Thursday, December 31, 2015

You Had Me at Hello

Jerry Maguire
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Renee Zellweger, Regina King, Jay Mohr, Bonnie Hunt, Jerry O'Connell, Kelly Preston, Jonathan Lipnicki
Released: December 13, 1996

Oscar nominations: 
Best Picture (lost to The English Patient)
Best Actor - Tom Cruise Cruise (lost to Geoffrey Rush for Shine)
Best Supporting Actor - Cuba Gooding Jr. (Won)
Best Original Screenplay - Cameron Crowe (lost to Joel and Ethan Coen for Fargo)
Best Editing (lost to The English Patient)

There's a lot going on in Jerry Maguire. This movie is two hours and a half hours and it does lag at times. Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) is a sports agent who works at a huge agency, Sports Management International, who represent the best and brightest in sports. He is all about his career and making sure his clients are the best at their profession and making sure they have all the endorsements to make them even more money. Jerry, narrating the movie, tells the audience that he is missing something in his life and has an epiphany. He thinks instead of all the agents taking in as many clients as they can, that they should only take a few clients so that they can have more one on one time with them and get to know them better and really understand what they need and want. He writes a 25 page "mission statement" and delivers it to all the agents at SMI. This results in him getting fired. He tries desperately to keep as many clients as he can, but loses the majority of them to a sleazy agent, Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), who fired Jerry. Jerry manages to keep two clients: Frank Cushman (Jerry O'Connell), an up and coming star quarterback (think Tom Brady) and Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. I know nothing about football so I'm not really sure what a wide receiver does...not really sure what a quarterback does either. I also thought the cardinals were a St. Louis team...but I guess that's baseball. I didn't know there was a cardinals football team. Rod has two kids with a third on the way. He is a spokesperson for a mattress company, but his wife, Marcee (Regina King) tells Jerry that  they want Rod to have the four major advertising spots which are shoe, car, clothing line, and soft drink. That's where the big money comes in. While Jerry is on the phone with Rod, he loses all of his potential clients because they are hanging up since Bob Sugar is getting to them faster. This is the famous scene where Rod tells Jerry, "Show me the money" and Jerry screams "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" while in his office and everyone is looking at him like he's a lunatic.

"Show me the money!" is just one of the many quotable lines that help make this movie memorable. We also remember the more sappy, "You had me at hello" and "You complete me." (The "You complete me" line was a call back to when Jerry and Dorothy are in the elevator with a deaf couple who are signing to each other, and Dorothy, who knows sign language, tells Jerry that the guy had signed "You complete me" to his girlfriend). And there's also "Help me help you" and "Did you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?" This is the movie where everybody in the world learned (and still remembers!) that fact.

The "romance" between Jerry and Dorothy (Renee Zellweger...I think it's fair to say that this is the movie that helped launch her career) is interesting at best. At the start of the movie, he is engaged to another woman (Kelly Preston). Dorothy works as a secretary (I think?) at SMI and has a crush on Jerry. She read his "mission statement" and tells him she liked what she read and believes in him. When he is fired and leaves the company, Jerry asks if anybody is going to join him and like an idiot, Dorothy tells him that she'll go with him. I don't know if this is suppose to be romantic, but I thought she was really stupid for doing that. Okay, she probably doesn't get paid much at this job, but it's better than going somewhere where you'll get paid less...or more likely, nothing at all. (I never did understand exactly how that worked...did Jerry ever pay her out of his pocket?) She has a six year old son, why is she leaving this place that at least gives her health benefits? And, at this time, she knows Jerry is engaged to another woman. But over time Jerry and Dorothy become close and Dorothy is thrilled that her son, Ray (Jonathan Lipnicki), really likes Jerry and almost treats him like a dad. In a way, I think Dorothy was looking more for a father for her son than a husband for herself. It's good she was looking out for her kid, but it's almost as soon as she saw Jerry and Ray bond, she wanted it to make it work with Jerry so her son could have a father who really cared for him. It's even obvious that Jerry prefers Ray over Dorothy because there's a scene where they're in bed with the TV on and Dorothy is trying to talk to Jerry about something important and Ray comes in asking if he can watch TV with them. Dorothy says, "Not now", but Jerry says, "Sure, come on in." And the kid comes in. Oh, I should mention that Jerry broke up with his fiance and married Dorothy after they go out on, like, one date. I did love it when Dorothy's sister, Laurel (Bonnie Hunt), gives her the advice of, "Don't cry at the start of the date...cry at the end like I do." Haha! Because Dorothy was crying because she just so overwhelmed with happiness. 

Jerry has had many girlfriends. While he's great at friendship, he is horrible with intimacy. No wonder he and Dorothy break it off about a week after they got married (when they had only known each other for two weeks prior...gee no wonder it didn't work out! And I had no idea how much time had passed in this movie!) 

This was my third time seeing the movie. It had been quite awhile since I'd last seen it. I remember enjoying it the first time I saw it. I don't really remember the second was probably on TV and I was just casually watching it. But this time, I was kinda bored. There were still some enjoyable moments (like the one when Rod is in a public place (the airport, I think?) and two girls come up to him thinking he's Hootie from Hootie and the Blowfish!), but mostly I was wondering when it was going to end. I remember thinking how cute Ray was the first time I saw it, but now I just found him too saccharine. He was just there to be cute and sprout useless information. And help Dorothy score a man. I found myself more invested and interested in the Jerry and Rod relationship rather than the Jerry and Dorothy one. I totally cringed at the scene where Dorothy is talking to Laurel in the kitchen after Jerry has spent the night and is babbling on about how much she loves him and she "loves him for the man he wants to be and the man he almost is!" and, of course, Jerry is in the hall eavesdropping on them and Ray says really loudly, "Hi Jerry!" Well, what was she thinking? He was in the house. Why not wait to tell her sister AFTER he is gone. Duh. Dorothy may be the "oldest 26 year old" as she calls herself, but she's also the dumbest! 

As for Cameron Crowe movies, I prefer Almost Famous to this one. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Seeing is Believing

The Polar Express
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Tom Hanks, Nona Gaye, Peter Scolari, Michael Jeter
Released: November 10, 2004
Viewed in theaters: December 23, 2004

Oscar nominations:
Best Sound Mixing (lost to Ray)
Best Sound Editing (lost to The Incredibles)
Best Original Song - "Believe" written by Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri (lost to The Motorcycle Diaries for "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" written by Jorge Drexler)

I remember reading this book by Chris Van Allsburg around the Christmas season when I was younger and loved looking at the beautiful illustrations. This book was so popular that one year my brother and I (and I think our friends also received the same things from their parents) each got a sleigh bell. As you remember from the story, if you can hear a sleigh bell from Santa' sleigh, then that means you believe in Santa. Well, of course anyone can hear a bell....unless you are deaf, so that would be a very cruel gift to give a deaf child! I'm sure I was very proud I could hear my bell! I haven't read or looked at in years, but I'm sure my parents still have it somewhere in their house. I've refreshed my memory by looking at it on since it lets you look at a few of the pages inside the book. The movie does a very good job of creating the same color palette the book uses and it's like the story coming to life. Since the book is only 32 pages, you know they embellished to add length to the movie. Since I haven't read the book in so long, I'm not totally sure what was added, but I have my guesses.

Tom Hanks voices multiple characters in the movie, just changing his voice slightly so each character has their own sound. He voices the conductor, Santa Claus, the hobo ghost (or it is a ghost hobo?), the boy's father, and the main character as a grown up narrating the story. We never learn his name (IMDb has him listed as "Hero Boy" in the credits) but we learn he is having doubts about Santa Claus which is why he is picked up by the Polar Express which stops right in front of his home on Christmas Eve. I would be scared s***less if some huge, rumbling freight train pulled up right in front of my house! Miraculously, the boy's parents or younger sister don't seem affected by the train! He is hesitant to board the train when the conductor invites him on and the train leaves without him and he runs after it at the last minute and boards. His was the second to last house the train stopped at. The last stop is for a boy named Billy, a couple years younger than the narrator, who also hesitates to board (I guess these kids were all taught about Stranger Danger!), but decides he wants to get on when the Polar Express starts chugging along again. He sits alone in the train car connected behind the one all the kids are in.

Even though the train has many children riding it on the way to the North Pole, there are only a few children that the film focuses on. Besides the main character and Billy, there is an African-American girl in a pink nightgown (I should point out that all the children are in their pajamas and robes -which hardly seems to be proper Arctic attire if you ask me!) who befriends the narrator and a really annoying nerdy, know-it-all-kid who has one of those grating voices. I would have loved to throw him off the train! I don't remember if they were in the book (I don't even remember if Billy was in the book - I really need to read it again!), but I'm guessing they were added for the movie.

There's a scene in the book where the children are served hot chocolate (I know this for a fact because I saw a picture of it on Amazon!) This scene is also in the movie, but there's this really weird song and dance that doesn't quite look right. It looks like they filmed the children in the train and that looks fine and normal, but then when they add the dancing wait staff and their hot chocolate machine, it looks like they were sloppily pasted on the "normal" photo. It just looks very jarring to me and the waiters are doing these awkward flips that don't look natural at all....even for a computer animated movie. The song is pretty bad too, if you want to call it a song. I do love the song called "Believe" at the end credits that Josh Groban sings. Very beautiful Christmas song. I wasn't familiar with the song that the three kids sing when they're outside the train looking at the stars.

