Monday, December 30, 2013

Coming of Age

Director: Penny Marshall
Cast: Tom Hanks, Robert Loggia, Elizabeth Perkins, Mercedes Ruehl, John Heard
Released: June 3, 1988

Oscar nominations:
Best Actor - Tom Hanks (lost to Dustin Hoffman for Rain Man)
Best Original Screenplay - Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg (lost to Ronald Bass and Gary Morrow for Rain Man)

13 Going on 30
Director: Gary Winick
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis
Released: April 23, 2004
Viewed in theaters: April 30, 2004

Big is about a thirteen-year-old named Josh Baskin (David Moscow) who wishes he were older and wakes up as a thirty-year old (Tom Hanks). 13 Going on 30 is about a thirteen-year-old named Jenna Rink (Christa B. Allen) who wishes she were older and wakes up as a thirty-year-old (Jennifer Garner). Despite having the same premise and similar themes, these movies are quite different (which was a smart move for 13 so it wouldn't look like a total copy cat!) 

Young Charlotte Grayson
The set up for both movies kinda follows the same pattern. Both of them take place in the '80s (I'll get back to that) and neither Josh or Jenna are very popular, although they wished they were, especially Jenna who longs to be part of a group of popular girls called the Six Chicks, even though they only take advantage of her by making her do their homework, led by a girl named Tom-Tom (and after seeing this movie 3 or 4 times, I still have no idea why she was called that because we later learn her real name is Lucy). Fun trivia fact: one of the Six Chicks was played by Ashley Benson aka Hannah Marin from Pretty Little Liars. Jenna's best friend and next-door-neighbor, Matty, smartly points out to her that she can't be a Six Chick because they already have their allotted number of girls in their clique. Another fun fact: young Jenna is played by Christa B. Allen who plays Charlotte on Revenge, a show I stopped watching in the middle of its second season because it just got so ridiculous and I just didn't care anymore. I recognized her name in the credits and kept looking for her, thinking she was one of the Six Chicks; it never occurred to me that she was playing the younger version of the main character! Obviously I didn't recognize her at all! I probably didn't because she was eight years younger and had this horrible '80s hair style and has a completely different wardrobe from Charlotte's. For her 13th birthday, Jenna invites Matty and all the popular kids from her school only to find herself being ditched by them and she blames Matty for this.

In Big, Josh has a crush on an older girl (I'm assuming she was older...she was at least a foot taller than he was!) and his best friend and next-door-neighbor (hmm, sound familiar?), Billy, confirms with him that she broke up with her boyfriend and is therefore available. While at a carnival with his parents, Josh sees his crush with a guy (obviously on a date) and tries to impress her by saying he's ridden the roller coaster they're in line for many times, only to find out that he is too short to go on it. Ouch. 

Now we're to the part where Josh and Jenna make their wishes. I think it was more effective in Big, but was more accurate in 13. Let me explain: In Big, while at the carnival, Josh sees a fortune teller machine, similar to an arcade machine, and it has the creepiest head in it. The fortune teller's name is Zoltar and when you put a quarter in it, it tells you to make a wish, then spits out a card saying, "Your wish has been granted." With the grotesque puppet head and ominous mood made already by a thunderstorm, the scene is made even more creepy when Josh looks down and sees that the machine has been unplugged all along! When Josh makes his wish, he says, "I wish I were big." Now, if I were Zoltar, I would assume he meant that he wished he had more physical mass, not older, but I guess the movie wouldn't sound as good if it were called "Older", but that's just a little nit-pick. In 13, Matty has made Jenna her own "dream house" (he totally loves her) and has included a packet of fairy wishing dust which seemed very contrived, but at least when she made her wish, she was very precise, saying, "I wish I were 30, flirty, and thriving." 

We next have our scene where the characters wake up the next day and discover what has happened to them. This scene is done much better in Big. In 13, it felt like they were trying not to totally copy Big for this scene, but they still kinda do. It's funnier in Big as he's trying to put on his own clothes only to find he can't fit in them and when his mom (Mercedes Ruehl) asks him a question from downstairs he replies with a deeper voice. They try to make it funny in 13, but it goes on a little too long as she sees a guy only wearing a towel coming out of her bathroom and freaks out when she hears a cell phone. 

The biggest difference in these movies is the time setting. For Josh, it's still the same year as it was when he was a kid, 1988, and everyone around him is still the same age. He has literally skipped from being 13 to 30. For Jenna, it is 2004 and everyone else has grown up around her and she already has an established job at Poise magazine and has an apartment in New York. She already has lived her life (and discovers that she was popular in high school and became friends with the Six Chicks and now works with Lucy (the girl called Tom-Tom (Judy Greer)). She just doesn't remember any of it and soon finds out she's not a very nice person, having done terrible things, including pushing Matty out of her life because she got too cool for him. This scenario is a little less freaky in 13 as nobody is surprised that Jenna is older, but they do wonder why she's acting all weird. Plus, she already has a job and apartment she doesn't have to worry about. It's a little more scary for Josh in Big. When he tries to tell his mom what happened, she gets freaked out that a strange man is in her home and is talking about her son and thinks Josh has been kidnapped. The only person who knows the truth about Josh's identity is Billy who is skeptical only until Josh starts singing a song they always sing together. He helps Josh by acquiring his dad's clothes for him, breaking into his family's emergency cash stack for Josh to stay at a crappy hotel in New York. Josh doesn't have the luxury of having a doorman or a walk-in closet full of designer dresses, shoes, and purses like Jenna has. Instead he has screaming neighbors, gunshots outside his window, and a crappy room. Big definitely explores a darker side. There's a bit of a dark side in 13 when Jenna realizes she was a major bitch in her blocked-out years and someone who turned on her friends and family and sold out her own place of employment by helping out the competition, Sparkle magazine. That said, Jenna never has to fear for her life or safety like Josh, plus her parents aren't out there worrying about their daughter and what's happened to her. I never understood why the Baskins just didn't call the police and say that their son was missing. Unless they did and I just totally missed that. Josh tries to ease their minds by calling them and saying their son was okay and writing them letters saying he was being treated well and it was just like summer camp. Even though they put a missing child photo of him on the side of a milk carton (oh, how '80s!), it still didn't feel like they were doing enough to find him. And he was gone for at least a month...that's a long time for your kid to go missing! In this regard, I think 13 had more free reign to not have to worry about stuff like that and maybe their method made more sense, but it was much more interesting in Big. It's one thing to want to be a certain age, but skip ahead (or back) to the year when you will be (or were) that age, but it's another to be a totally different age in the present year. Or at least, I can only imagine! 

I mentioned earlier that I would discuss the setting of the '80s. Obviously Big is set there throughout the whole movie as well as was filmed in the '80s, however, 13 Going on 30 seems to have a lot more fun with the decade...even when it is set in 2004. They go through all the great '80s songs: "Thriller", "Jessie's Girl", "Burning Down the House", Madonna's "Crazy For You", "Love is a Battlefield", "Everybody Have Fun Tonight", and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." That annoying Liz Phair song, that played everywhere in '04 was the only current song they had. There's not that many big '80s hits in Big and one of the songs sounded a lot like the song Will Smith wrote for Men in Black...and then I learned that he sampled from a song called "Forget Me Nots" and that's the song that plays when Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins are jumping on the trampoline. Seeing that as I recognized it as the Will Smith song and not the '80s song should probably provide a clue that it wasn't a huge '80s hit...not in the way the songs in 13 are. That movie also has fun with the fashion: they dress young Jenna and the Six Chicks in some of the most ridiculous, but most amazing '80s fashions. Josh's crush wears a very '80s outfit and is decked out in denim, crimped hair, and big plastic earrings. And they weren't even trying to be cute and clever like they were in 13; it's so awesome. Seeing as Big was filmed in the '80s, it was just the current decade for them and they didn't have the fun with it as they did with 13 Going on 30. They had yet to realize what an awesome decade for fashion and music they were dealing with!

