandar (the girl who indeed has a dragon tattoo). Not to brag or anything, (and slight spoilers here), but I totally knew who was sending the old man those pressed flowers, especially when he tells Blomkvist, "Nobody knows about these! Except Harriet, the police, and the killer!" I mean, duh. It's kind of obvious who's sending them. But the main reason I'm glad I read the book beforehand was that I knew what was coming so I could be prepared for it. This is a really dark movie and a lot of bad things happen to people....and a poor cat. As the owner of the sweetest cat in the world, I really hated that part in the book and was dreading it in the movie and had to cover my eyes when they showed it. Rape scene? Although uncomfortable and brutal, I could handle it better because I knew Lisbeth was going to get her revenge Oh, and she does. "I've never done this before and there will be blood!"

I'd like to thank this movie for reminding me that "Orinoco Flow" by Enya still exits. I had kind of forgotten about that song and I love it. It was an odd choice of song to play while the bad guy was torturing Blomkvist, though. Speaking of songs, I do love "The Immigration Song" by Karen O and Trent Renzor that is played during the amazing beginning credits. The first time I ever became aware of that song was when Jack Black sang it in School of Rock!

The movie follows the book pretty faithfully (and takes out all the boring parts!), but the ending dealing with what happened to Harriet is tweaked just a little. I actually preferred the movie's ending. The literal final scene is anti-climatic but you know that there will be two more movies so it wasn't really the final ending of the story.

I hardly say this, but I believe in this case the movie was better than the book.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Weekly Movie #1

For my (extremely lame) New Year's resolution, I decided to see at least one movie a week in the theaters. Who knows how long this will last as none of my resolutions never do. But for now, every time I see my weekly theater movie I will post a review on it, whether it be short and sweet or long and convoluted. It might be a written or video review. So we'll start with the first one, which I saw on the first day of 2012...

New Year's Eve
Director: Garry Marshall
Cast: Everyone in Hollywood
Released: December 9, 2011
Viewed in theaters: January 1, 2012

This is the type of movie I would rent than see in the theaters, but I saw it with my friend Cameron after we had a delicious dinner of sushi and I ate some hot pepper that nearly set my mouth on fire! We saw New Year's Eve on New Year's Day, heh. This is from the same director as Valentine's Day and is the same idea as that movie and even features two actors who were in that movie (Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Biel), but it is not a sequel to that movie. I liked this movie a tad better, probably because I like the holiday better, even though I could care less about the New Year.

Basically if you've seen Valentine's Day, you know how this movie works. Just change the actors and the day. Hilary Swank is in charge of the ball dropping in Times Square, but it gets stuck and she has to call on Marshall's requisite actor Hector Elizondo to fix it. Halle Berry is a nurse caring for a dying Robert De Niro whose last wish is to see the ball drop at midnight. Michelle Pfeiffer is a dowdy woman who wants to cross everything off her resolution list she made for 2011 before midnight and gets help from Zac Efron. I seriously thought we were going to get a Mrs. Robinson romance going on there...but don't count on it. Sarah Jessica Parker has her doubts about letting her daughter, Abigail Breslin, go to Times Square by herself. We also find out that she and Zac are siblings. Zac and SJP, that is. There is no way in hell that could happen - she is old enough to be his mother! Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele find themselves stuck in an elevator...and of course fall in love! Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers play a couple about to have a baby and they find out from another pregnant couple that the first woman to give birth in 2012 wins $25 grand. Josh Duhamel is out to meet a woman he met last New Year's Eve and there a lot of fakeouts about who it might be. I won't say who it is because I don't want to spoil it. ;-) At one point, Cameron said to me, "I bet it's Fergie!" LOL, it was not Fergie. There's some stupid storyline between Katherine Heigl and Bon Jovi (who plays a rock star!) that nobody cares about. The best thing about her storyline was Sofia Vergara who is hilarious. And looks good even when wearing a chef's coat.

I think I covered all the storylines. It's a cute movie, but forgettable. The funniest scene in the movie is John Lithgow playing Angry Birds.  I would say wait to rent it.