Having a ticket is a very big deal when one boards the Polar Express so when the young girl goes into the next car with the assistance of the conductor to give Billy a cup of hot chocolate, our main character sees that she has left her ticket on her seat. Instead of hanging on to it and keeping it safe for her until she returns, he decides he needs to return it to her right that minute. Yes, I realize this scene is here to fill out the movie more, but the rational part of me doesn't understand it. While trying to cross the cars, the blowing wind whips the ticket out of his hand and it goes on a little adventure through the snowy woods. At one point, a bird catches it and tries to feed it to her babies. Um, I'm pretty sure birds know that paper isn't food! However, the ticket makes its way back. This whole thing would have been avoided if the dang kid had just kept the ticket in a safe place! But, nooo!

There's also a subplot with a hobo living on top of the train who's really a ghost. I'm pretty sure he's not in the book. The kid is up there with him for a good ten to fifteen minutes in nothing but his robe and slippers...he's not even wearing a hat or mittens. One would think he would get frost bite, or at the very least, be shivering, but nope! He seems to be just fine. I guess one doesn't get cold when one is a computer animated character!

If I were a little kid and saw this movie, I think I would have reservations about boarding the Polar Express. That train is a death trap! It nearly crashes several times while going down steep inclines, it nearly falls into cracking ice, the main character almost gets killed when he's on top of the train with the hobo and they're skiing along the cars and nearly smash into a tunnel...and don't get me started when they get to the North Pole, another death trap destination! The main character, the girl, and Billy get separated from the group when they get back on the train and that train car separates from the others. They end up on a swiveling platform that leads to different tunnels, but each tunnel is separated by a bridge over a deep chasm where you will certainly fall to your death if you fall!  There is a huge, swirling slide that actually looks like a lot of fun, but you're moving so fast you're getting lots of g-forces so that could kill you if you get out of control and crash. There are a lot of ways one could die in this movie! Oh, and let's not forget when they're in the air blimp controlled by the elves and nearly crash in that!

I love how the elf to kid ratio is like 1000 to 1. When Santa Claus makes his big appearance, all the elves cheer and applaud and act like he's some big rock star even though they see him every other day of the year! If I were one of those kids, I would have been pissed at the elves! They're standing one on top of the other and nobody can see over them. I'd be like, Hey, let me get a look at Mr. C.; you guys get to see him ALL THE TIME BECAUSE YOU LIVE HERE! But of course, Santa comes over to the main character and the other kids and greets them personally and our protagonist is chosen to be given the first gift of Christmas. Which is a sleigh bell he loses because there's a hole in his robe pocket. If I remember right, this was part of the book. Luckily, Santa knows where he lives. Although Santa's big red bag is heaping with presents, it certainly didn't look like it was enough presents for all the kids of the world.

The Steven Tyler as a rocking elf was totally unnecessary and dated the movie, though I suppose some people would consider Aerosmith timeless. And it would make sense Steven Tyler is an elf since his daughter is the elfin princess, haha! I thought the scene where the elves and kids are singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" was really cute.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trading Holidays

Director: Sue Corcoran
Cast: Elliot Gould, David DeLuise, Angela DiMarco, Elijah Nelson, Justin Howell
Released: November 1, 2012

This is another Christmas gem I found on Netflix. It reminded me of a kids' version of The Holiday. Remember that movie where Kate Winslet lives in London and Cameron Diaz lives in L.A. and they decide to switch houses for the holidays? This wasn't a TV movie though, it was a small independent movie. I watched the trailer for it and it was called All I Want is Christmas. I guess that was an earlier name for it. That name is way too generic and Switchmas is much more clever and more memorable. 

In this film, 12 year old Ira Finklestein is a Jewish kid who lives in Hollywood with his movie producer dad and party planner mom. He loves Christmas and wants to do all the traditional things people who celebrate Christmas do around the holidays such as decorate a Christmas tree, sing Christmas carols, and look at Christmas lights. He is looking forward to a trip to Aspen for winter vacation because this will be the first time in his life he will see snow. However his dad gets an opportunity to make his big break as a director as he gets a big "name" to headline his weird sci-fi holiday movie. They have to cancel because Jennifer Cameo can only film during that time. Since both parents will be busy they decide to send Ira to Florida to visit his grandparents who he hasn't seen in a few years. 

Meanwhile, Mikey Amato is a kid the same age as Ira who lives in Chicago. He lives with his single mother and since she has to work over the holiday break, she's sending him to Washington where her sister lives with her family. Mikey hasn't seen his aunt, uncle, or three cousins for 5 years. His dad can't take him because he'll be with his new girlfriend. 

Ira has a stopover in Chicago and he meets Mikey in a room in the airport where both boys are wearing passes so the airline knows they are unaccompanied minors. They start chatting and Mikey says he wishes he could go somewhere warm and Ira gets jealous when Mikey tells him he's going to a town called Christmastown! What could be better for a kid enamoured with Christmas? Since both boys are the same age and both have dark hair, Ira gets the idea for them to switch jackets and passes and gives Mikey his glasses (luckily his mom gave him his extra pair). They also exchange phone numbers. It's off to Florida for Mikey and off to Christmastown for Ira.

Even though Ira's grandparents haven't seen him for a few years and Mikey's aunt, uncle, and cousins haven't seen him in a few years, I found it hard to believe that they didn't immediately know they had the wrong kid because you think they would get school photos each year or have Facebook. But both kids go with each family without question.

Christmastown is the kind of place Ira has dreamed about going to for years. There's snow, everything is decorated with lights, his "family" has a huge Christmas tree, and he gets to go to the Christmas carnival the next afternoon with his "cousins". I thought there was going to be an awkward moment when Ira gets a crush on his "cousin" Claire who's about his age, you know like a George Michael Bluth/Maebe Funke situation. He never gets a crush on her; if anything, Claire seems to have the crush on her "cousin" - and she really thinks he's her cousin! But she does find out his secret a few days before the cat's out of the bag and they're just really good friends.

Ira still celebrates Chanukah every night by creating a makeshift menorah. He bribes his oldest "cousin", Jessica, into taking him, Claire, and Kyle to the Christmas carnival by giving her $50, all of his spending money his parents gave him for the trip. He has a credit card his dad gave him that he's only suppose to use in emergencies and since all his spending money is gone and there are tons of shops to buy Christmas ornaments, trinkets, and goodies, he declares this an emergency. 

At one store that sells all holiday things, he buys a mini menorah. Claire comes into the store when the saleswoman is wising him a happy Chanukah and calling him Ira, the name on the card. Claire questions him about that and be says Ira is his dad's name even though Claire knows him as "Uncle Steve". After a bully, Jack the Jerk, trashes the items Ira bought and has his dog chase him (it was established earlier in the movie that Ira is afraid of dogs), he calls Mikey, telling him he wants to trade back, but Mikey is having a grand old time in sunny Florida with his "grandparents". 

After getting a pep talk and some inspiration from a Jewish Santa, Ira gets the idea to put on a holiday pageant show after Claire shows him her secret spot, an old rundown stage. This is when he reveals to her that he is not actually her cousin and he knows about productions because his dad is in the movie business. They began working on the script (Claire even writes her own song) and casting for the pageant. Everything is ruined, however, when Jack the Jerk and his bully friends have totally trashed the stage and all the props the day of the play. The night before, Ira and Claire were putting up fliers for it and happened to come across Jack's trailer park home where he lives with his mean father. Right away we figure out why Jack's such a bully. His father is threatening to take Killer, Jack's dog, back to the pound because he can't afford to feed another mouth. Feeling sorry for Jack, the two kids take Killer back to Claire's house so he doesn't have to go to the pound (and Ira finds out he's actually a very sweet dog). Jack, not realizing they were only trying to save his dog, thinks they kidnapped him even though he told him to run away. (He saw Killer walk off with Ira and Claire). This is why he trashes their stage play. But after Claire gives him a good lecture, he and his friends help out with the production.

Meanwhile in Florida, Mikey is pretending he knows the words to a Jewish song (he just inserts random words into the medley) and is enjoying his spare time at the pool, the beach, or the tennis courts with his "grandparents". He falls off a fence while climbing it and breaks his arm. His grandparents call the parents and they fly out to Florida where they eventually find out that their son is not there. They find out where Ira is and the parents, the grandparents, and Mikey all fly to Washington just in time for the play. It seems a little implausible that Ira's parents could fly from L.A. to Florida to Washington in one day what with having to go through airport security and driving to their locations and the airports and still making it in time for the play, but whatever. Mikey's mom is also there because her sister thought it would be nice to fly her out so she could spend the holidays with her son. Even though Ira has been found out, the play goes on and it's a big hit and his father is very proud of him.