Josh gets a job at a toy company and when the president (Robert Loggia) sees how knowledgeable he his about toys, he is quickly promoted to Vice President, much to the chagrin of the other employees. His salary raises significantly and he is able to afford his own loft complete with a bunch of toys. Both movies have a musical number they're both known for: the playing of "Heart and Soul" on a floor piano in FAO Schwarz in Big and the "Thriller" dance scene in 13 when Jenna is trying to revive a dying party to impress her boss (Andy Serkis) which turns into a flash mob. Both scenes are the highlights of their movies.

Movies like these would not be complete with a romance. In Big, fellow co-worker, Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), takes a liking to Josh even though she finds him a bit odd when he shows up to a party wearing a ridiculous white suit and eats the baby corn like regular corn. Even when he takes her back to his apartment filled with toys, she is only a little taken aback, but still, ironically, finds him more of an adult than her ex (John Heard). In her new world, Jenna already has a boyfriend, a good-looking hockey player who's also really dumb. She meets back up with Matty (Mark Ruffalo) who tells her they haven't spoken since high school and she finds out about her past from him. They rekindle their friendship and Jenna is crushed to learn that he is getting engaged to another woman and is moving to Chicago.

A big difference between these two movies (there are more than one!) is how they deal with sex. Jenna never has sex when she is in her adult body, but Josh does (and is quite chipper the next day). This is a little bit disturbing because while Jenna still thinks of herself as a 13-year-old, she has already lived her entire life up to 30 (even though she doesn't remember it) and has already had experience with guys and sex seeing as she has a boyfriend and found out she had an affair with a married man (even though she doesn't remember any of it). Josh is just a 13-year-old in an adult body and has had no experience so it's a little creepy to think Susan had sex with a 13-year-old, even though he looked like an adult.

Both movies remind us that these adults are really still kids. Josh still hangs with Billy and they get pizza, ice cream sundaes, spray each other with Silly String, and snicker when people think Billy is Josh's son. And let's not forget all the toys he gets to play with! There's a hilarious scene in 13 Going on 30 when Lucy tells Jenna that a hot guy in a restaurant is checking her out and she decides to talk to him. She goes past the attractive guy Lucy was talking about only to stop in front of a 13 year old boy and starts talking to him and asks for his number. She also makes friends with a 13-year-old girl who lives in her apartment and invites her and her friends over for a sleepover and proclaims the reason she looks good in her new dress is because of her "amazing boobs!"

In Big, at the beginning of his transformation, Josh wants nothing more than to go back to his old self, but finds out that it will take a month before he gets back any information on where the carnival with the fortune teller is. (It left town the next day). But he likes his life as an adult and isn't sure he wants to go back to a kid until Billy puts some perspective into him. In 30, Jenna is resigned that this is where she now is in her life and will have to deal with the repercussions of being who she was and losing Matty. Of course both movies both end up with them going back to their 13-year-old selves.

I highly recommend both movies; Big is more of a classic, but I think 13 Going on 30 is very cute and Jennifer Garner is very charming as Jenna. It's a very un-Sydney Bristow-like role, but some of the outfits reminded of clothes Sydney would wear for her undercover jobs! Especially when she had her hair up in pigtails with these long chopsticks...those would make great weapons for Syd!  Oh, and if you love the '80s, you should definitely check out both movies! 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Classic

Miracle on 34th Street
Director: George Seaton
Cast: Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne
Released: May 2, 1947

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Gentleman's Agreement)
Best Supporting Actor - Edmund Gween (won)
Best Original Story - Valentine Davies (won)
Best Screenplay - George Seaton (won - okay, isn't that the same as "original story"?)

For my traditional Christmas movie review, I was going to do a double review of this movie and the 1994 remake, but I could not get my hands on the '94 one. (You'd think this one would be the harder one to find!) The only time I saw it at my local video store was when I rented this one, but I didn't want to get that one too because I would look stupid renting two of the same movie. (They're not the same, but you know what I mean!) And even though it was my #1 on my Netflix queue, they kept sending me the discs for season 4 of Modern Family which were listed after that one. So no double feature this year. It would have been interesting to compare the two movies. Maybe I will do the '94 remake next year as a holiday bonus movie. If I can find it, that is!

This is the first time I've seen the original. I had seen the remake when it came out and then again on home video, but it's been awhile since I've seen that, though I certainly remembered elements from that one while watching this one. I'm pretty sure the remake is an exact replica of the original although I'm sure they changed a few things. I just can't tell you what those might be! Apparently there's also been two made-for-TV remakes that came out in 1959 and 1973 which I didn't even know had existed! It's been almost twenty years since the theatrical remake...I think it's about time for another rendition of this Christmas classic!

When I first saw the '94 version, my first introduction to this movie, I was old enough to know (spoiler alert!) Santa isn't real. (Please, I had figured that out when I saw a price tag from Toys R Us on one of my toys!) But I could totally suspend my imagination and believe that Santa could be real in movies like he is in Elf, Ernest Saves Christmas, and many others. So when I watched Miracle on 34th Street ('94), I just believed that he was the real Santa and didn't even think about it. But watching Miracle on 34th Street ('47), I wasn't so sure. Is he really Santa or is he just a kind-hearted man, but a bit loony and really believes he is a fictional character? I can't remember if they gave him any sort of magical powers in the '94 version that would make it no doubt he really was Santa or if it's just because I'm a little older and a little wiser and psycho-analyze things too much. This is why it would have been nice to re-watch the remake! In Elf, Santa lives in the North Pole with his toy-making elves (and Buddy!) and flies a sleigh pulled by his eight reindeer. Neither Santa does that in the Miracle movies, but there are other signs that he could be Santa Claus, although everything can be explained. You certainly can't explain how you can ride in a sleigh by flying reindeer!

The film starts out in New York at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade where Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn), as he calls himself, fills in for the drunk man who was supposed to play Santa. He seems to know what he's doing with the reins, but he could just be an excellent horseback rider. Before that, he tells a shop owner that his miniature reindeer are in the wrong spot. (How can you even tell Prancer from Cupid, Comet, etc.?) He could have just been pulling that out of his butt and telling the show owner some gibberish to make it sound like he knew what he was talking about. When he gets a job as a department store Santa at Macy's, instead of trying to sell the extra stock they have at the store like he was told, he tells the parents where they can find a toy if Macy's doesn't carry it. He could have just done his homework. Although this was before the Internet existed, so it probably took more time, but he could have visited every store and took inventory of their stock. By the way, I didn't know Gimbles was a real store. My first instruction to it was in Elf and I just thought it was a made up department store for that movie. Too bad Buddy the Elf wasn't around back then to decorate their department store for them.

