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Entertainment Recap: The Best (So Far) of 2014

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Here’s a recap of everything you’ve been missing in the entertainment-sphere if you’ve been hiding under a rock-no judgment here.

Downton Abbey’s U.S. premiere of season 4 just wrapped.  The furtive, longing glances were just as good as ever.  I won’t reveal any spoilers but the important thing is that Mary has 50 suitors (just a bunch, no big deal) and poor Edith is still alone.  #feelinlikeedith

This awards season is truly exciting, with fantastic, dynamic performances from the ones in 12 Years a Slave to American HustleJennifer Lawrence is still supremely charming and my vote for girl crush-if only she actually ate as much as she professes to, then she would be perfect.  Lupita Nyong’o is the most beautiful being that has ever appeared on this earth, on point with all her fashion choices.  If they don’t make a Barbie or some sort of doll-replica of her soon I’ll be shocked.  Matthew McConaughey’s random speeches add to the fun although they are slightly grating (here’s to hoping Leo takes the Oscar).  “Alriiiiight, alriiiiight, alriiiiiiight.”

One award that Matthew McConaughey should win for his immense comeback?  An Emmy.  He is brilliant in HBO’s True Detective, a show with as intense and dark an ambiance as McConaughey’s character himself.  Seriously, though, that Quaaludes scene alone makes Leonardo DiCaprio deserve the Oscar.  His extreme difficulty going down the stairs reminded me a bit too much of myself after midterms.  Can’t. Make. It. To. Dorm. Too. Defeated.  If Pink does some of the acrobatic wonders she did at the Grammys I am going to cry tears of wonder and jealousy.  As long as it’s not like that year Beyonce sang every single nominated song.  I’m not sure Ellen DeGeneres (host this year of the Oscars) will push the envelope as much as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though.  Must I remind you of the now-classic lines: “’Gravity’ is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.” And, of course: “”Like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s all give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio.”

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After the sad excuse for an Olympics I’m looking forward to the return of new episodes.  Then I’ll finally be able to stop hating myself for watching The Bachelor’s Juan Pablo.  Don’t judge man, it was between that and curling.

Like air hockey, but sadder?

An exciting book-to-film is coming out this summer!  No, not Fifty Shades of Grey, I do have some dignity…it’s The Fault in Our Stars!  Shailene Woodley plays Hazel (or as Augustus lovingly calls her, Hazel Grace)-proving that one can star in an incredibly banal show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and still be a good actress.

Speaking of ABC Family shows, there is no shame here when I recap the latest on Pretty Little Liars.  It’s the most tweeted about show, I’ll have you know.  Basically, Ezra, the high school teacher, turns out to be just a regular creepster, not an evil genius creepster, which was incredibly disappointing and infuriating.  He did provide possibly the best excuse of all time though (which I will be using as I write my final papers): “I was writing a true crime novel.”  KThx.

Aria finds out what a bad writer Ezra really is.

If you’re actually looking for a smart show, may I recommend The Good Wife?  With its spitfire writing, power-house acting, and complex turns it may be the smartest show on right now.  That’s saying a lot, as TV is more like a stimulating lube tube right now for the mind, with provocative shows like Girls, Breaking Bad, and Homeland, than its previously condescending title.

If you’re looking for some cute/smart fun Parks and Recreation is still the most underrated quirk of a comedy gem The Mindy Project is also back with a vengeance this season, funnier than ever with absurd shenanigans-including a sexting fiasco gone wrong.

So true, so true.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention a couple of things that are guaranteed to brighten up any winter blues.  I mean guaranteed.  First off is The Lego Movie-one of the most clever and genuinely funny animated films in a long time.  Second, I have two words for you:  Broad City.  My sister turned me on to this new show, full of the most awkward hilarity, basically an unpolished Girls.  Perhaps the best episode so far is “Working Girls” when Abbi, one of the main characters, goes to retrieve a package for her apartment crush.  The lengths that must be traveled-man we feel you (fake cough Student Services, just saying).

Alas, we come to the end…of my procrastination.  Enjoy the Oscars tonight!