This was a very cute, charming little Christmas (and Jewish!) film. The only thing I really didn't like was when they spent time with Ira's father and mother on the set of the movie with their difficult star. I found those scenes to be boring and wanted to get back to the kids, especially Ira's story. The tagline of the movie is "Jingle all the oh vey!" which cracks me up

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Very Short Engagement

Holiday Engagement
Director: Jim Fall
Cast: Bonnie Somerville, Shelley Long, Haylie Duff
Aired: November 28, 2011

I can't help myself; I'm addicted to these TV Christmas movies that can be found on Netflix. I've actually watched more movies than I will be reviewing. Some are just okay in that they aren't even that great (or that bad!) to deserve a review. They're just middle of the road holiday movies. There have been a couple I've started then stopped watching after ten minutes because I didn't want to waste the time on them.

Holiday Engagement is entertaining and it's also kind of bad at the same time which makes it a perfect movie to review! It's also the first one I've watched that takes places during Thanksgiving rather than Christmas as you may have noticed by the air date. Although there are several mentions of Christmas. This TV movie aired on the Hallmark Channel, but wasn't as schmaltzy as one may think. 

Hilary (Bonnie Somerville) is going to her parents' home for Thanksgiving. She is suppose to be bringing her fiance, Jason, who her family hasn't met yet. They've been dating seven months and got engaged a month ago. (Okay, if you get engaged within less than a year of dating, I feel like that's a warning sign!) Hilary lives in L.A. and I'm not sure where her folks live, but it can't be too far away since she drove there. Hilary's fiance is a lawyer and therefore a workaholic and he's not sure if he can make it and she tells him he has to because she needs to prove to her family that he's real! Apparently her mother, Meredith (Shelley Long) thinks that Bonnie has made him up! 

A few days before they are to arrive at her parents', Jason breaks up with Hilary, telling her that she's been a "mistake." Ouch! He tells her they are not compatible and he has plans to move across the country for his work and she has reservations about leaving California. She tells her friend that she cannot face her family without bring her fiance and her friend gives her the idea of getting a guy through (I think that's what it was called) and bribe him with the two tickets she won to Mexico on a radio show she gave the right answer to to a trivia question. Naturally, Hilary is appalled by this idea and does not want to bring a potential murdered home to her family but when her mom leaves her a message for her, telling her how she hopes she's not disappointed "this time", Hilary posts an ad for a fake fiance.

Now earlier in the movie there had been some foreshadowing as Hilary, a writer, and her friend (the same one who came up with the idea for the ad), a photographer are interviewing people about their jobs...or something, I really don't remember. They interview a guy who's dressed as a cell phone trying to get people to come to the store that sells them. He told them he was an actor. Well, it doesn't take an idiot to figure out he's going to come back into play here and will be the one to answer the ad. Especially when the audience sees how attractive he is once he takes off his headpiece. He is David and David is the one to answer the ad and Hilary hires him since she already met him and he's the most normal out of all the weirdos that applied for the job.

They manage to con her family although there are awkward moments when Hilary's dad is asking "Jason" for some legal advice and David is not too familiar that aspect of his new identity. I think there was something shady going on with her dad cause he be asking some shady questions! 

Hilary's mom, who is pushing for all her daughters to be married (one is and the other two are engaged) asks her if she and Jason have set a date and feeling the pressure, Hilary tells her they are getting married on December 21st and this makes her mother over the moon happy. Obviously she panicked, but WTF? Why not tell her that they have set the date for Christmas of NEXT year so you don't have to worry about getting fake married in less than three weeks? What an idiot! Also, if I were David, I would be very afraid that some strange woman wants to fake marry me. 

Hilary's mom is the worst. She's one of those who think woman need to get married and not only that, marry a guy who has a good job so that he can support her daughters. She set up her youngest daughter with a foot doctor even though she was in love with a waiter, but I guess she broke up her daughter and the waiter and got her to start dating the doctor who she says is a nice guy, but she's not in love with him. Of course, Meredith is happy that Hilary is getting married to a lawyer. But when it looks like Jason has bailed on her, Meredith gets angry with Hilary and tells her that she has nothing to show for herself. Sheesh, what a bitch! But Jason comes back...I forget why he left in the first place, obviously this movie didn't stay with me that long! 

If you think that Hilary and David fall in love over the course of this Thanksgiving weekend, you would be...correct! (Gee, who didn't see that coming?) And then the REAL Jason comes to apologize to Hilary (I had totally called that one), but Hilary dumps him to be with David. She also patches things up with her mom who apologizes for the way she acted. And the kicker is that she and David actually get married on the December 21st date they set up. Really? Like, you couldn't date for a year, then getting normal people? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Christmas Crap

A Christmas Kiss
Director: John Stimpson
Cast: Elisabeth Rohm and the rest are people you don't know
Aired: December 11, 2011

This movie wasn't as good or as charming as the other two I reviewed and I think I know why. Unlike the other two, which were from ABC Family, this TV Christmas movie was from the ION channel which I had never heard of. It wasn't very good, so I don't recommend this one. In this one, some unknown brunette actress plays Wendy who is the assistant to the Bitch Boss from Hell, Priscilla (Elisabeth Rohm) who runs an interior designing company. 

We first meet Wendy as she is getting ready to go out on the town with her two friends. One is an aspiring actress and the other is an aspiring makeup artist. The makeup artist is putting makeup on Wendy and good God, has she ever heard the motto, "Less is more?" No, because she puts on GOBS of silver eyeshadow and glitter on Wendy. She looks completely ridiculous. Wendy's boss calls her and wants her to run to her apartment and turn on the heat and the lights so it will be ready when Priscilla gets back from her vacation. After she does that, she's on the elevator when a handsome stranger enters and they share a romantic kiss that later Wendy will describe to her friends "as the most memorable kiss she's ever have in her entire life!!!" Ugh. Apparently, the elevator broke and they both thought they were going to die so they shared a passionate kiss, I don't know. It was really forced if you ask me. 

But wouldn't you know it, the next day Wendy is called to Priscilla's apartment to help her again with something and Priscilla says she needs to get out before her boyfriend arrives, only her boyfriend has arrived early...and it's the guy Wendy kissed in the elevator!! But the guy, Andrew, doesn't even recognize her because she's wearing glasses! :::GASP::: What is it with people being completely transformed when they're wearing glasses (or not wearing them?) But to be fair, she also wasn't wearing the GOBS and HEAPS and MOUNDS of glittery eye shadow. You would think Wendy would be concerned that this man randomly kissed her in the elevator when he's dating another woman, but no! She thinks this is true love and she and Andrew are destined to be together and she tells her friends who also agree. The only thing is, Andrew is planning to propose to Priscilla! Oh, no!!  

Andrew has asked Priscilla to help decorate his home in Boston for a Christmas event he's putting on where he's invited all the Boston theater production people to help raise money for underprivileged children....or something. I'm not totally sure. To be honest, I wasn't always paying attention to this movie as I was also folding my laundry and wrapping Christmas presents. Priscilla tells Wendy that this is their number one priority and they're not even going to worry about their other clients because a lot of  important people from Boston will be from this party. She has found an engagement ring in Andrew's coat pocket and also knows that he is going to propose to her at this event.

Priscilla is such a huge bitch that it's almost comical what a big bitch she is. Take this great example: Wendy comes over to show Priscilla these drawings she's done for the Christmas designs which she think Andrew will like. He's a fan of A Christmas Carol, so she has this idea to have three Christmas trees: one representing Christmas past, one for Christmas present, and one for Christmas future. And the children from the homeless youth foundation can make the ornaments for the future tree because children are our future. Oh, how precious. Who does she thinks she is, Whitney Houston? So Bitch Boss is like, "OMG, those are the most terrible and horrific drawings I've ever seen! Andrew will hate them! You are such an imbecile! I hate children! Ugh!" Then Andrew comes in and Priscilla shows him her drawings which he says are great, but he was thinking of something more tradtional, so what does she do??? You guessed it: she hands him Wendy's drawings with WENDY SITTING RIGHT THERE and tells him that she had a second choice for him "just in case" and of course he loves them. She even tells him that the children can make the ornaments for the future tree. Oh, no, she did not! Oh, snap!  Rightly, Wendy is furious about this and blows up at Bitch Boss when Andrew leaves but Priscilla tells her that since Wendy works for her, then they are HER designs as well. What a beey-otch.

Wendy gets to spend more time with Andrew when Priscilla has to leave on an impromptu trip to NYC to see her plastic surgeon after she was smacked in the face by a decorative lamp post when Wendy and her makeup artist friend are helping Priscilla decorate Andrew's house. During this time alone, she goes on a carriage ride with Andrew, goes ice skating with Andrew, learns they share the same interest in literature and theater, and watches Christmas movies with Andrew where they fall asleep on his house only to have Priscilla find them the next day snuggled up with each other on the couch. Ooh, scandal! 

Can I just say that Elisabeth Rohm is a horrible actress? I call her Robotic Kate Hudson because she resembles Kate Hudson a bit, but she talks in this monotone voice. Haha, I used to listen to this podcast for the TV show, Angel, called Redemption Cast and she had a recurring role as "Kate" a police officer and love interest for the "vampire with a soul". Everyone on the podcast hated her and it was so hilarious.  They asked the one guy who had seen the show before, at the end of the season, if she comes back and he said no and they're all like, "Oh thank God!" 