When Doris Walker (Maureen O'Hara), who hired Kringle at Macy's, asks to see his contact information, she is given a card with an address from the North Pole. It could be that he is homeless and just wrote the first thing he thought of! And since he really does believe he is Santa Claus (perhaps it's the beard?), he is taken to court to question his sanity. There is that scene where his lawyer (and Mrs. Walker's love interest), Fred Gailey (John Payne), shows evidence that he is the real Santa because all these bags of letters addressed to "Santa" have been delivered to the courthouse. Since all those letters were delivered to this man who says he is Santa at this address where he's being held, that must mean he really is Santa! Well, not exactly. There's a scene at the post office where they are trying to get rid of all the letters addressed to Santa they've accumulated throughout the years (what do they do with those anyway?), so they decide to send them to the courthouse because they've read about Kris Kringle in the paper and they just want to get rid of all those letters! I don't think that scene really proved he is Santa. And then you have the last scene (which I remember in the remake too) where it's Christmas day and Doris's daughter, Susan (Natalie Wood) is upset because she didn't get what she asked Santa for....which was a house, duh, of course it's not going to fit under your tree! She goes for a drive with her mom and Fred and makes them stop the car when she sees the house she showed a picture of to Kris with a "for sale" sign the yard. She yelps and jumps around the house, happy and pleased that Santa remembered her gift. I rolled my eyes when Fred says, "Well, now we have to buy it for her." Nice gift, "Santa", you're making the adults pay for it!

I'm not trying to be a total Scrooge, but I'm just pointing out that this so-called Santa could just be a demented, albeit kind, old man who does think he is really Santa. They never give you any concrete evidence that he is a character who travels around the world in one night to deliver toys to all the children. I think they want you to believe he is Santa, but leave it up to interpretation. Or maybe I'm just a total downer!

Let's talk about Susan. Let's just forget the fact that it was totally ridiculous that her mom and Mr. Gailey decide just to buy a new house because she asked Santa for one. That whole thing aside, I'm sorry, but this little girl has a stick up her butt. She is just so...unfun and acts more like an adult than a kid. I can't remember if Mara Wilson's Susan was like this too. Susan is probably no more than eight and doesn't believe in Santa. (I blame that on her mom who also seems to be really uptight). There's a scene where she's telling Kris that her schoolmates were pretending to be animals and they wanted her to be a bear and she indignantly tells him, "I'm not a bear! I'm a girl!" Oh my God, it's called having an imagination! Kids like that are the worst! She does learn to be more like a kid, so she gets a little better but she totally looses me again at the end with her ridiculous present from "Santa".

This movie came out in May, which today is unheard of for a Christmas movie not to come out in November or December. (The '94 one came out in November). The reason it came out nearly six months before Christmas was because more people back then went to movies during the summer rather than the winter and they wanted to be sure they made money. They didn't market the movie as a Christmas movie and instead of showing scenes from the movie when they were promoting it, they did an advertisement where they said this movie was "romantic", "thrilling", "funny", and any other adjective you could think of to make people see it. It seemed to work because it became a big hit for its time and was nominated for a few Oscars (and won most of them).  It's a nice movie, but to me, it really doesn't feel like a Christmas movie. It just seems to be lacking that extra spark.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Collage

Here is a Christmas video I made and I hope you check it out and enjoy it. I mostly used stock photos of Christmas images, but to tie it in to movies, there are some stills from Christmas movies and I did use music that is used in Christmas movies as well. 

In keeping with my holiday tradition, I will do a Christmas movie review this year. I have plans for a double feature, but I am having problems with getting my hands on one of the movies. It's always gone at my local video store and even though I have it as #1 on my Netflix queue, they keep sending me my second choice even though it doesn't say it's a long wait. So if I can't get this movie, I will just have to do another one. It's not like my choices are limited for Christmas movies!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

White House Has Fallen

 White House Down
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke, Joey King, James Wood
Released: June 28, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerald Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett,  Melissa Leo, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Finley Jacobsen
Released: March 22, 2013

Remember in 1998 when both Armageddon and Deep Impact, both about asteroids destroying the earth, were released within months of each other? And wasn't there two movies about volcanoes erupting within the same year too? White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen are both about the White House being taken over by terrorists and one man (Channing Tatum for WHD and Gerald Butler for OHF) must stop them. Both movies came out earlier this year only separated by a few months. There are only two main differences that I can find in both movies. One is that OHF takes itself much more seriously than WHD. It has a very somber mood while WHD goes for the more blockbuster summer popcorn thrill ride. It even makes a meta joke when a guide is giving a tour of the White House and tells the group where they are standing is where the aliens blew up the White House in Independence Day. Apparently that line was not in the script, so good for Roland Emmerich for having a sense of humor to keep it in. (Just in case my mom is reading this, he directed Independence Day!) Also, the marketing! I saw trailers, commercials, and posters for WHD everywhere while I had no idea that OHF even existed until I saw it on DVD and heard somebody talk about it on a podcast when they were reviewing these two movies. I thought it was one of the straight to DVD releases!

Why don't we compare how similar they are? In the first time in Cinematic Sara history, I created this nifty table from my iMac's Pages:

White House Down

Olympus Has Fallen
POTUS: James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) Even though Foxx isn’t as young as I thought he was, I could never believe him as the President of the United States. He was just never authoritative to me in a way, say, someone like Denzel Washington would be able to pull off. The First Lady is in Paris when the chaos happens.

POTUS: Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart) Asher is a widower with a young son. His wife died in a car accident a year prior when their car slid into an icy bridge and she plummeted to her death. There was only time to save Asher. 
The hero: John Cale (Channing Tatum) First of all, I could watch Channing Tatum in anything. He is very nice to look at! Cale is a bodyguard assigned to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He gets involved with helping Sawyer when he is in the White House on a tour with his daughter when the mayhem begins. 

The hero: Mike Banning (Gerald Bulter) Banning used to be head of the security team for the POTUS, but he was pulled from the team because he was the one who saved the POTUS and couldn’t save the FLOTUS so it brings back bad memories for the President. When Banning sees something is wrong at the White House, he goes into Jack Bauer mode. 

The (main) bad guy: Emil (Jason Clark, the guy from Zero Dark Thirty). With the help from the inside, he leads his men inside and they start taking hostages. The bad guys sneak into the WH acting like janitors. 

The (main) bad guy: North Korean terrorist, Kang (Rick Yune) who is posing as the South Korean’s Prime Minister’s assistant. That way he is invited into the White House when Asher has a meeting with the PM. After the WH is surrounded by Kang’s men and the security guys have all been taken out, Kang takes the POTUS and others (including the Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo)). Kang wants Asher to pull troops from his country where there’s a civil war going on and he wants the codes for the missiles he plans to launch and the only people who know them are the POUTS and two other officials in the room.
Inside Man: Martin Walker, retired head of the Presidential Detail (James Wood) He is the one who is behind the overthrow of the White House because his son was killed in war and he wants revenge. He also wants codes that will launch a missile.  

Inside Man: ex-Secret Service agent-turned-traitor Dave Forbes (Dylan McDermott). I don’t remember why he was working with the North Koreans, but Banning doesn’t know his old pal is one of the bad guys until Forbes says Kang’sname and Banning asks him how he knew his name. He tells Forbes to be on the good side for once and radio Kang to tell him he has Banning captured and after he does that, Banning kills him. Dude, pick a side and stay with it! 
The veteran: Speaker of the House, Eli Ralpheson (Richard Jenkins). He is the one Cale works for and he is also behind the whole plot as well. He is promised if he goes along with it, he will be the next POTUS because they launch a missile at Air Force One which has the VP in it. (What’s this an epihour of 24?) But what he and Walker failed to realize is that they didn’t succeed at killing the President and their plans are thwarted.  

The veteran: Speaker of the House, Allan Trumball (Morgan Freeman). See, even the veteran actors are playing the same roles! Unlike Ralpheson, Trumball is a good guy and has to take over as POTUS for five minutes when it is feared that Asher is dead. 
The kid: Emily (Joey King) Cale’s daughter who has an unusual fascination with politics for a girl her age. Her flag waving skills helps save her dad and POTUS at the end of the day (don’t ask). She has a YouTube channel and takes videos of the terrorists as she’s hiding. She is captured and brought into a room with the other hostages, but not before she uploads the videos to her channel and they go viral and soon it’s all over the news. The journalists say her name and post her picture. Now I  shouldn’t compare this ridiculous event to a real, horrifying one, but I remember when Columbine happened live (as this was happening live too), students would call news channels from inside the school to tell them what’s going on, but the journalists would be very careful to say DO NOT TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE so they wouldn’t be found and shot in case there were any TVs on. Why are these journalists saying her name and posting picture of her when her hostages could be watching it on TV? That was just stupid and that would never happen. 