Current Films Not to be Missed!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Three films that are worth seeing all deal with survival in environments and times that are most trying.  It is in these instances, it seems, that we discover who we truly are and what we are willing to fight for.

Prisoners is the story of two young girls who are kidnapped and how their families crumble after the tragedy.  Hugh Jackman is brilliant as one of the grief-stricken, tortured fathers.  His physicality drives his performance to another level.  Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances ever as the detective who is trying his best to solve what seems like an unsolvable crime.  The film’s intensity leads to further discussion and reflection on what right and wrong means and how far are we willing to go in order to save those we love?

Gravity has been well-received by critics almost across the board.  And it does not disappoint.  Alfonso Cuaron, an incredibly talented director (Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban and Children of Men), directs a stunning, breath-taking piece of art that overtly illustrates how beautiful life is.  Sandra Bullock delivers the most nuanced, dynamic performance of her career, full of vulnerability and strength.  She plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a Mission Specialist, who finds herself in a life-or-death situation and must use all of her faculties in order to survive.  The religious overtones are not subtle but the themes of loneliness, damage, and loss are so sincere that it is easy to overlook this.  The score is haunting and the effects are nothing short of spectacular.

Captain Phillips seemed a little underwhelming if you were to judge it solely by its trailers.  However, the trailers are to its detriment as it is a solid film and should not be counted out.  Tom Hanks gives a strong performance, one that is finally fitting of his talent, unlike the ones he has been given in recent years (let’s all try to forget Larry Crowne and never speak of it again).  Tom Hanks drives the film the way he commanded Cast Away, making it into an intense, thrilling story.  He plays the title character whose ship is hijacked by Somali pirates (based on the 2009 true events).  Look out for Barkhad Abdi, who takes a great turn as Muse, the leader of the pirates. 

12 Years a Slave and Catching Fire reviews to come soon!

Less than Masterful: Paul Thomas Anderson Fails to Recruit Us Into His Vision

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I should’ve known I wasn’t going to like The Master.  I cannot say I have loved all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, including There Will Be Blood.  Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent at yet another incredibly unlikable, unhinged character.

On the topic of unhinged and unlikable, enter The Master.  Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a troubled, destructive man dealing with the aftermath of returning after fighting in WWII.  Quell is also fighting against his own personal demons.  He is self-prescribing by drinking horrific alcoholic concoctions (paint-thinner in one).  All in all he’s in a bad place when he comes across Lancaster Dodd (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), aka the “Master” of, let’s call it what it is, a cult.

It becomes hard to know what is real and what is not as Freddie imagines things that have not happened.  As there is no character evolution it is painful to watch Freddie and Dodd’s destructive behavior.  There is no one to root for.

Sure, there are complex questions about man and sexuality, and man versus animal.  Quell and Dodd seem to be two halves of a whole as Dodd recognizes in Quell.  It’s easy to wonder, is man truly that base?  It is interesting that Dodd claims that humans are not part of the animal kingdom yet he insists on there being a leader of men (in this case himself as the Master).

The performances are excellent and may even be recognized come awards season.  There was a definite void when Joaquin Phoenix was pretending he would never act again.  His intensity is finely matched by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (who plays in my opinion the real Master here, Dodd’s quietly domineering wife).  Hoffman has mastered, no pun intended, this type of slick character who is not what he seems (expertly done in Doubt and even The Ides of March).  Adams is a fierce force onscreen.  Her sweet, doe-eyed look is a stark contrast to the strength and steel she brings to her characters.

I couldn’t help but want The Master to end.  After it all was done I couldn’t believe that was what we were left with, no redemption just a bunch of questions, confusion, and a headache.

 

 

You Know You’re in Turkey When…

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

(An American of Turkish heritage in Turkey)

By: Peri Unver

*These observations are not generalizations but merely my own personal ones that I have made this summer.

1.  You take your life into your hands whenever you’re in a car as drivers think the middle of the
road is the way to go.  Also, it’s not a complete day until you’ve been honked at least forty times.

2.  You are greeted first by a hello, how are you, kiss on both cheeks, and a comment on how much
weight you’ve gained.

3.  You can fist-pump to the break-up songs.  At first, it’s hard to tell that the song is telling someone off and it’s unsettling to then hear “Shake your booty on the floor now” (inevitably in the remix).