Anyway, back to the crappy movie. Andrew eventually finds out what a bitch Prisilla is and doesn't propose to her and she throws a hissy fit and fires Wendy, but  Wendy ends up okay as Andrew starts dating her and they eventually get married. Gag! Skip this one! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

They're singing Deck the Halls, but it's not like Christmas at all

The Mistle-Tones!
Director: Paul Hoen
Cast: Tia Mowry, Tori Spelling, Reginald VelJohnson, and the rest are people you don't know
Aired: December 9, 2012

This is another ABC Family and Cinematic Sara presents. I couldn't resist; I had to watch and review another ABC Family TV Christmas movie! This time it was a movie that took advantage of the popularity of Pitch Perfect which was released earlier in 2012. All I knew about it was that Tia Mowry's character is a singer who forms a group and challenges her rival for the chance to sing at the mall on Christmas Eve. My first thought was, Her rival is going to be played by Tamara Mowry and she's going to find out she has a long lost twin!!! Just like in Sister, Sister! Remember that show from the '90s? Was that part of the TGIF lineup? Was it even on ABC? I don't even remember. Didn't the more laid-back, don't give a crap attitude twin live with the strict, uptight adoptive father (Tim Reid) and the more studious, organized, and rational twin live with the ditzy, unorganized, and fly by the seat of her pants adoptive mother? (Played by national treasure, Jackee (Jac-kay!)) But like I said, I haven't seen that show in years! But alas, Tia's sister (sister!) isn't in this movie.

So Tia plays Holly (oh, movie, you did not give our main character a very Christmas-themed name!) who is looking forward to trying out for a group called the Snow Belles who sing at the mall's annual Deck the Mall show every Christmas Eve. This means a lot to Holly because her mom was a Snow Belle and she has since passed. I can't even remember if they addressed how or why her mom died. She barely makes it to the audition on time and the head Snow Belle, Marcy (played by Tori should have heard me squeal when I saw her name in the credits...I am always overjoyed to see any of my BH 90210 alums in anything! It also made me laugh because I have a longstanding joke with my brother about her because he cannot stand her!) doesn't want her to audition even though she still has ten minutes left and belts out "O Holy Night" anyway. I am very impressed with Tia Mowry's voice unless they dubbed in someone else's, but I assume it's her. I mean, she's no Adele (but who is?), but it's obvious she should easily make it into the group. 

However, Marcy calls her the next day to tell her she did not make it in and the decided to go with another girl. This is because Marcy wants to be the best singer in the group and letting in Holly would change that fact! Holly goes to the mall and asks the manager (who is also doing double duty as the mall Santa...they must be really short of help!) and gives him the idea of instead of having the Snow Belles sing, they should have a competition where different groups can sing the week before Christmas Eve and the one who wins will get the honor to perform at the real show. Holly realizes she needs to get a group, so she quickly gets some people from her work: her goofball friend and cool dude AJ; the chubby Asian, Larry who everyone thinks is gay but is surprised to learn he's married to a woman...a tall, thin, and beautiful woman, no less!;  and Bernie, the nerdy redhead in HR who has the "voice of an angel". 

Marcy, who has a spy and knows that Holly has talked to the manager about letting different groups try out for Deck the Mall, goes to him when he's once again playing Santa and threatens him when he has a little girl on his lap. It is hilarious because we see through the POV of the young girl as "Santa" covers her ears and we hear a long muffled string of expletives come from Marcy. 

We see a montage of the Snow Belles and Holly's new group singing and dancing to "The 12 Days of Christmas" and I did not like the way it was arranged! They just totally butchered the way it is usually sung and why mess with something that doesn't need to be fixed? My favorite version of that song is sung by Ray Conniff and random females singers. It's a very festive song. Their voices are decent (but it was hard to tell since I hated the arrangement so much!), but their choreography is way off and they can never stay in sync.

One evening Holly crashes her car into a snowdrift and goes into a bar where they're having karaoke that night ("Yule love it!" proclaims the sign) while she waits for help to arrive. An announcer tells everyone it's time for the "King of Karaoke" and we hear a guy with a great voice start singing "Burnin' Love" and we don't see him until Holly looks up. Right away I KNEW it was her boss, Nick. He's a young and attractive guy, but he's a hard-ass with no sense of fun. He's dressed in jeans and a leather jacket and going around the bar singing to all the women. Holly's "Oh. My. God!" reaction is hilarious. Seeing him in this kind of environment is completely foreign to her. She confronts him afterwards and he is totally embarrassed and she blackmails him into helping her group because she has taken a video of the whole performance and threatens to publish it on the Internet and since he doesn't want anyone to see this fun side of him, he grudgingly agrees. He tells the group they need a name and after a few lame names like "Sled Leppin", "The Backstreet Joys", and "Snow Time" (it's like Show Time, but it's Snow Time!), Holly comes up with the Mistle-Tones, which wasn't a huge reveal since it's the name of the movie! 

A romance blossoms between Holly and Nick (and who didn't see that one coming? I wasn't born yesterday, ABC Family!) as they start to spend more time with each other. She eventually deletes the karaoke video (I at least hoped she saved it onto her computer!) Holly goes to sign up for the Christmas Duel at the mall and there are already five pages with about twenty groups on each page. Good thing we only see snippets of each group because that would take forever! (We actually only see three groups before The Mistle-Tones and The Snow Belles perform). I was hoping for a Battle of the Groups sing-off ala Pitch Perfect where each group has to come up with a Christmas song on the whim and perform it in a certain style. That would have been amazing! But that might have been a little difficult if there were 100 groups trying out! Well, the mall manager says there's only 20 groups trying out, but judging from those five pages, it looked like a lot more! We see the Chest Notes, a group with five buff guys who are shirtless and only wearing jeans and Santa Hats and bowties swaying their butts and flexing their's like they walked out of Magic Mike and into an ABC Family movie! Then we see a white skinny guy who calls himself Ludi-Chris Kringle and he raps "Away in a Manger" and it's like, no. Then we see some tweens perform an awful rendition of "O Christmas Tree." 

The Mistle-Tones are up next and are waiting for Nick, but he isn't there. Why? Because last night he was offered a job to oversee the overseas department in Asia...or something, I don't know, but the workaholic chose the job over Holly and staying in...whatever town they live in. But still the show must go on and they sing "Winter Wonderland" which was also the song Holly sang with Nick last night at the Office Christmas Party. AJ had brought in a karaoke machine and Nick decided it was time to share his special talent with the people he works with. 

However, even though they did a fine job, they weren't good enough to beat The Snow Belles singing "All I Want For Christmas Is You." How much residual money do you think Mariah Carey has gotten from that one song alone? Obviously the most famous example it's used in is Love, Actually but there are so many Christmas TV movies out there and I'm sure this isn't the only movie that uses that song. She probably has a summer home in the Bahamas that she bought just with "All I Want For Christmas is You" money alone. 

Speaking of people with money, the Snow Belles must have a lot of it because they wear these beautiful red intricate gowns at the duel, but then at the actual Deck the Mall performance, they are all wearing green beaded dresses! Feeling low that she's not able to sing (she really wanted to sing the closing song her mom would always end with: "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)". But as she's walking through the streets with her family and co-workers, a float comes by and it's Nick guessed it, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." He's singing the U2 version. I like that song just fine, but honestly, I like the Mariah Carey version better. I love "All I Want For Christmas is You" as much as the next person, but it drives me crazy that she has so many other great Christmas songs that are never played and this one is a great example. Nick has decided to come back to this town he lives in because he realized he didn't want the job after all and he wants to stay here and be with Holly so Holly joins him and sings with him and everyone is gathered around their float and even the SnowBelles (minus Marcy cuz she's a huge bitch!) come out to watch the fun and festivities. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

ABC Family and Cinematic Sara Presents

12 Dates of Christmas
Director: James Hayman
Cast: Amy Smart, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and all the rest are people you wouldn't know.
Aired: December 11, 2011

Even though this is a Christmas movie, this is not going to be my obligatory Christmas movie review because those are always saved for theatrical releases. And the movie I have in mind of reviewing should be arriving from Netflix any time. I did look to see if it was on Netflix Instant, but alas, it wasn't. However, they did have an array of other holiday movies and made for TV holiday movies to choose from, so I decided, why not, let's watch one of them. I've never watched any of those fluffy holiday movies that are usually on Lifetime, but this one was on ABC Family and premiered back in 2011.

Just looking at the title and not knowing anything else, I tried to guess what the movie would be about and the first thing that came to my mind was that it was about a woman who was trying to find true love for Christmas and went on a string of really bad dates until she found Mr. Right at #12. However, I was wrong and kind of glad because the movie is actually more interesting than what I thought even though it totally rips off Groundhog Day, only Kate's (Amy Smart) "Groundhog Day" is changed to Christmas Eve. I was totally expecting her to say a line like, "I'm just like Bill Murry in Groundhog Day, but only it's Christmas Eve!" but no such line is ever uttered. I thought the writers missed a good opportunity with that.