The kid: Connor (Finley Jacobsen) He has nothing to do except be saved. After he is safe, Banning continues on with getting the POTUS and defeating Kang. This category is the only one where there’s a major difference between the two movies. It’s the only one where the characters are played by opposite genders. And while Connor is barely in the movie, Emily plays a very big role in hers.
The (main) female: Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhall). She works as an assistant for the POTUS and is not in the White House when it’s taken over. She’s working on the outside to help Cale and Sawyer escape.

The (main) female: Director of the Secret Service, Lynne Jacobs (Angela Basset). She fully and completely trusts Banning with her life and with the life of the President. She knows if anybody is going to save Asher, it’s going to be Banning! She’s also on the outside helping Banning.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Music is All Around

August Rush
Director: Kirsten Sheridan
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams, Terrance Howard
Released: November 21, 2007
Viewed in theaters: November 24, 2007

Oscar nominations:
Best Song - "Raise It Up" by Jamal Joseph and Charles Mack (lost to "Falling Slowly" from Once)

This movie is one big live-action fairy tale because the premise is absolutely ridiculous and non-believable at all. It starts with Julliard-trained cellist Lyla Novacek (played by Keri Russell - remember that time she cut her hair and everybody was in uproar about it? Well, I don't blame them. You don't cut hair like hers that short! Luckily it grew back!) and rock band singer and guitarist Louis Connelly (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers). After Lyla plays at Lincoln Center and Louis plays at a club, they somehow end up at the same party and meet each other on the roof where, being the only ones up there, they have time to talk and fall in love and have a one night stand. Slight spoiler alert: they won't see each other for eleven more years, but yet they believe they are destined to be "soul mates". I know they are going for a romantic notion, but the whole idea that two people could fall in love only knowing each other for one night and still feel that way eleven years later is so ridiculous. Though they are both very attractive, I will give them that.

Lyla becomes pregnant but her dad disapproves of this (and the guy, I suppose, though he never met him) and near the end of her pregnancy she is hit by a car where she is told by her father that she lost the baby, but he forged her signature on adoption papers so he doesn't have to worry about the baby interfering with her music career. Now I don't know how the adoption process works, but wouldn't the hospital administration be suspicion to see Lyla's signature on an important document that has to do with her own child on a date when she was in a coma? And you have to know they have THAT in the records. Unless the paper was forged at an earlier date and her father told them this is what they wanted? I don't know. This all happens really fast so I didn't really have time to think about this until now. When Lyla wakes up (and I don't think she was even in a coma; she was just out while they operated on her), her dad tells her she lost the baby and she starts crying.

Eleven years pass. Lyla has moved to Chicago where she teaches  music to young children, but hasn't picked up an instrument in years. Sidenote: her redheaded friend, Lizzy, is played by Bonnie McKee, the singer of "American Girl" and writer of all those pop songs she wrote for Katy Perry and others. Louis is now living in San Francisco and has a girlfriend, but Lyla is still in his heart and when his girlfriend finds out he still has feelings for another girl, she leaves him. Their son (who neither knows exists), Evan, has grown up in an all boys' orphanage outside of New York City. Evan is played by the adorable Freddie Highmore who I was shocked to find out is now 21! Holy crap, when did he get so old! It won't be long before he will need a walker and dentures! Freddie in his prime time kid actor status is what I would call a PLEM. This is an acronym I made up myself and one I'm quite proud of. PLEM stands for Precious Little English Muffin. To be a PLEM, there's only three requirements: you must be British (DUH...otherwise it would defeat the whole purpose), you must be younger than 16 (at the ancient age of 21, Freddie is no longer eligible to be a PLEM), and most importantly, you must be adorably cute like he is in this movie. (And all his others).

Being born to musically-gifted parents, Evan is a musical prodigy...which doesn't make any sense. Children can obtain their parents' physical and personality traits, but I've never heard of children acquiring their parents' talents. But let's remind ourselves once more that this is just a modern-day fairy tale. Evan is convinced that his parents will be able to find him if they can just "follow the music" he is playing for them (even though he has no idea who his parents are, let alone that they are both in the music industry). He talks to a social worker (Terrance Howard) about finding his parents and decides to go into the city himself to see if he can find them. There he meets a boy about his age, Arthur, who lives with a bunch of other misfit children in a big abandoned broken-down theater and they all perform around the city and give their earnings to their father figure, a man they call Wizard (Robin Williams). Wizard recruits Evan to join them when he sees how much talent he has, but decides Evan needs a better name and comes up with "August Rush" when he sees a van with "August Rush to the Beach" printed on it. I will admit, August Rush has a nice ring to it and it's a lot better than Rachel Marron. I know, you are asking, who the hell was that? That was Whitney Houston's character's name in The Bodyguard...the woman who was a huge pop star AND Oscar-winning actress. It still kills me how they gave her the most vanilla name ever.

Meanwhile, Lyla's father is dying and on his deathbed he reveals that her son is still alive and she is determined to find him and with the help of the social worker discovers a photo of a boy who has the same birth date as her son. Around this time, the theater August had been residing in has been raided by the police and he runs away to an inner-city church where he walks in to see a gospel choir singing. Most of the singers are in their 20s and 30s, but their is one girl that stands out because she is no more than ten and it's funny to hear her little voice (though she is a strong singer for somebody her age and size) among all these mature adult voices. She reminds me or Rudy from The Cosby Show when they sang that Ray Charles song and she just belts her part out. The girl's name is Hope and she and August become friends and when Hope's father, the pastor of the church, discovers Augusts' musical capability, he is enrolled into Julliard. Just like that. I'm pretty sure you have to audition to get into Julliard and it probably still takes awhile to get in, but whatever. Remember: we are watching a highly improbable fairy tale. Eleven-year-old August is taking classes with college-age students and they all want him to help them with their compositions. He's like the Doogie Howser of Julliard!

Mini Mozart
August is given the unprecedented pleasure of being the first first-year student to conduct his own piece (called "August's Rhapsody") at a concert in Central Park where - what a coincidence - his mother will be a cellist. (I don't remember when she returned to her musical roots, but apparently she did).

Okay. So I totally CRIED during this scene even though it is so ridiculous and the ending does not pay off, like, AT ALL. August is conducting his piece (and it's a song I really love: I downloaded it from iTunes after I saw the movie and if an 11-year-old really did write it, I would be very impressed!) Lyla, who is done with her set, is walking out of the crowd, but something about the music catches her attention and makes her turn around. Then you have Louis, who is also in NYC on a mission to find Lyla but is headed to the airport when his attempts fail. On the way to the airport, they drive past Central Park and he sees a sign about the concert that has Lyla's name and shouts at them to stop the car and frantically shouts, "Let me out! Let me out!" Even though I was crying, this made me laugh. Lyla and Louis "follow the music" until they reach each other and smile and hold hands. It seems natural for them to do those things even though they haven't seen each other in eleven years. They look up and see August grinning at them and smile back. Movie ends. Uh.........what, really movie? No big tearful family reunion? No nice family hug? It was very much a big letdown that they don't pay off their reunion in a big way. We did get a nice moment between August and his dad when just by happenstance Louis runs into August performing on the street and they trade guitar tips , but we never saw Felicity interact with him. I know this is because she knows what her son looks like, so thematically that couldn't have worked, but we could at least gotten a hug at the end!