4.  People on the street are gladly willing to help direct you someplace or help you get out of a
sticky parking situation.  However, smiling (especially in the grocery store) is seen as a sign of weakness.

5.  The food is mouth-watering good everywhere and hole-in-the-wall, home-food places are best
(as in New York).  Places to eat are so clean that even in the food court in the mall there are fresh, open salad bars and buffets.

6.  The color of the ocean simply cannot be replicated and it is easy to see why the name is
turquoise, or “Turkish blue.”  It is easy to scoff (especially when you’re from California) at those with surf boards asthere are no waves in Turkey.

7.  The understanding of making a line at a bank or another established location is a circle.

8.  The price of everything, from clothing to food, is negotiable.

9.  It is a prerequisite that you must be able to sing and dance in order to become a Turkish
citizen.  You must also know the lyrics to Turkish songs as questions about that are always asked on game shows.

10.  In almost anyTurkish home you enter someone will be able to read your fortune from Turkish
coffee grinds (“fal”).

11.  The concept of personal space is a foreign one in Turkey. Wherever you are, someone might be virtually sitting in your lap and not even notice it.

12.  When you are going to watch a show at night settle in because you’ll be there for the long
haul, at least three to four hours.  When asked if the show is still on the answer will always be yes.  (It’s no wonder when on the Turkish version of Wheel of Fortune one of the slots is “tell a secret” and song and dance breaks are taken frequently.)  Also, during commercial breaks, you can indeed make a sandwich, take a shower, visit a neighbor, and still be in time for the next portion of the show.

13.  The relatively new law (2005) requiring accessibility for people with disabilities unfortunately falls short, as I personally witnessed this summer as I used a wheelchair.  Almost everywhere is not
accessible and the ramps are of varying widths and scarily, angles.  (Places from the movie theater and even an orthopedist’s office have a hill of steps and no lifts, ramps, or even handrails.)

Even with all of its quirks, it is a beautiful country to visit with much history, nice people, and amazing food.  So hos geldiniz (welcome) to Turkiye!

Summer Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman Lacks Heart

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

In the Disney version of Snow White, the title princess is a bit, well, boring.  Or is tame a better
word?  This summer’s Snow White and the Huntsman throws all of that sweetness out the door and exchanges it for a fierce, feministic tale.

Snow White and the Huntsman is as grim as the brothers’ tales themselves.  The story is the same,
young girl’s mother dies and father is taken in by beauty of a mysterious woman.

The twist is that Charlize Theron plays one of the most evil queens possibly ever to grace cinematic history.  Sadly, Ravenna has a tragic past, and a few good points too, about how men in that time used women and disposed of them without a second thought.  The problem?  Ravenna and her creepy, equally evil brother have one too many screws missing.

Theron takes her role seriously, too seriously perhaps, as she channels Ravenna’s pain through her tortured stare and her rage as well.  Theron is an exceptional actress, and this film no doubt belongs to her and Kristen Stewart (who plays Snow White), but it seems as though she is in a different movie as her performance is over-the-top.

Stewart is one of the most underestimated actresses of her era but she is given little to do in terms of dialogue.  The saving grace to the unevenness in performances and film itself is Chris Hemsworth, otherwise known as the Huntsman.  Hemsworth brings a necessary humanity and warmth that is otherwise lacking as both the lead actresses are a bit cold.

The special effects in Snow White and the Huntsman are excellent, as are the costumes.  Theron
is stunning in articles like elaborate headpieces and even a long, black, feathered “crow” coat.  These two aspects of the movie are worth seeing even though the film itself is far from perfect.

There are two last notes that are worth mentioning about the movie.  First, the prince (or William,
the Duke’s son here) would have been better left out as he does not even garner a part of the movie poster.  Rightfully so it turns out, as his role and consequence to the storyline are severely
limited.  The love triangle in this way is lopsided.  Second, the battle scenes could have lasted longer especially towards the end of the film (for example, galloping down a beach does not a fine battle make).

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman takes on far more than many summer blockbusters as it shows the remnants of a war-torn land and gives us a fierce look at how strong princesses and queens can be.  Sequel anyone (as it looks like there may be one)?