But perhaps I should back up a bit and set everything up. Kate wants go get back with her ex-boyfriend and has a very good feeling it's going to happen because he wants to meet her to talk about something so she's expecting a call from him. However, she's also been set up on a blind date with her stepmom's friend's son? I think? IDK...I forgot how Miles (MPG) knows Kate's stepmom, so Kate has agreed even though she has no interest in this guy she's never met.

They're suppose to meet at a bar and I was assuming Kate had at least seen a photo of him, but when she goes up to a sad-looking nerdy guy and asks him if he's Miles, he says no (and she looks very relieved! Ha!) That has got to be such an awkward go up to the wrong blind date! She sees Miles and is relieved that he is good looking. He's also very charming, but Kate has no time for that. When her phone rings, it's her ex and she says she'll meet him in 15 minutes and of course this makes Miles really angry that she's canceling the date to go meet up with her ex but she says she's just rearranging it and they'll see each other at the party her stepmom is throwing. So it turns out that her ex wants to see her because he brought over his dog that he wants her to watch while and and his new girlfriend go up to his cabin. Ouch! Burn! Didn't see that one coming!

Oh! I forgot to mention a very pivotal moment of the movie: before Kate goes on her date, she was at the mall and gets spritzed in the face by a saleswoman holding a perfume bottle. For some reason, this makes Kate faint and pass out.

When Kate goes to bed that night, the clock strikes midnight and suddenly it rewinds time and we find we are back in the department store and Kate is getting up from having fainted. She is very confused and doesn't understand why this has happened to her again. Everyone around her is also confused and a shopper asks if this kind of thing happens to her all the time and she says it happened to her yesterday on Christmas Eve, and now today, on Christmas! But it's not Christmas! It's Christmas Eve! But how can that be when Christmas Eve was yesterday? Kate goes on her date again with Miles and asks if they've ever met and he says no.

And such the formula goes on and on. At first she is stuck on trying to get her ex back, but realizes he has moved on and is planning to propose to his new girlfriend (who was a high school sweetheart) and she realizes that Miles would be good for her and she really likes him. She also learns to be a better person and more patient. One of my favorite scenes involves her getting to know her neighbor, Margine, an elderly woman who loves to bake. For several of these "days" we see Margine brining a fruitcake to Kate and wanting to talk but Kate is either rude to her or just thanks her quickly and goes inside. Finally, on one "day" she takes the time to thank Margine and ask her for the recipe and Margine brings her into her HUGE apartment which is gorgeous and takes her into her kitchen where she learns how to bake. Remember in Groundhog Day when Bill Murray learned French and how to play the piano over the course of his days? Well, in this movie she learns to bake intricate cakes and cookies (and ends up with a gingerbread house).

Through her 12 days of Christmas Eve, she makes friends with a woman who is helping her boyfriend string up lights and learns she wants him to propose to her, so she tells the boyfriend to make lights that will spell out "Marry Me." She also sets up her neighbor with Jim, one of the shoppers who is always there to help her up from the floor everytime a new "day" starts and she is back in the department store. And then there was a weird storyline I don't get: she thinks Toby, the guy she almost thought was her blind date knows what's happening to her but I don't know if he did or not. She befriends him too and gives him a makeover and takes off his glasses (supposedly it works on guys too if you take off their glasses and they're much better looking!  :::rollseyes:::: Personally, I didn't think it was his glasses, it was his stupid haircut!) She sets him up with her friend who can't keep a guy. Kate also bonds with her stepmom.

One thing that irked me about this movie was that Kate was so desperate not to be alone on Christmas and for the rest of her life that she needed to get back with her ex. In fact, we learned her ex broke up with her after her mom died (ouch!) because he said that she was more in love with being with someone than with him and she was so set on not being like her father who was going to be alone (even though he did eventually remarry). I just hate these movies when the woman has to have a man in her life. Jesus, grow a pair!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Forever Young

The Age of Adaline
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Cast: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford, Ellen Burstyn, Kathy Baker
Released: April 24, 2015

In this movie, the main character, Adaline (played by Blake Lively) was born in 1908 but is still somehow still living in present day 2015 and looks great for her age. This is because she has stopped aging at 29. An accident occurred to her when she was 29 for the first - and real - time in her life where her car went into the lake and it appeared she had drowned, only to be revived by a lighting strike. There's a narrator throughout the movie who explains that this could be plausible or at least explains it in a way that sounds somewhat plausible even though it's obviously not!

Within the next decade, when it's obviously she's not aging, Adaline knows something has happened to her and that it occurred the night of the car accident. Her first clue is when she is pulled over for a ticket and when the cop asks to see her license, he is very skeptical that she is 50.

The only person who knows about condition is her daughter (who is played by Ellen Burstyn in the 2015 scenes. If you remember, she also played the older daughter to a younger parent in Interstellar when she played the ageless in space Matthew McCoaughey's daughter as an old woman). Adaline's husband never knew what happened to her because he died in a work accident when their daughter was a baby.

Every few years, when her age starts to become suspicious, Adaline and her daughter move to a new location where she adopts new names and identities for them. As her daughter becomes older, she is able to have her own life, but they soon have to tell people that she is Adaline's grandmother. The movie opens in 2015 in San Francisco with Adaline buying a fake ID. She keeps a quiet life and doesn't allow herself to get close to anyone, only having her daughter and little pet dog for companionship.

At a New Year's Eve party she meets a man named Ellis (Michiel Huisman) who shows interest in her but she refuses his advances until he asks for just one dinner date and she agrees. She is very charmed by him and can't help falling for him even though she knows she's in dangerous territory. Her daughter thinks this is just the thing she needs; that she deserves someone in her life

When Ellis invites her to his parents' home to attend his parent's 50th anniversary, she agrees, only to find out that Ellis's dad, William (played by Harrison Ford) is a past love from Adaline's life when they had a fling in the '60s, but Adaline got scared and ran away when things started to get too serious. He is the only person Adaline told her real name to so when they are introduced by Ellis, Williams blurts out, "Adaline!" and Adaline tells him he must be thinking of their mother. William believes this story (after all, it is much more believable than the truth). His wife (played by Kathy Baker) says she has never heard of him talk about this Adaline and becomes jealous when it is inevitable that this Adaline meant a great deal to him. In private, William tells Adaline that he was going to propose to her "mother" and she tells him that her "mother" cared for him very much. William notices a prominent scar on Adaline's wrist and while looking through some old photographs
he comes across an old photo of him and Adaline (one of the very few since she didn't like people taking her photograph for obvious reasons) and when he sees that the Adaline in the photograph has the exact same scar in the exact same place he knows something is up and confronts Adaline.

Now that William knows her secret, she starts packing up while Ellis is away and runs away. William begs her not to but she is too scared to find out what will happen if she stays. She gets into a car accident while driving from the house, one that is very similar to the car accident she was in when she first stopped aging. It is very obvious that her aging curse has been broken, but at first I thought she was going to age up to the age she would have been at that time...which would have been 107, which means she probably would have died soon thereafter!

While in the hospital, Ellis comes to visit her and she tells him the truth about everything and they continue their relationship. A few years later, we see they are still together and while looking at a mirror she is ecstatic to see she is aging and will no longer be 29 for the rest of her life so she can age with Ellis. That reminded me of the scene in the "Twilight" books when Bella has a conniption fit when she is 19 and Edward is 17 and she needs to become a vampire ASAP because she is SOOO much older than he is, except it wasn't as asinine in this movie! Seriously, I can't even tell the difference between a 17 and 19 year old! But I'm horrible with guessing ages anyway.

While it would be nice to be ageless, the movie does make good points on why it's not ideal. This is why in all those vampire books and TV shows and movies when the girls falls in love with the vampire, she always becomes a vampire herself so they can remain the same ageless self forever because it would be weird if the woman was 80 and married to a hot 20 something guy...even if he was technically older than she was!

The saddest scene in the entire movie is when she comes home one day to find that her beloved pet dog has died. My cat was in my lap while I was watching that scene so I was sobbing and holding onto Milo for comfort. I can handle Adaline being alone without a soul mate (even though she did find one!), but the second I saw her dog had died and how she weeped, then I weeped with her! Anytime a pet dies in a movie, then I am a mess! 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Second Murder

Double Jeopardy
Director: Bruce Beresford
Cast: Ashely Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish
Released: September 24, 1999
Viewed in theaters: September 26, 1999

This is one of those movies that are so bad, they're awesome and enjoyable to watch. I don't know what it is about this movie. I know it's not a particularly great movie, but I've seen it a handful of times and always love watching it. Maybe I just love it when a-holes get their comeuppance.

I don't know whose husband is worst: Jennifer Lopez's in Enough or Ashley Judd's in this movie. One of them was an abusive and cheating jerk and the other faked his own death and made it looks like his wife did it so she would rot in prison! Yes, in this movie, Ashley Judd's husband stages his own death and frames his wife. But she is out for revenge when she is told of a little something called....double jeopardy! Dun dun dun!