Here is "August's Rhapsody" that is played at the end of the movie. They took out all the audio so you can't hear Jonathan Rhys Meyer's hilarious utterance of "Let me out, let me out!" But the music is very effective as is what is being shown, so can you blame me for crying? I didn't think so!

One thing I really liked about this movie was that is embraces music WITHOUT being a musical. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wave of Destruction

The Impossible
Director: J.A. Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Released: December 21, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Actress - Naomi Watts (lost to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Lining's Playbook)

This is a true story about a European family vacationing in Thailand for Christmas when they were struck by the 2004 tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. I remember this tsunami and that it killed many people, but what I hadn't realize was how massive it was and how many countries it hit. I thought that Thailand, Indonesia, India, and other countries in that area were hit, but there were also countries on the east coast of Africa that were also hit like Somalia, Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa!  Not only are some of those countries not that close to each other, but they are nowhere near Thailand and Indonesia! They didn't suffer as much damage or as many casualties as the Southeast Asian countries that were hit, but that still shocked me. And I had also thought that the tsunami had hit every place at once, but it hadn't. It first hit Indonesia, which had the most casualties, then it hit Thailand and India two hours later and the African countries even later.

The family the movie is centered around - a couple, Maria and Henry (portrayed by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor) with three young boys (the oldest is no more than 12; the youngest around 5) is British, but the real-life family that went through this awful ordeal were actually Spanish. I don't mind that they changed the nationality of the family. True, they could have easily cast Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas and three young Spanish boys as the family, but then you would have to have the movie in Spanish and I'm guessing the filmmakers thought it would be better for it to be in English to get a bigger audience. I should mention that the director, producer, and writer are all Spanish and they collaborated with Maria Belon, the woman who Naomi Watts plays, so if all of them are okay with a real-life Spanish family being portrayed by a non-Spanish family, then it shouldn't be that big of a deal. And what country they are from really shouldn't matter...their nationality and what language they speak is not important in the grand scheme of things.

The Bennett family has gone to Thailand for a family vacation over the Christmas holiday. Apparently there were a lot of Europeans who were there on holiday when this tragedy occurred. I don't know if this is a common thing for Europeans to take family vacations to other continents, but to me, that idea is just foreign. I have never been, nor do I know anybody who has taken a family vacation to an entirely different country, let alone continent. Now the family is very well off as the mother is a doctor and the father works in business, but why not just go to the many beaches that their own country has to offer? They don't have family in Thailand and it's their first time there so I'm not really sure why they chose to go there, but where they are staying is a very nice resort for people with money.

We see them having a great time, playing on the beach and swimming in the ocean and the pool (why do you need a pool when you are already on the beach?) and enjoying their Christmas together. The day after Christmas they are all out by the pool when suddenly strange things start happening. The wind picks up. Birds are rapidly flying away from the ocean. A small lizard quickly hides underground. One of Maria's pages from her book rips away and lands on a glass wall. When she walks over to pick it up, we see the reflection behind her and she looks at it in horror as she sees the disturbing sight of an 80-foot palm tree just disappear as though it's easily been toppled over, and then sees more trees disappear. That was a really scary and effective image. Before anyone has time to react (Maria quickly yells at her husband who is in the pool with the two youngest boys), this huge wave appears and engulfs the resort.

The effects are very impressive and it's horrifying to think that this actually happened and this family went through this. But as I was watching, I couldn't help thinking why nobody was warned about this and why they weren't trying to evacuate the place. I watched a documentary on the tsunami and found out why this was. There are about 80 censors in the Pacific Ocean that alert a tsunami detection center in Hawaii if there is a change in the ocean that could cause a tsunami and then they can alert other countries that could be affected by this and give people plenty of time to evacuate beaches and get to safety. At the time of the 2004 tsunami, such a system did not exist in the Indian Ocean and there was only time to alert the nations of Africa when the tsunami struck.

Maria and Lucas, the oldest son, are separated from Henry and the two younger boys, Simon and Thomas. When watching this movie, I wasn't familiar with this family's story and had no idea if they all survived or not. I figured at least one of the adults had survived to be able to tell their story, but it you watch the trailer (which I did after I watched the movie), you already know that everyone survives the initial impact of the wave. Surprisingly everyone gets out unscathed aside from a few bruises and scratches.  Maria gets the worse of the injuries. She is poked in the stomach by branches while the water is rushing all around her and when she and Lucas are walking to find a tree to climb up, there is a huge piece of skin hanging off the back of her leg and you see a huge chunk of her muscle. (The make-up artists did a great job.) Surprisingly, Maria never really cried out in pain (except when she's climbing the tree) and I figured that it had to be due to shock and the will to survive. The huge chunk of missing skin is not the most graphic part of the movie. No, that would be the scene where Maria is in the hospital and throws up. It was so graphic that I thought she was throwing up her intestines (I know, I know), but later found out it was branches and leaves she had swallowed.

The film focuses on Maria and Lucas quite a lot during the first third, but then turns its attention to the others. I thought they were going to show the tsunami through their POV, but instead we find out what happened to them through a quick narrative: Henry was scared when he couldn't find his sons, but was quickly relieved when he saw them in a tree. How these two young boys managed to get out with barely a scrape and quickly found a way out of harm's way, (with presumably no help), I'll never know, but the movie doesn't think it's important to show us how they survived, but that they just did. Henry sends his two children on a bus that is going to the mountains and asks a woman to look after them so he can continue his search for his wife and eldest son. I understand that he wanted to continue to look for them in case they needed help, but I thought he should have stayed with the children he already knew were alive so they would at least still have one live parent left. The best scenario would be that someone had already found Maria and Lucas and was helping them (which was what happened). The worst scenario would be that they are both dead and there would be nothing he could do about it anyway.

This movie made me cry several times so I'm glad I watched it alone in the privacy of my apartment. While Thomas is in the hospital he helps family members be reunited and tries to help find others' loved one. One Swedish father and son are reunited and I bawled. I bawled when Henry called family members back home to tell them he was okay but didn't know the fate of his wife and Lucas yet. And I bawled when they were all reunited, though, I have to wonder how accurate their reunion was. It seemed awfully convenient that Henry ended up at the hospital his wife and son were at, plus the two young boys were there too. I have to imagine that this did not happen in real life, but it was more cinematic and dramatic this way. It still amazes me that this actually happened to this family and they are all very lucky to be alive!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Captain on the Rocks

Captain Phillips
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Barkhad Abdi
Released: October 11, 2013
Viewed in theaters: November 3, 2013

Much like he did with United 93, Paul Greengrass cast mostly unknowns in his latest movie based on a true event with the exception of Tom Hanks who I'm sure you have heard of! The capturing of Richard Phillips onboard a huge cargo ship happened in April 2009, but despite being old enough to remember this, I don't recall this story at all and wasn't even aware of it until I heard about the movie and how that was based on a true story.

It is an interesting story and I can see why it was made into a film. I wasn't aware that Paul Greengrass had directed it until his name came up at the end credits and I think to myself, Of course, I should have known. This is a movie that he would direct.

The movie begins with Captain Phillips (portrayed by Tom Hanks) and his wife (Catherine Keener) on their way to the airport so Phillips can fly to Oman where from there, he, along with a crew, will navigate a large cargo ship called the Maersk Alabama to deliver food to the nations of Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. Their route sends them to Djibouti from Oman and then to Mombassa, Kenya, which they have to sail along the Somali coast where pirate activity is so heavy that Phillips gets an e-mail warning about it and has drills to prepare his crew in case they should ever have a run-in with pirates.