 

 

Leave “The Hunger Games” Fully Satisfied

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

There has been a lot of speculation, expectation, and hype for the long-awaited The Hunger Games movie premiere.  Some critics have celebrated the film and others have been quick to point out the film’s flaws.  With all of the excitement it is almost impossible to leave The Hunger Games fully satisfied, but Hollywood gives it a valiant effort.

After several threats from my older sister, I finally read all three books of the Suzanne Collins’s trilogy, making sure to finish well ahead of the movie release.  I am glad I did, because it seems as though some of the critics have not read the books.  In this movie’s case, knowing the material ahead of time provides a richer experience.

Set in a dystopian, apocalyptic future where North America no longer is North America but instead Panem, a collection of districts ruled by the cruel hand of the dictatorial Capitol.  Every year the apathetic Capitol commands one girl and one boy from each district to compete in what is called the hunger games, a fight to the death where only one child will survive.  Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself for her younger sister when Prim is selected as one of the competitors. What is striking about these novels is the author’s fearlessness and ambition, as she captures a wide foray of human themes, from betrayal to resilience with a heroine that is both vulnerable and fierce.  Humanity drives The Hunger Games, an anti-war novel, from start to finish.

That said, The Hunger Games is a big load to carry.  Subtlety seems to be director Gary Ross’s forte.  That is both a positive and negative for the film.  With a PG-13 rating and a tricky subject matter, being subtle is a good choice in the scenes of the games.  However, Ross’s filmmaking style detracted when it is flitting back and forth to different places and is literally shaky.  Ross seems to be going for grit, but The Hunger Games could actually use more punch.

Some parts of the film are too subdued.  Avid fans will be upset that some details are changed, including who gives Katniss the mockingjay pin.  The garish Capitol is not so garish in the film.  It is understandable that the designers of the film did not want to go too over-the-top with the costumes but Katniss is supposed to be “on fire” after all.  In addition, the special effects are also not impressive.

The Hunger Games has an outstanding cast.  Jennifer Lawrence is strong as the lead.  Lawrence has quite a lot to take on as such a beloved heroine.  She captures the fierceness (as she did in Winter’s Bone wonderfully) but perhaps is a bit too stoic.  Maybe Lawrence could have used a little more vulnerability to let us know what Katniss is thinking, as we are unable to look into her mind as we are in the first-person novel.  Woody Harrelson is excellent as Haymitch, Katniss’s mentor in the games, and Lenny Kravitz brings gravity to the film as Cinna, a supporter of Katniss.  Rue is beautifully played by the young Amandla Stenberg.  In fact, the reaping and the scenes with Rue are the most touching of the entire film.

Elizabeth Banks plays the funny, silly Effie perfectly and Stanley Tucci is also great as the amusing Caesar Flickerman.  Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and Liam Hemsworth as Gale (both in love with Katniss) are also very good.  A weak link unfortunately is Donald Sutherland as who should be the evil, snake-like President Snow.  Sutherland comes off neither sinister nor frightening.  He is not able to capture what Ralph Fiennes was able to when he played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.

Overall, The Hunger Games is done well and tries to stay as true to the book as it can.  Hopefully, the second installment will be even better as the filmmakers learn what worked and what did not.  Perhaps with the second installment they can capture and stress more the urgency of the work’s main theme, that against all odds we must never lose sight of our humanity.

(The soundtrack that has been released is sadly and surprisingly not used in the film.  “Safe and Sound” could have worked well.  Here it is, Safe and Sound by Taylor Swift Feat. The Civil Wars.)

“The Vow,” “This Means War” and “The Grey”: Spring Misses

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Valentine’s Day and post-award season consideration means a mess of spring movies.  These end of winter into spring films are neither here nor there.  They are not in the realm of being nominated for anything and they are also not summer blockbusters.  Consequently, the movies end up being forgettable, in the grey area of film.  This means they are not horrible (sometimes) but are not really any good either.

Most of these types of movies make pulling out money for a movie ticket hard and yet when you want to go to the theater there is nothing else to see.  So, it becomes a decision of what will be the least painful.  Another way to think about these movies is to think that it will be an escape, just some mindless fun.  Otherwise it is best to wait for DVD since they will be out soon enough anyway.