Libby and Nick Parsons (Ashley Judd and Bruce Greenwood) appear to have the perfect least to Libby and everybody else! They have an adorable five year old son named Matty, they live in a beautiful home in Whidbey Island, Washington (which I've been to...shout out!), Nick has a successful career. However, Nick is having an affair...with Angie (Annabeth Gish), Libby's best friend of all people. One night, while on a weekend boat trip, Libby wakes up in the middle of the night after a passionate night with her husband to find blood everywhere and her husband missing. She is stopped by the Coast Guard where she is arrested for the murder of her husband. It doesn't seem to cross her mind until much later how weird it is that her husband was "murdered" and yet she was alive and fine. And wouldn't she hear her husband being stabbed to death? It's a big can it be? Exactly, Cal from Titanic. How BIG can it be? I mean, of course people are going to think she was the one who killed him! And that's why she is sent to prison. Although, I say, no death! And they didn't find the body...of course they were out in the middle of the ocean, so they figured she dumped his body in it.

I don't think Nick framed his wife because he wanted to get out of their marriage and be with Angie. That seems a little extreme. Don't get me wrong, the whole thing is extreme, regardless. Rather, he has a nice little life insurance policy that will, should he die, and his wife so happen to be the cause of his death, will go to his son. Libby (not knowing anything about the affair) gives Angie custody of her son. I don't remember if they said anything about her having any parents or siblings she could leave her son with (although there is a scene later where she's visiting her mom in the South). It seems weird that you would leave your child with a close friend rather than a family member. It's just like that movie Life As We Know It....don't even get me started on the stupidity of those parents! I guess the hefty life insurance money went to Angie since she became Matty's guardian, although I always thought when money is for a kid, it stays in the bank where it cannot be touched by anyone until the kid turns 18. But I don't know anything about banking and finances, so I could be totally wrong. Now that Nick has his new girlfriend and a crapload of money (I mean, he had a bunch of money before, so I really don't know why he needed this money so bad...he must have really hated his wife even though we never saw anything to support that), he is able to take Angie and Matty to San Francisco.

This is around the time when Libby is starting to think something is up. I don't remember how long she was sentenced for but at least a year has passed when she notices that Angie and Matty don't come around to visit as much as they used to and soon it gets to the point where Libby can't even contact Angie anymore. Through trickery she obtains Angie's new phone number and address and is beyond pissed to discover she has moved to San Francisco and didn't even tell Libby. Well, yeah, I would be pretty furious too if I was in jail and my friend was watching my kid and they moved to another city without telling me. She calls Angie to give her a piece of her mind, but Angie says she meant to call and tell her, but she's been so busy. Matty is there and wants to talk to his mom so Angie lets him, but her hand is still on the receiver, ready to snatch that sucker away.

Okay, I don't remember anything about being five years old, nor do I know any five year olds, so I don't know how a five-year-old interprets the concept of death or prison. Does he know his dad "died"? Does he understand his mom is in prison because she "killed" Daddy? But SURPRISE! Nick isn't dead. Bet you didn't see that one coming! I thought for sure Matty was going to blurt out, "Mommy! Daddy isn't dead anymore!" But he just talks to her and says he misses her and when is he going to see her again. It isn't until a few minutes later when Nick walks in that he exclaims, "Daddy" and that phone is quickly hung up by Angie.

It all suddenly starts to click together for Libby. It's her "a-ha!" moment. Not only has her husband framed her for his so-called murder, but he was having an affair with her best friend...who basically kidnapped her son and took him to another city so they could live off Nick's life insurance money. Well, lucky for Libby, one of her fellow inmates used to be a lawyer and she informs her of a little thing called double jeopardy. It is a clause that states that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. That means that since Libby was already convicted for murdering her husband, then she can really murder him and not be sentenced for it. So of course she is all ready to get her vengeance. And if you're asking why didn't she just tell the police, she did, but Nick and Angie changed numbers and moved or did something where they couldn't be traced.

With good behavior, Libby gets out six years later where she lives in a halfway house and is under the supervision of her parole office, Travis (Tommy Lee Jones). There is an amusing scene where she's at the library trying to find if she can locate Nick's or Angie's address. The guy helps her find the info she needs (remember the present day is 1999 and she was in jail when the whole Internet craze of the '90s broke out so she doesn't know anything about how to get around the 'net). However he is a creeper who blatantly hits on her and asks her out. She tells him she'll have to check with her parole officer and when he asks her what she did, he is out of there in a flash when she replies, "Oh, I killed my husband." That's a good line to get rid of unwanted attention from the opposite sex!

In order to find Nick, she escapes from Travis while they're on a ferry in Puget Sound and her travels take her to Colorado where Nick and Angie lived and Angie died in a fire (but Libby knows the fire was not an accident! I'm not really sure why Nick killed Angie) and then she goes on to New Orleans where Nick has been living under the alias of Jonathan Devereaux. Do you think he took that surname because he's a fan of The Golden Girls? "I'm Jonathan Devereux, no relation to Blanche."

She confronts Nick at a fancy auction he's holding that she snuck into and threatens to expose who he is if he doesn't let her see their son. He tells her they will meet tomorrow at this huge-ass cemetery and for some stupid reason, she agrees to it. I'd be like, "Hell, no, we're not going to some big open space where there are plenty places to hide...we're going to meet at the Starbucks around the corner!" Unbeknownst to Libby (and the audience at this time), Matty, who would be around 12 at this time, isn't even in the same state. He is at boarding school in Georgia. Nick has paid some random kid to take Libby on a wild goose chase and keep running from her until she ends up in a mausoleum where Nick is there to greet her with a knock over the head and puts her unconscious body in a coffin...with another body! Ewwww! Luckily she has a gun (which she stole from Travis) to shoot her way out and luckily she wasn't underground so she can just walk out the door.

Meanwhile, on his quest to find Libby, Travis does his own research on Nick and finds out he's still alive and Libby never killed him. They both confront Nick where Libby tells him she can shoot him in the middle of Mardi Gras and nobody will even blink and Travis confirms that this is true. We-ell, this is not exactly true. I did a little research (and I do mean little!) and double jeopardy doesn't exactly work this way. She would still be convicted if she actually killed Nick. Luckily the movie doesn't have to deal with that because she doesn't kill least not in cold-blooded murder. She decides he's not worth it and he grabs her gun and tries to kill her, but after a struggle, Libby kills him in self-defense.

She goes to see her son and he is played by Spencer Treat Clark who I totally forgot about. I remember seeing him everywhere around the early '00s (like Gladiator and and Unbreakable and Mystic River) and I was like, "Oh, yeah, that kid!" He was a really cute kid and I looked up some recent pics (he's 28 now) and he's really good-looking. He definitely was a winner in the genetic pool. Mother and son have a teary, heartfelt reunion.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Into Thin Air

Director: Balastar Kormakur
Cast: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington
Released: September 18, 2015
Viewed in theaters: September 18, 2015

If you have read Jon Krakauer's book, "Into Thin Air", then you are familiar with the story of an expedition to the top of Mount Everest in which bad weather and faulty planning killed 8 climbers in May 1996, many of them quite experienced among them. (Although, if you are not familiar, be aware of the spoilers!)  This movie is based on Krakuer's book as well as other books that were written by the survivors of this tragedy, but being as he is a writer, Krakauer's is probably the most well-known. I'm a little surprised it took so long to make a movie about this event (almost 20 years!), although there was a made for TV movie about it that was aired in 1997 (probably a little too soon!)

I had read Krakauer's book five years ago so I didn't remember exactly who died and who survived that fateful day, but if I had read the dedication page, it would have refreshed my memory as he dedicated the book to those who perished. Although while watching the movie, I began to remember certain people and what had happened to them. Oh yeah, that poor Japanese woman freezes to death or I remember that Texan man wrote a book about this so he survives. And Rob Hall and Doug Hansen are the guide and client, respectively, who made it to the top way too late and didn't get down in time. All of which I had read five years ago just came back to me in a flood of memories.

Rob Hall (portrayed by Jason Clarke) was a 35 year old New Zealander who was the leader and head guide of Adventure Consultants which took clients up to the summit of Everest. His was probably the most known because he had many successful expeditions. His was almost the most expensive because it cost $65,000 to be part of his group (and that doesn't always guarantee reaching the top!) That was definitely something I remembered from the book and was waiting for it to be brought up in the movie and sure enough it was. It boggles my mind that anyone would pay that much money to go through hell!  The question is brought up by Krakauer the journalist (portrayed by Michael Kelly who plays Doug Stamper on House of Cards). Not so much the question, "Why would you pay all this money to do this?" but rather "Why are you climbing this mountain?" Doug Hansen (portrayed by John Hawkes) says he wants to let his children see that if an ordinary man like him can achieve an impossible dream, then they can do the same. While most of Hall's clients were fairly wealthy (you kind of have to be!), Doug was a mailman and had paid for the trip by working extra overnight shifts at the post office. He had gone to Everest with Hall the previous year but hadn't reached the top and this time he was determined. Yasuko Namba (portrayed by Naoko Mori) says she has been to six of the seven highest summits and Everest was the last one. She became the oldest woman to summit Everest (although she never made it down alive), but her record was surpassed in 2001.