On the sonar, he notices two small blips gradually getting closer to the Maersk Alabama and with binoculars, sees that they are two skiffs each with four Somalian pirates on each one. He fibs to the pirates when he gets on his radio and tells them that the Navy (or whoever it is that patrols the oceans) will be arriving in five minutes. Only one skiff calls him on his bluff while the other changes course. The skiff that is still coming after them breaks down and Phillips and his crew are safe...for now.

Phillips has a conversation with his crew about the incident. Their boat is not armed so if they are captured by pirates, they have no fire power to scare them away. Many of his crew want to take a detour to get out of the heavy pirate activity which would mean not reaching their destination. Phillips tells them they have a job to do and that's what they're to do and if anybody wants to leave, they can. I can see the points of both sides. It does seem pretty ridiculous to risk your life in an area of the world that's known for its piracy when your ship isn't even armed (that has since changed and firing warning shots help scare pirates off), but Phillips was right saying they have an obligation to deliver the food to Mombassa and this is what they signed up for.

The next day, four of the pirates are back, led by Muse (played by Somalian-born, Minnesota-raised Barkhad Abdi). They get a lot closer to the Alabama than the previous day and water hoses spaced all around the boat are activated to keep the pirates away, but one is broken and despite one crew member desperately trying to fix it, the pirates make their way to that part of the boat and hook their ladder onto it so they can climb up. It is crazy to think that four men in one small boat can overpower a crew that outnumbers them in a boat that is 508 feet and 6 inches long (footnote, Wikipedia).

As he sees the pirates boarding the ship, Tom Hanks' expression is of pure fear and he does a brilliant job of portraying it. Expect a few acting nominations on the way for him in the near future. Phillips tells his crew to hide in the engine room and not to come out no matter what. He and a couple other crew members are in the control area where they steer that boat. The pirates find them and asks Phillips where the rest of his crew is and he replies with, "I don't know!" He tells the pirates that he will help them search the boat and suggests they start from top to bottom since the engine room is at the bottom and will give the crew members plenty of time to shut the power off so they will be hidden.

There is an intense scene where one of the pirates has a gun pointed at the head of one of Phillips' crew member when he won't tell them where the rest of the crew is, but no blood is least not for awhile.

After a standoff between the pirates and the crew members, Phillips offers them the $30,000 in their vault and the lifeboat on the Alabama if they just leave them alone, but after he is explaining how to work the lifeboat, they won't let him leave and take off with him in it and the movie continues on to show us how he is eventually rescued by the Navy Seals.

Something interesting that Greengrass does is he never cuts back to Keener at home worrying about her husband who is in peril. In fact, the only time we see her is at the very beginning.

The ending of the movie is very effective and another great scene from Hanks. He has an interesting accent as the real Captain Phillips from Massachusetts. It was a bit distracting at times because he sounds a lot like Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Weight of the World

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Released: October 4, 2013
Viewed in theaters: October 12, 2013

It's too bad the Academy were falling all over themselves to give Sandra Bullock the Best Actress Oscar a few years back for a role that wasn't very memorable in a mediocre movie. If only they had waited, they could have given her the Best Actress Oscar for Gravity, an Oscar win that would be much more deserved and revered. But she could always pull a Hilary Swank or Christoph Waltz and win a second Oscar just a few years after winning her first.

I will be the first one to tell you that I'm not a fan of 3-D and will only see it if it's highly recommended (Avatar) or I have to (Titanic re-release (damn you, James Cameron!)) I have to say, though, that this was probably the best use of 3-D I've ever seen and I kinda forgot I was even wearing the glasses after awhile. Usually they're bugging me and I'm taking them off because I'm one of those weird people who have to take off the glasses to see what the movie looks like if you're not wearing them.

The very first shot is the looming Earth and you see a very small speck moving slowly and gradually getting bigger as it gets closer. You quickly notice there's an even smaller speck behind the already small speck and the closer it gets, you realize it's a space craft with astronaut Matt Kowalski  (George Clooney) attached to it with a long cord in his space suit. With the 3-D effect, he seems to come out of the screen and hover over the audience. It's really cool how the 3-D is used.

Kowalski and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are in space something important. To be honest, I have no idea. Even though I find the solar system fascinating, I am not a NASA nut. Whatever it was, they needed Stone's expertise as she was the one who was using tools to put something together. Keep in mind while Kowalski was a veteran astronaut, this was Stone's first time in space. They are there with another man who doesn't have much screen time. Make that as you will.

They hear a warning from the mission control headquarters (voiced by Ed Harris, do you think it is a coincidence that he was also in The Right Stuff and Apollo 13?)  that a Russian missile strike has caused a chain reaction  that has caused space debris. Do I have any idea if this is even plausible? No, of course not!  They are told to abort their mission but don't have enough time to avoid the debris. There's a lot of it  (and some pieces are quite huge) and it's coming up fast on them.

Stone's cord becomes detached and she just goes tumbling head over heels for what seems like an eternity. She was already feeling nauseous to begin with so just watching her tumble like that, you know she's gotta be feeling like she's on one of those amusement park rides that spin you around, but just multiply that by ten! I wonder what happens if astronauts have to throw up...luckily that didn't happen! This movie really makes you appreciate just how big space is and how there is (in space!). One is just an infinitesimal speck in space. Her oxygen is getting low and the more she is moving away from the base, the more it seems impossible she can be retrieved. It has to be a scary feeling when you can't control your movements and there's nothing you can do about it. This happens very early in the movie and I was thinking that she was going to get to far away, lose her oxygen and die and that this would be the shortest movie ever. Miraculously, Kowalski gets in contact with her and asks her to flash her light and tethers her to him.

As they make their way back, Kowalski keeps Stone talking to calm her down and we learn that she had a young daughter who died in a playground accident. This will come up later in the film as Stone is struggling with trying to survive and making it back to Earth or accepting death and being able to join her daughter soon.

This is a very tense movie and it moves quickly. One thing after another happens. Just when you think there's a chance for them to get back home, something happens, they fix that problem, but then another problem arises until you think there's no way they will ever make their way home. Now, what are you waiting for? Go see this movie if you haven't yet! And if you haven't seen it, stop reading this right now!

Okay, so George Clooney is not in this movie very long and this movie belongs all to Sandra Bullock. When she is in the Chinese (or was it the Russian?) shuttle, ready to give up because she's out of fuel and she's ready to accept her fate and just die and we see Kowalski come into the chamber and tell her another option she has, for just a moment, I was really happy that he was back and that she didn't have to go through this alone and would have some moral support to get home, but then I realized, duh, it was obviously just a dream or a hallucination. Several hours had passed and there's no way Kowalski would still be alive (ugh, I just realized that his dead body would be up there floating in space...creepy...) and even if he was, there would be no way he could find his way to the shuttle Stone was in because space is huge! So, yeah, for just a few seconds, they got me.

Also, Dr. Stone was very lucky when she landed that she ended up in water (which would have been the higher probability because isn't the ratio of land to water 70/30?), but she ends up in a lake that is very close to land. I was worried that she was going to have to swim a long ways and would get too tired and drown, but no, just a couple strokes and she's to the shore!

Oh, and when the third astronaut (who doesn't last very long) is shown, obviously dead with his helmet cracked, I gave an audible "Ugh!" That was not a pretty sight! If I want to see some creepy, freaky outer space movie, I can always watch Event Horizon! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Only one more season to go - Thank God!

I finished season 9 of Beverly Hills 90210, and let's be honest, this show should have ended by AT LEAST season 7 (and even that is being generous), but now I only have one season left and I am going to stick it out and even though it's gone down in quality, I am going to miss this show when I am done watching it. On to the characters!