This devoted moviegoer went to see three of these kind of films recently, sadly.  It was hard to stay away from the movie theater for too long and that is the truth of the matter.  “The Vow” was the first up.  Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams play a young couple, Leo and Paige, madly in love.  After a car accident Paige loses her memory of Leo and all their time together (interestingly she only forgets her husband).  Of course, she remembers her old life and that she is engaged to another man. (more…)

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method”: Moviegoers Feel the Chill and Are Left Out in the Cold

Monday, February 27th, 2012

“Coriolanus” and “A Dangerous Method” are two of this year’s indie films with specific niches that garnered no big awards.  These two movies prove the unfortunate perception that smaller films are not always better and that sometimes not waiting for DVD is a mistake.  This is sad because many a time it is the small films that are undiscovered gems; they can surprise us, teach us, and open our eyes the most.

At first before I saw both of these films I wondered why they had not been nominated, especially for the Oscars.  Keira Knightley was applauded by her peers for what they called a fearless performance and Ralph Fiennes had directed a modern take on Shakespeare (usually an Oscar favorite). (more…)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Boy’s Search

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

My mother recently said that there has yet to be a strong movie made about 9/11.  Not only is it a difficult subject to approach, there is the question of perspective.  By this I mean should the movie be more political or personal?  Should the movie try to represent many people, many families, or just one person?  In the case of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” the film is about the latter viewpoint.

“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” received mixed reviews from critics, mainly negative.  The fact that it made it onto the roster of Best Picture nominees for the Oscars is a surprise.  The film overall is far from perfect.

A young boy named Oskar struggles with the tragic loss of his father, who was in the Twin Towers on what he calls “the worst day.”  He tries to overcome his fears in a world that makes no sense by creating a puzzle that he believes will give him some more time with his father.  Along the way Oskar meets many people and finds that even when we would wish for nothing more than to be alone, we simply cannot be on life’s journey. (more…)

Remembrances of Movies Past

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This year’s two biggest standouts and award winners are “Hugo” and “The Artist.”  Both films have a big thing in common.  Besides being beautifully directed, artsy, and uplifting, “Hugo” and “The Artist” are an homage to classic cinema.  The movies also both champion the preservation of film.

Martin Scorsese surprised many by directing a film that children could actually see.  “Hugo,” set in Paris, is about a young boy who has lost his father.  Hugo lives in a clock in a train station, where he must hide from gendarmes who would take him to an orphanage.  His life changes when he finds the key to a robot that his father was trying to fix. (more…)

Movies With Heart: Capping Off Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

As this Valentine’s Day is coming to a close why not wind down with a movie or two, or three?  Don’t worry, these aren’t the usual Nicholas Sparks picks.  Here is a quick list of movies, quirky and poignant, that won’t add to your toothache or your heartache.

“Lars and the Real Girl”:  Ryan Gosling is at his best (and his best is pretty darn good) in this touching, quiet movie.  This sleeper was overlooked and underrated.  Gosling plays a man who is painfully shy and must come to terms with being an adult with the help of his brother and sister-in-law, some kind friends, and a girl who is not entirely “real.”  One of the funniest parts is when Gosling quickly chucks a flower away in order for the girl he likes not to assume it was for her.

“Sense and Sensibility”:  “Pride and Prejudice” (the BBC version of course) is wonderful as well, but Emma Thompson arguably did a better job with “Sense and Sensibility” than Austen herself.  The cinematography is beautiful and sweeping, as is the soundtrack.  Kate Winslet and Thompson play Marianne and Elinor, sisters and best friends who are navigating the waters of upper crest society and marriage in a time when women were not able to even dream of becoming anything that they could call their own.  Elinor aptly states that it is “a bit bewitching” to think that one’s happiness rests on another person.  In this case, it is not hard to imagine and it is wonderful to watch.

“Once”:  This movie is a great surprise.  “Once” won the Academy Award for Best Song for the beautiful “Falling Slowly.” Falling Slowly, Once Lyrics The song could describe what one feels while watching the movie itself as two underdogs struggling to find their way find each other instead.  “Once” shows how we can indeed make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it is just through passing by.  Another strong aspect of the film is the music.  The lyrics are haunting, describing everything from heartbreak to discovery of self.