With conditions of 100 degrees below zero and very thin air that causes extreme altitude sickness, that would be enough to give anyone second thoughts about climbing Everest. It would certainly give me second thoughts. I've had altitude sickness and it makes you feel weak and miserable. But Everest isn't just a mountain that you climb up. There are crevices you have to cross with ladders; there are steep ledges you have to walk along; there are places you have to climb with ropes. It's a very extraneous, very exhausting feat. I told my mom that I would be out as soon as I saw the long rope bridges they have to cross over a huge gap in the earth even before they begin climbing! I'd be like, "No thanks, rather not fall to my death if those ropes break!"

The movie begins at the airport in New Zealand where Rob Hall is with his base camp manager, Helen (portrayed by Emily Watson) and they're getting ready to leave for Nepal. Hall is saying goodbye to his wife, Jan (portrayed by Keira Knightley) who is also a climber (they summited Everest together in 1993), but can't go with him this time because she is seven months pregnant. I knew for sure he wasn't coming back when she is giving him a tearful goodbye.

There were a lot of people climbing Everest during the same time and it got to be a bit of an issue. Rob decides to team up with another guide, Scott Fisher (portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his clients. They started on March 30 and didn't reach the top until May 10. Something I learned when I read Krakauer's book is that you start at base camp, then go to the camp one, then go to base camp again and repeat this a few times. It's so you acclimatize. It has to be so frustrating to be at camp one, then have to go to base camp and start the climb over again. The (very long) day they reach the top, they start just after midnight with a goal to reach the summit by 2 pm. Anything after that starts to become too dangerous because you have to remember reaching the top is only the halfway mark, you still have to turn around and head back.

Sadly, things do not go as planned. Things are slowed down because there were suppose to be ropes already ready at one point but they are not, so they have to do them themselves and that takes time. Several people are getting sick and weak. But they do reach the top and there is celebration. One of the people who is not there when they reach the top is Doug Hansen and Rob finds him on his way back still trudging up. He tells Doug they need to turn back, but Doug is determined to make it. From where they are, it looks like they are not even a mile from the top, but you know it's going to take a couple hours to reach it. Doug pleads for him to take him to the top and Rob agrees. When they do reach it, Doug is exhausted and Rob is doing everything he can to pull him down the mountain, but Doug won't budge. There is an ominous storm approaching. Rob radios base camp to tell them they need help and where they are. Helen mistakenly thinks he said "the bottom of South Summit" and when he corrects her and tells her they're at the top of the South Summit, you can see her face fall and become extremely concerned at that moment. At that point, Rob is still okay and they urge him to come down and they will send someone back up for Doug, but he refuses to leave Doug. As his guide, he felt extremely responsible for Doug and I'm sure he knew he should have refused to let Doug to the top seeing as his condition was very weak. Rob tells Doug to stay where he is and that he's going to go for help. At this point, Doug has become very disoriented. I don't know if he didn't hear Rob or just panicked, but he starts to follow Rob and ends up falling off the mountain. I don't know if this is how he really died because Wikipedia lists his death as being from exposure (same as Rob's), but the only other person up there with him was Hall who also died. When asked about Doug from Base Camp, he replies with, "Doug's gone" which is what was spoken in real life by Hall.

Rob is getting weaker and his oxygen tanks have frozen over. He's not really in a position to slide down because it looks like you need a rope to get down. They tell him a team will climb up the next morning to help him, but they have to abort the mission due to another bad storm. They patch him through to his wife in New Zealand and by this time his voice has started to become slurred. This is the part where I start to lose it and cry. The last words Rob says to his wife are, "I love you. Sleep well, my sweetheart. Please don't worry too much." And that is taken from real life, nobody wrote that in the script.

Meanwhile, in other depressing news, Scott Fischer, who has been having some trouble, but passing it off like he is fine, ends up dying from hypoxia. He basically sits down and never gets up again. Then, closer to the camp, but not quite there, a group of climbers have to leave the Japanese woman, Namba and the Texan, Beck Weathers (portrayed by Josh Brolin) behind because they are both too weak to move and the others don't have the means to carry them back. They show them contacting the families and you see Beck's wife, Peach (portrayed by Robin Wright...who I did not recognize at all!) back in Dallas looking devastated and having to tell her kids. I was so confused by this scene because I was sure I remembered Beck surviving this! But then in a later scene, we see Beck with a bloodied face and hands wake up and start to get up and walk back to camp. He is frostbitten beyond belief and Peach organizes a rescue by helicopter which has never been done because it is way to dangerous, but they manage to get him and take him down. I believe they said he lost his hands and nose due to frostbite.

At the end, they have a little tribute to those who died showing photos of the actual people. I was surprised when I read that Rob Hall's body was still on the mountain. I suppose it's in a place that's not easy to get to. But I guess that's not unusual when people die on Everest. Throughout the movie, Rob and Jan had been debating about what they should name their daughter. Rob wanted Sarah, but Jan wasn't keen on the name, but while talking to him on the mountain, promises him she'll call her Sarah and we see a photo of Sarah Arnold-Hall who was 18 when this movie was filmed. She was born two months after her father died.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Nights at the Museums

Night at the Museum
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Carla Gugino, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs, Kim Raver, Paul Rudd
Released: December 22, 2006
Viewed in theaters: December 23, 2006

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest, Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader
Released: May 22, 2009
Viewed in theaters: June 1, 2009

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Director: Shawn Levy
Cast: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ben Kingsley,  Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson
Released: December 19, 2014

Two years before the first movie being released, I had been to New York City with my mom where we had visited the Museum of Natural History which had quickly shot to #1 as my favorite museum of all time ever. (What was #1 prior to that? To be honest, I had never given it any thought). So when I heard about this movie where all the exhibits come to life at night, I thought it sounded like a cool concept and was curious to see it. While I enjoyed it, I was a bit nit-picky. Obviously, if you have been to the Natural History museum, then you know it was not filmed there! (Which I get). But they could at least tried to make it as similar to the real one! True, it's been awhile since I've been there, but I do remember that the dinosaur on display in the main lobby was not a T-rex like it was in the movie, but in fact two dinosaurs: a mother barosaurus and her baby. I suppose a T-rex is more frightening and exciting for a movie audience, but there were more dinosaur bones upstairs that they never had come to life! Although I don't think the Natural Museum has a T-rex because if they did, it probably would be featured in the lobby as the first thing you see! I kept waiting for the movie to show this HUGE grizzly bear that I remember seeing in the North America section (you know, the same section where you would find Lewis and Clark with Sacagawea!) I would be way more scared of that than the three lions that are in the movie....but there was no bears, grizzly or otherwise. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Larry Daley (Ben Stiller), a divorced father of a son gets a job as a night guard at the Museum of Natural History when times are rough for him and he just needs anything that will give him a paycheck. He replaces three nigh guards who are retiring (played by Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs, and Mickey Rooney - who does not play an Asian man as we all remember how totally not racist that was in Breakfast in Tiffany's!) They give Larry a list of instructions which he will soon find out will come in handy. Even though this movie is called NIGHT at the Museum, there are actually three nights that are shown. The other two movies only have one night.

The first night, naturally, is the introduction of the characters who come to life. A bored Larry ends up falling asleep at the front desk (sidenote: how come they only have one night guard now when they used to have three? Maybe they are trying to cut costs?) and when he wakes up he is baffled to see that the bones of the T-rex are gone and thinks Cecil (Dick Van Dyke) and the others have played a trick on him and that they have made the dinosaur bones vanish in a David Copperfield type illusion. But no, the skeletal dinosaur has come to life and starts chasing Larry who hides under his desk and grabs the instruction and reads them for the first time. The first one given tells him to "throw the bone", which he does and the T-rex hurries after it like a dog, wagging its bony tail. While I definitely would be freaked out if dinosaur fossils came to life, I really wouldn't be worried about the dinosaur eating me as there is no digestive tract!

Larry soon realizes that everything in the museum has come to life. There's Attila the Hun; the aforementioned Sacagawea; cavemen; an Easter Island Moai; a large menagerie which probably the most iconic character, Dexter the capuchin monkey, is part of. Dexter torments Larry by stealing his keys, peeing on him, biting his nose, slapping him, and he will continue to be a pain in Larry's ass for the next two movies. Teddy Roosevelt (played by Robin Williams) acts as Larry's guide and offers to help him the first night. He is a wax statue on a horse in the lobby. He brings up something later in the movie that I had been wondering: these are not the actual people that are being shown at the museum. As Teddy tells Larry, he is not the real Roosevelt, but a wax figure made in a factory somewhere. However, he acts like a leader and emulates many of the traits the real Roosevelt had as so many of the other figures with their real life counterparts. (That would be a little creepy if the museum had the corpse of Teddy Roosevelt on display!)

Two other characters who will prominently be featured in the next two movies are a miniature version of a cowboy named Jedediah (played by Owen Wilson) from and his rival in the display next to him, a Roman general named Octavius (played by Steve Coogan. In all three movies there will be a running
gag where the two of them will be in some sort of dire situation and the camera will pull back to show a very calm scene. It's funny at first, but the camera pans back too many time that it stops being funny. In the first movie, they are getting blasted by air from a tire, but when the camera pulls pack we just see a car sitting there.