Brandon and Valerie leave this season. They are only in the first 8 or 9 episodes. We get new characters: Matt, who becomes a love interest for Kelly, and Gina, Donna's cousin. I do not care about these characters so I will not be giving them their own little paragraph. I will talk about them when they relate to one of the main characters. I will also not be talking about Noah, the most worthless "main" character to ever be on this show. He was introduced last season.

Brandon - Jason Priestly is listed as an executive producer for most (if not all) the episodes this season, so he was still working on the show, just not in front of the camera anymore. Brandon gets a job in Washington D.C. and moves there. And even after Brandon moves, he still lets his friends live in his house. I can understand Steve because they've been friends for a long time, but Janet, Noah, and Matt also live in this house and if I were Cindy or Jim, I would not be very happy that my house was being used like a frat house. Just saying!

Valerie - Last season we were left with a cliffhanger with Val getting her HIV test back...and it was negative. Valerie drops a bombshell when she reveals that her father didn't commit suicide, but instead she murdered him when he came into her room to molest her. Now I was spoiled so it wasn't as shocking as it could have been. Valerie wants to tell her mom and asks her to come out to visit her and is dismayed when her mother shows up with her new fiance, a younger man. Val is also dismayed when her mother admits that she knew her daughter was being molested by her husband all along but didn't say anything because he was getting help. I was dismayed myself when I found out Valerie was actually getting raped by her father - eww. When she said she was molested by him, I just thought he was touching her inappropriately, which is bad and horrible, of course, but didn't realize that he actually raped his teenaged daughter. Damn, I do not blame Val for killing her father one bit.

Mrs. Malone and her new boyfriend have plans to marry in Las Vegas and invite Valerie to the wedding. She's angry with her mother and seduces her mom's boyfriend and sleeps with him...thank God this happened BEFORE he became her step-dad. (Which he obviously never did).

Valerie admits to her mother that she killed her father and Mrs. Malone plans to tell the police about it, but she never turns her daughter in and they cry and make up and Valerie goes back to Buffalo with her mom and that's the last we see of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Bye-bye, TAT.

Dylan - DYLAN'S BACK! And I would be a lot more excited....if Brandon and Valerie hadn't left. Dylan left three years ago after his wife (of one day, mind you) was accidently murdered (he was suppose to be the victim) and he went to live in London with Brenda. You think those three years of being away from his murdered wife (OF ONE DAY - and hell, he only knew her for maybe six weeks tops), he would have gotten some closure and be able to move on, but nope. Once back in Beverly Hills, so much more drama for Dylan. He wants revenge on Mr. Marchette, his father-in-law (the one who ordered the hit on Dylan, but accidentally killed his daughter) and when he gets to the HUMONGOUS mansion where Marchette lived, he finds this middle-aged couple who look like your average income middle Americans who have no business living in such a huge house. Dylan holds them at gunpoint and when he is told Marchette no longer lives there and has passed away, he says he's sorry and runs out.

When he and Kelly go to Mexico, he buys a statue for her and smuggles some cocaine in the statue. He does the same thing when he goes to Mexico with Gina. Dylan is a slut and a drug addict! Dylan's drug problem gets so bad that he (accidently) knocks Donna into the pool and her head smacks against the concrete wall. That look like it hurt way more than the time Ray (purposely) pushed her down the stairs! But the next episode, Donna is totally fine.

David - After breaking up with Val, David goes through a lot of women this season. And I mean A LOT. You thought season 1 Brandon went through a lot of girlfriends? Uh-huh. He has nothing on season 9 David. First, there was Sophie (played by Laura Leighton who I know is well-known for Melrose Place, but I know her best as Hannah's mom on Pretty Little Liars!), a new girl in town who wants to become a star and leads both David and Steve on. If she can't be rich and famous, then just being rich is fine with her and when a rich guy wants to whisk her away to Paris, she agrees. Then there was the girl who flung herself at him and he had sex with her only to discover she was 17 the next morning and he was charged with statutory rape, but Dylan went to her parents' house and told them to drop the charges, that their daughter was acting out and wanted attention from them. And they were dropped. Then he meets a girl through Steve's bogus techniques who falls for his "My grandma recently died and I was raised in an orphanage" bullshit line that this idiot girl fell for. When she sees David as a witness on the Judge Judy-type show, she can't believe that he lied to her! Really? Did she really believe anything he said? Was she really that gullible? Then there was the girl David met at the Peach Pit and when he asked for her number, she changed the subject and I immediately knew something was up. She does give David a number, but when he calls it (because she never shows up to the movie theater where they were suppose to meet), it's the wrong number. I thought she was homeless and didn't have a phone, but they never tell us what was up with her. She just shows up at the After Dark the next day to apologize to David and tell him she was moving. It was like they had this whole storyline planned out, but couldn't keep the actress so they had to ditch it. It was just random and odd. After Donna breaks up with Noah for five minutes, David raises the idea of them getting back together and while they do kiss, they don't get back together.

David got a steady gig as a DJ at the After Dark and he meets a girl when he puts out an announcement that he's looking for a girlfriend (lame, David, lame). Her name is Claudia and she's from South America and will be sent back if she doesn't get her green card soon so David decides to marry her so she doesn't have to move. Their plans doesn't work out and she moves anyway. David meets Katie a sex addict who wants to wait a year before she has sex again and David is like, "Nope, I'm out!" Good fucking Lord, David, you dated the virgin Donna for HOW MANY YEARS before she put out and you can't wait a lousy year? David also starts to put the moves on Gina when there's trouble with her and Dylan

Steve - Steve gets mad at David when he finds out he likes Sophie too, but after Sophie leaves they become friends again and all is forgiven and forgotten. Steve mostly spends his time with Janet, who became part of the show last season and is now a new main cast member. They start out as friends with benefits, then Steve tells her he wants to date her and they become a couple. Jenet doesn't want to tell her parents about him because she is Japanese-American and her parents want her to be with somebody of her own heritage. When she does tell them she's dating Steve, her dad kicks her out of their house. Okay, #1, why the hell is a grown woman still living with her parents? And #2, you have to remember that this was still technically the 20th century (it takes places in 1998/99, ha!), so people weren't up to date with the current times.

Steve randomly finds out this his mom is a lesbian. Yep. He's shocked at first, but learns to accept her new lifestyle.

Wanting to make some quick money, Steve decides to run his own seminar about how to pick up women, complete with a video. His seminar cost $250 per guy and after they go to the After Dark and try his techniques (which all fail), they sue him and Steve is on a Judge Judy-type show and is ordered to give back his money.

Steve and Janet are the only ones who are working at "The Beverly Beat" and while it was a pretty much respectable newspaper when Brandon worked there, it has since turned into a tabloid. Steve gets the brilliant (and when I say brilliant, I mean ridiculous) idea of hiring a little person to be a leprechaun for a promotion they're doing for St. Patrick's Day. They announce that if anyone catches the leprechaun, they will get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Turns out this random guy does "catch" the "leprachaun" and brings it to the "Beverly Beat" office and demands his pot of gold and after Steve and Janet explain to him it's not real, he pulls out a knife and says he's not leaving until he gets his gold! We learn he's just a guy who has a son in a hospital and needs to raise money for his treatment so Steve and Janet write about the boy and they start receiving donations.

Kelly - Even though she got a degree in psychology, Kelly goes into business with Donna and they open a boutique with Donna's designs and give it the stupid name, Now Wear This! Um, wouldn't Donna Martin Designs or Designs by Donna Martin be a much better (and fitting name?) I don't understand why Kelly, who has been working in clinics would want a fluffy job like that.