“Lost in Translation”:  Ships passing in the night seems to be a favorite subject in literature and films alike.  Sofia Coppola manages to do this subtly, though.  Scarlett Johansson (in her strongest role, possibly) and Bill Murray are two Americans who have trouble adapting while visiting Tokyo.  They both feel lonely in a city crowded with people and find some solace in each other.  These two have a connection right away even though the odds may not be in their favor.

“Roman Holiday”:  There has to be at least one classic pick, right?  “Roman Holiday” is full of fun and truths as well.  Gregory Peck (sigh) plays a journalist who believes he has landed a big story when Audrey Hepburn (playing a princess) lands on his doorstep.  In one day they find that they can relate to one another and learn to really care for each other.  The most memorable scene?  Watch it and find out (it is at the end). (more…)

Oscar Nominations 2012: Shock and Awe-ards

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

This year is one of lightness, not in the real world, but in the world of cinema.  The dresses on the red carpet are not the only things that are prettily pastel.  It is also a year of snubs.  As the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced the Academy seemed to be saying, “Hah!  We are not going to do anything you think.  We are rebellious and like to make people angry.  As such, we cannot even stoop to find a tenth movie for Best Picture.  Oh and by the way everyone’s songs sucked, so take that Madonna and Elton John…you can stop fighting with each other now.”

My family, who likes to make a competition out of guessing the winners of all the movie award shows (for the Golden Globes just put your bets on what you think possibly could not win and that will be the winner) is at a loss for the Oscars.  We thought that they would correct what the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards did strangely but instead they may have made it worse.

I am not really sure what happened with the Oscar nominations.  All I know is people are angry and every prediction and guess is altered now.  Let’s start at the top and throw in some Golden Globes comparisons for good measure.

(more…)

Mission Adventure: A Look at Two Sequels

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows are this season’s action-packed blockbusters.  If you are in the mood for some mindless fun and excitement (come on, who isn’t) and don’t want to have to work too hard to follow the plot then these two movies are the right ones to see.

The two movies have a few things in common.  They are both over two hours, have great special effects, the plots are a little overly convoluted, and most importantly they are better than the preceding movie in their series.  They also do not take themselves too seriously.

Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol picks up with Ethan Hunt in prison and from there goes through a bunch of frankly awesome action sequences full of massive explosions, elaborate disguises, and a couple of truly memorable scenes.  (I am sorry for running out of superlatives.)  Tom Cruise’s hand-picked new team in the movie is charismatic, including Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg (who is very funny).  The stand-out scenes are the magnetic suit that makes Jeremy Renner able to fly above a large fan, the rotating car garage that Tom Cruise must jump off various levels of, and the most spectacular is the scene in Dubai where Cruise seems to have nothing holding him to the outside windows of an unnaturally high hotel but a pair of gloves (he actually did this stunt himself but with a cord).  That last scene leads to an incredible amount of palm-sweating (or at least it did on my part).  Besides being an action-scene expert, Tom Cruise brings his always sincere intensity to the movie.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is more fun than its predecessor.  There are more twists and turns and we get back to the better core of the film, the funny relationship between Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Thankfully Robert Downey Jr.’s accent is a little more understandable this time around.  Noomi Rapace sadly has nothing to do but we finally get to see Sherlock Holmes’ real nemesis, Professor Moriarty.  At times there is too much going on but it is easy to see that Guy Ritchie is having a good time here.  The special effects, especially one of the ending scenes on a never-ending waterfall, are spot on.

Both movies have endings that open up for a new adventure.  It never ends, say you?  Yes, it never ends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Peter Pan Syndrome of “Young Adult”

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Young Adult is a guilty pleasure if ever there was one.  Critics have described it as a train wreck that is impossible to turn away from.  Actually, it starts out more like that strange aunt who has a little too much to drink during the holidays and reveals all her secrets, and then it ends up as a full train crash.