After the first night, Larry wants to quit and tells the curator (played by Ricky Gervais) he won't be coming back. But after seeing how proud his son is of him, he decides to stick with it. This time he goes in more prepared, or thinks he is anyway. He has read some history books so he knows a few things that might help him with dealing with the live exhibits. He has secured his keys to his belt and fakes Dexter our with a pair of plastic keys. He gives a lighter to the cavemen so they will stop bugging him and they are amazed by how easy it is to start a fire. However, one of them gets out of the building to start a fire in the trash and ends up turning to dust when the sun comes up. Is the caveman also a vampire? No, that is what happens to the exhibits if they are not in the building back in their poses when the sun comes up.

The third (and most adventurous night as he will soon find out), Larry brings Nicky so he can see the displays come to life. Nothing happens and I thought that they were purposely not coming to life because they only let the night guards see them, but it is soon discovered they are not able to come to life because Cecil has the tablet. Oh, I forgot to mention the reason why everything in the museum comes to life: so there's this Ancient Egyptian tablet and it brings everything to life. Yeah. I don't get it either. That's got to be worth a lot of money! I had totally forgotten this storyline where Cecil and the other two guards were the bad guys and wanted the tablet because apparently besides giving life to wax figures, it helps old men have more energy (there's a really bad joke I could insert here, but I won't go there) and they want it so they can stay healthy and spry. At one point Cecil does a backflip It's just totally random and out of left field. Everything comes to life when Larry gets the tablet back and the exhibits help Larry and Nicky stop the three old men. It gets quite ridiculous because at one point Nicky is riding the T-rex through Central Park.

The only way to stop them is to awake the mummy (I think he was a real mummy and not a prop one because in the third movie we will find out he is an actual person who was awaken from the dead? I think?) It's an amusing scene because Larry and his son are really scared and when he unwraps the bandages you think it's going to be some dis-formed  corpse, but it turns out to be a good-looking young guy, an Egyptian prince named Akhmenrah.

I thought there was going to be a romantic sub-plot between Larry and Rebecca (Carla Gugino) who works at the museum and is writing a dissertation on Sacagawea, but they just have one "coffee date" when she offers to tell him some information on the Native American when he asks her. There is a romance between Teddy and Sacagawea, but it mostly consists of gazing into eyes and hand holding. Rounding out the cast is Paul Rudd who plays Larry's ex-wife's new smarmy boyfriend.

Larry has an idea for bringing the museum to "life" at night (which everyone thinks are either actors portraying the notable figures or, in the case of the animals and dinosaur, animatronics) because in a weird plot point, the museum had been having low attendance which made me LOL because please....I really doubt the freaking best museum in the world ever has that problem! When I was there, you had to wait in a long line to pay for your ticket (totally worth it, though). Wait...this might have been in the second movie where this happens....shoot, I don't remember!

Before leaving this movie and the Natural History Museum (because even though there are thousand of exhibits you could base on several movies, the other two movies take place at different museums), I had to share a cute story from when I visited that museum. While my mom was waiting in line, buying the tickets, I was sitting on this circular bench and there were people all around me (I'm telling you: there is no problem with low attendance!) and I overhear a conversation between a mother and her son, probably no older than six. She tells him he has the choice of either visiting the new frog exhibit or going to Central Park. The kid was quiet for awhile, pondering this decision and finally declared he wanted to see the frogs. I silently praised his choice. After all, the frogs were only temporary.

Battle of the Smithsonian is my favorite in the trilogy and that is mostly thanks to Amy Adams who is the MVP of these movies (even though she is only in the second movie). As you can tell from its title, it takes place at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., another museum to which I have been. This time, Larry has only been working at the museum part-time because he has another job selling something he invented...I can't even remember what it was. He was an inventor in the first movie too and had invented the Snapper where you snap to turn off lights, but since the Clapper was already a thing (and way easier to clap than snap!), the Snapper did not sell. His new invention is a big hit and he has become successful.  He finds out the museum is being renovated and they are shipping several of the artifacts to the Smithsonian. This pretty much includes every character from the first movie except for Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams is only in the beginning and end and has a small scene in the middle),  the T-rex bones, all the lions save for Dexter, and the Egyptian prince who comes with the tablet, except that Dexter has stolen the tablet to bring it with them. So you guessed it....everything at the Smithsonian will be coming to life!

Because there are so many new characters, a lot of the exhibits from the first movie take a back seat. The only ones who have a pivotal role are Jedediah and Octavius, our mini friends. We have the antagonist, a corrupted pharaoh named Kahmunrah played by Hank Azaria (also the older brother of Akhmenrah who he is obviously jealous of). He wants the tablet because it will open a portal that will help him take over the world. Or something like that. He enlists the help of three bad guys from history: Ivan the Terrible (played by Christopher Guest) who insisted his real name is Ivan the Awesome; Napoleon Bonaparte (played by Alain Chabat) who is very sensitive and snippy whenever someone mentions his height; and Al Capone (played by Jon Bernthal) who is only shown in black and white which I thought was a cool touch. In a funny scene where he's trying to recruit even more famous baddies, we see him talking to characters off screen saying how much an honor it is to meet them and the camera pans to reveal Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch.  Kahmunrah has kidnapped Jededian and put him in a sand timer and tells Larry if he doesn't deliver him the code to open the portal in that alloted time, then his "little friend will die."

Helping Larry along the way is Amelia Earhart. (Not the real Amelia, of course, but a wax figure). This is where Amy Adams comes in and she is so delightful in this. She has a very 1940s, rat-a-tat-tat way of speaking and does it very effortlessly and I know that cannot be easy! She rattles out such lines as "You haven't been able to take your cheaters off my chassies since we met!" and "I think we've been jimmy-jacked!"

Instead of just famous figures made of wax and animals coming to life, this movie takes a new twist on things. Paintings come to life, sculptures come to life, the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln memorial comes to life, the bobble-headed Albert Einstein toys come to life. (I feel like there are no rules to this magical tablet...pretty much any inanimate object can come to life!) Since there are so many new characters to meet, it's no wonder many of the ones from the first movie are all but cameos. There is a bust of Teddy Roosevelt that Larry and Amelia get advice from. He is, of course, voiced by Robin Williams and when he learns that there is a full-bodied Teddy Roosevelt at the Natural History Museum he gets very jealous.

My favorite scene is when they go the the Air and Space Museum and Amelia is just enthralled. We did see Larry walking through here before the sun set and they didn't do the best job of setting this scene up. While we see all the historic aircrafts, we didn't see any of the famous aviators that are now being shown. Unless they were like Amelia and woke up in the storage basement and then came to the Air and Space Museum? But don't you have to be a certain distance from the tablet to do that? See, these rules of the tablet are so sketchy. I guess it really doesn't matter. They're about to do a launch and Larry has to abort all of them. Yeah....that would be bad news!

In the end he and his friends defeat the evil pharaoh and he brings everyone back to New York with the help of Amelia and her small plane (which managed to fit everyone in reminded me of a clown call when all they all just come tumbling out one after the other). She flies back to Smithsonian...hopefully she made it back before she turned to wax so she wouldn't crash the plane!

Okay, remember how I couldn't remember Larry having the idea to bring the museum to life after hours happened in the first or second movie? It was this one. I remember now because he notices a woman there who looks like Amelia Earhart (played by Amy Adams without wearing the wig or aviation outfit) and he asks her if she's related to her. For a second I thought it was Amelia Earhart and she had disguised herself but that was so far-fetched...even for this movie!

The third movie takes place at the British Museum in London. Larry has to travel there with Akhmenrah (the Egyptian prince if you recall) and his tablet because something is happening to the tablet where it is starting not to work anymore so Larry has to go see Akhmenrah's parents (the father is played by Ben Kinglsey) who are exhibits at the British Museum. It's kind of sad that Akhmenrah was separated from his parents. So the only actual "real" people in this movie, in terms of exhibits, are the mummies. Everyone else is just made of wax. There's a whole back story at the beginning of the movie that explains the tablet and how it was found when a very young Cecil (you remember him...he was played by Dick Van Dyke from the first movie) was in Egypt with his archeologist father and they unearthed a tomb that held the tablet.

This movie does not really bring anything new in terms of things we hadn't seen from the first two movies. Obviously, since it is set in an entirely different museum we do see new characters and exhibits come to life, most notable Sir Lancelot who is trying to find Guinevere. There is a silly scene where he runs up on stage in the middle of a stage production of "Camelot" and pulls his sword on Hugh Jackman. Um....okay, if that happened in real life, security would be on that guy's ass in five seconds. But he and Jackman just start arguing over who Lancelot is.

Ben Stiller also plays a caveman whose main goal is to annoy Larry. He was created for the museum in honor of Larry and his features were used so the caveman looks exactly like him and so he thinks Larry is his dad and follows him around all the time.

There's a scene where Larry is having a heart-to-heart with Dexter (the capuchin monkey) after Dexter almost died when it looked like the tablet was doomed, but Larry managed to fix it in the nick of time. I thought Dexter was going to slap Larry or bite him on the nose, but he kisses him on the lips which was really cute.

Anyway, I enjoyed these movies. They're just mindless fun. I kind of get a Jumanji vibe from them.