Kelly starts dating Matt, a new main character and a lawyer who works in the same strip mall where Now Wear This! is located. Matt is representing a guy who Kelly recognizes and he's the same guy who beat up his wife who Kelly treated at the clinic she worked at last year. She tries to help the abused woman and her child leave town and in the end Matt also helps her escape her abusive husband.

Kelly hates Gina because she starts going out with Dylan and Kelly is jealous.

Kelly's grandfather is really sick and she and her mother get into a tif about what they should do...her mother wants him on life support, but Kelly think he has the right to be off it if he wants, which he does. In the end, they take him home. This was at Christmas and there was never a mention of whether he died (I'm guessing he did) or not by the end of the series. They just sort of forgot about him.

Kelly is put in an awkward situation when she finds out Matt, her new boyfriend, has a wife living in New York! Lauren is schizophrenic and has been living in mental ward for the past 3 years. She is also taking a drug that her doctors don't want her to take anymore because it will kill her. So she either takes the drug and be sane, but die, or don't take the drug and live and be insane. Great! I guess Matt would rather have a sane and dead wife because he is begging the pharmacist for the medication. Kelly and Dylan decide to help them by going to Mexico and smuggling the drugs across the border. After they do this illegal act, Lauren decides not to take the medicine and commit herself to a psych ward in New York. It's a good thing Kelly and Dylan didn't get caught or they would have gone to jail for absolutely nothing!

Kelly is raped by some guy in an alley and we later find out Matt is representing him in a case where he was accused of robbery. The rapist is at Matt's office and goes to Kelly's store and when he sees it's her, he takes out a knife to kill her...which is stupid because Matt knows he's there since he sent him to the store because he was looking for something. But Kelly is packing some heat and shoots him.

Donna - Noah's father kills himself so Donna has to deal with moody Noah for awhile. Donna's cousin, Gina, an ex-ice skater joins the cast of main characters and lives with Donna and Kelly in the beachhouse. She basically replaces Val, becoming the manipulative bitch who pit people against each other. She does this to Donna and Noah, Donna and Mrs. Martin, Donna and Kelly. In case you couldn't tell, Gina really hates Donna. Donna even breaks up with Noah for five minutes when he confesses that he slept with Gina one time when he hung out with her when he was drunk, but Gina just made him think that, nothing really happened.

There's this stupid story arc where a group of four girl gang members come into Now Wear This! and one of them, Sonia, who you can tell doesn't want to be in the gang (and we later learn she's only in it for the protection and because she feels like she has to). Sonia wants to buy a dress, but doesn't have the money so she asks Donna if she can put it on layaway and Donna agrees. A few days later Sonia comes back to the boutique with the other girls and one of the girls says, "Sonia isn't going to pay for your dress! It's ruined!" And another one says, "Yeah, show her, Sonia!" and Sonia takes out a knife and rips the dress. A woman in the shop leaves when she sees the knife, which I don't blame her for, but it was pretty funny how random it was. Sonia later apoligzies to Donna in private and to make it up to her, she works at the store to pay off the dress....which cost like only $20. I laughed so hard when Sonia gasped at the price. Are you serious? Was twenty bucks really a lot of money in 1998? Donna catches Sonia and her boyfriend sleeping in her shop when she opens it up one morning because they have nowhere else to stay. One night the store is robbed and Sonia and her gang are the main suspects, but Sonia says it was the security guard. We never see anything more with this story. The gang girls disappear. We don't know what happened to Sonia, we don't see what happened to the security guard.

Donna and her mother are going to an event where JFK Jr. will be (and Felice ends up going with Gina since Gina pitted Donna and her mother against each other). This episode was aired in January 1999 and I was thinking, they better enjoy meeting JFK Jr. because he's going to be dead in six months!

Gina and her mom plan a scam on Donna's mother, Felice, because she was the one who was in charge of Gina's money when she was an ice skater and Gina's mother took some money out and Felice tells Gina she gave her mom the money because she said it was for an emergency, but offers to pay Gina back after she admits she should have never let her sister have the money. We find out that this was a planned scheme hatched by Gina and her mother, but we never hear about it anymore after that. Hopefully it will come up in the next season, but this show is notorious for dropping storylines.

Donna cheats on Noah with a guy she's using as a model for her clothes. Noah finds out and is pissed.

Yawn...this season was boring. I'm kinda glad there's only one left!

Monday, October 28, 2013

You Betcha!

Directors: Joel and Ethan Cohen
Cast: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stomare
Released: April 5, 1996

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The English Patient)
Best Director - Joel Cohen (lost to Anthony Mingella for The English Patient)
Best Actress - Frances McDormand (won)
Best Supporting Actor - William H. Macy (lost to Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire)
Best Original Screenplay - Joel and Ethan Cohen (won)
Best Film Editing (lost to The English Patient)
Best Cinematography (lost to The English Patient)

I have never seen The English Patient, so I can't knock it, but I'm willing to bet that if I did see it, I would like Fargo better. Fargo was my first introduction to the Cohen brothers and probably my favorite movie of theirs (although I really liked No Country For Old Men).

Even though the film is called Fargo, it mostly takes place in Minnesota. I have been to Minnesota several times and they really do talk with that accent like they do in the movie. I remember one particular time I was at the Mall of America in 2000 and when I was in the dressing room of Wet Seal or The Limited or one of those clothing stores and I heard a saleswoman say, "You betcha!" to somebody. I almost started laughing out loud right there because all I could think of was this movie and how true they captured the accents and language of the northern Mid-west.

The film takes place in 1987 Minneapolis and used car salesman Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy) needs a way to get money fast due to his financial problems. Instead of asking his rich father-in-law for a loan, he hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stomare) from Fargo to kidnap his wife, Jean, and ask for a ransom from his wife's father. Carl (Buscemi) is a small, mouthy guy described as an "odd fellow" by witnesses and Gaear (Stomare) is a tall, silent guy who doesn't much care for Carl and his excessive chattering. The plan is for Carl and Gaear to ask for $80,000 from Jean's dad and in exchange they will get a new car and half the money although Jerry plans to tell his father-in-law that the ransom is a million so he will get more money.

The kidnapping scene is played for laughs at first. Jean is at home watching TV and it's broad daylight outside when she sees the two men with crowbars approach the back door and are obviously trying to break in. They're not even trying to be discreet about it. Once they do get it, the scene turns more scary when you realize she really is in trouble when they chase her around the house and she nearly breaks her neck when she's wrapped around the shower curtain (from hiding in the shower) and trips and falls down the stairs. The two men keep her wrapped up in the backseat of their new car and while driving though Brainerd (home of Paul Bunyon!), they are stopped by a highway patrol man because their new car does not have plates. Carl says he will get rid of him but when Jean starts whimpering in the backseat, Gaear kills the patrol man. While Carl is trying to move his body from the road, one lone car passes them and obviously sees the dead man being dragged by Carl. Gaear goes after them and runs the driver and his passenger off the road.

All three bodies are discovered the next day and the very pregnant local police chief, Marg Gunderson (Frances MacDormand) is on the case. I felt for her having to get up early and go out in that cold snow! I have never lived in Minnesota or anywhere up north, but I know how brutal the winters can get!

One thing leads to another and things only get worse for Jerry. His plan may have seemed simple on paper, but after the three people were killed, things changed, and more people end up being murdered from this whole ordeal. This includes Carl, who after being killed by his partner who can't take him anymore, throws his body in a wood chipper, which is probably one of the most iconic moments of the movie. It's certainly the one I remember the most!

It's a dark movie, but with lots of laughs (more "Oh my God, did they really do that?" type laughs, not belly laughs) and highly recommended