Charlize Theron is wicked perfection as Mavis Gary, a 37 year-old woman who never grew up.  Mavis is stuck living in the past glow of what she thinks was her peak, those high school glory years when she was 17, beautiful, popular and dating cool-guy Buddy Slade.  Everything seems to have gone downhill from there as we catch up with Mavis sleeping in yesterday’s clothes face-down in a messy apartment with the Kardashians rambling on the television in the background.

There is a parallel drawn between Mavis’ life and the fictional young adult series she is a ghostwriter for.  As the series ends she could choose to make a change in her life but instead she decides to visit her hometown and go after Buddy (who is now married with a baby on the way).  Usually we would like to think that people learn from their mistakes but as Mavis so wonderfully illustrates, not everyone cares to.

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have a knack for edge.  The question asked is how much can we possibly hate ourselves?  As it turns out, a lot.  This is shown when Mavis picks out her blonde hair that once earned her the title of “Best Hair” in high school.  However, as Young Adult is a character study, it is the performances that are the most essential to the film.  Charlize Theron fully commits to her role, as always, managing to get across Mavis’ bitterness and her brokenness at the same time.

The most cringe-worthy scene is Mavis’ breakdown at Buddy’s baby shower as she hears for the first time that it is everyone else that feels sorry for her and not the other way around.  It is Patton Oswalt that stands out, though.  He grounds the film and pulls out the most touching performance as a former classmate of Mavis who became disabled after being the victim of a hate crime in high school.

Sure Young Adult is snarky and has no redemption for the main character (something we do not see much of in Hollywood films) but more than that there is an underlying desperation and wrenching sadness that is frightening because it could become all too familiar fast.

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the Dark Side: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Movie Review

Monday, January 16th, 2012

I apologize for the lateness of these reviews and blame it on holiday withdrawal.

Who is fierce, brilliant, and unafraid?  If you answered Meryl Streep and actually all the actresses who gave great, strong performances this year you are right.  Well, sort of.  In this case the person or character referred to is Lisbeth Salander.  Noomi Rapace brought her to life perfectly in the Swedish trilogy.  However, Rooney Mara is also excellent in David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

It was hard not to have high expectations after Noomi Rapace and the striking three Swedish films adapted from Stieg Larsson’s novels.  You do not want to be disappointed.  Luckily, Fincher does a wonderful job of directing in his usual dark style, save the opening sequence.  What was up with that exactly?  Besides that though, this The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo took the positive elements of a Hollywood film, crisp editing and finesse.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is two and a half hours, like the original Swedish version, but it moves along quickly and has the same intensity.  By intensity, I mean sitting on the edge of your seat/biting your nails with one hand/making a fist with the other intensity.  This is not a light film by any means but the scenes are shot well.  The soundtrack by Trent Reznor adds to the overall feeling of movie.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Immigrant Song — Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross feat. Karen O

Some elements of the plot have been changed but none have a negative effect on the film.  In fact, the relationship between Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander is made more obvious.  Mikael comes to Lisbeth to ask her to help him find “a killer of women” and the ending of the film goes beyond its Swedish twin by leaving us with Lisbeth watching Mikael leave with his fellow journalist (also his mistress) and the look of disappointment on her face.  It makes their relationship more important and vital to the story, which is a positive addition.  Also, Daniel Craig is in his most likable state here, softer than usual.  It is Rooney Mara who pulls through and makes Lisbeth young, vulnerable and even more playful (although not as haunted as Noomi Rapace).  Mara has been nominated already for some prestigious awards and hopefully will be nominated for an Oscar as well (the movie and Fincher should also get noticed).

If you have been living under a rock-like place and do not know what The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about, here is a quick synopsis.  A smart, antisocial woman named Lisbeth Salander is a computer whiz/hacker by day and a feminist always.  A journalist named Mikael Blomkvist, whose name has been slandered from a messy trial, is asked to investigate the disappearance of a wealthy, powerful man’s granddaughter who went missing over forty years ago.  Lisbeth helps Mikael find the killer and they find out a lot of pretty bad stuff along the way.  The corruption that goes all the way to the top and Lisbeth’s past leads to her being The Girl Who Played with Fire and eventually The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  “The land of the midnight sun is much darker” than we could have ever imagined.