Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Terminator

Originally uploaded by jamesharbuck3434
I was in a Cameron mood (hence all the Avatar viewings) so I realized the only Cameron movies I own are the first two Terminator films. This will be corrected.

I love this movie. If they ever made a director’s cut or Criterion of this film on DVD I would buy it. I truly think not only is it an amazing film but it’s a film that helped define and solidify strong female characters in cinema.

Sarah Connor is an amazing character. She starts the film a waitress who can’t even handle her patrons and ends the film barking orders at Reese, killing the terminator & trying to prepare herself to train her son for the coming wars. It’s a spectacular arch and one that is female empowering on a scale not seen in cinema before it.

My love of Cameron does partially stem from my love of science fiction, and it probably started with this film. I love his visions of the future, dystopic as they are, and the characters these environments create are unique and wonderful to watch.

Sarah Connor: Are you sure you have the right person?
Reese: I'm sure.
Sarah Connor: Come on. Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough, organized? I CAN'T EVEN BALANCE MY

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Originally uploaded by bibadindej
Avatar. I’ve officially seen it in all three formats it’s available in – Imax 3-D, digital 3-D and Standard. It’s phenomenal in all three. Hoo rah.

If you haven’t seen it yet go see it and support James Cameron making more movies.


Originally uploaded by Uncinefilo
In this modern day interpretation of A Christmas Carol Frank Cross is the youngest television president in history and it has gone to his head. As he plans the worlds largest live broadcast on Christmas Eve he is visited by the ghost of his old boss and warned he is being given a chance to change his ways and will be visited on Christmas Eve by three ghosts. Cross spends the next day being ferried through his past, present and future by ghosts and leading everyone in his life to start thinking the Christmas Eve broadcast has finally made him lose it.

Scrooged is hands down one of my favorite Christmas films, and a movie so funny that like Elf I can watch it any time of year. What makes this film so memorable is that it takes a story we all know so well and manages to combine that with what Bill Murray does best – bizarre comedy.

Frank Cross is a horrible man. He sends the people on his Christmas gift list either a towel or a VCR depending on if he likes them or not. He refuses to give his secretary a bonus. He fires an executive the day before Christmas Eve for disagreeing with him. He’s excited when an old woman has a heart attack from watching his Scrooged promo and it gets published by the media. Cross doesn’t care about anyone and everyone knows it. The slogan posted around his office is “Cross: a thing you nail people to”. Bill Murray is the perfect person to play Frank Cross because he can take all of the self-involved horribleness of Frank Cross and make them almost endearing. You still think Frank Cross is awful, but you laugh at him and get excited when he changes. And there is nothing like watching Murray do his thing on screen, he’s amazing.

You also have to love the ghosts in this film, the most memorable one for most people I talk to is the ghost of Christmas present played by Carol Kane. Kane is a SNL alum like Murray, and their comedy styles mesh very well, but that’s not what makes her character memorable. What makes Kane’s ghost memorable is that she is a hyper fairy in a tutu that beats the crud out of Frank. I don’t mean metaphorically, or emotionally, I mean that at one point she literally hits him with a toaster – and that’s just one thing she hits him with. Kane’s character and Cross spend most of their segment arguing like an old divorced couple and each argument culminates in violence to get Frank magically transported to the next scene he needs to see.

I know the holiday season is wrapping to a close and you may not feel like watching a Dicken’s tale during the march to Valentine’s Day, but I do hope that at some point before Christmas Day rolls around again you will find this film and watch it if you haven’t seen it before.

Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mitch Glazer & Michael O’Donoghue
Frank Cross: Bill Murray
Claire Phillips: Karen Allen
Lew Hayward: John Forsythe
Brice Cummings: John Golver
Eliot Loudermilk: Bobcat Goldwait
Ghost of Christmas Past: David Johansen
Ghost of Christmas Present: Carol Kane
Preston Rhinelander: Robert Mitchum
Grace: Alfre Woodard
Scrooge: Buddy Hackett

Frank Cross: Do you think I'm way off-base here?
Elliot: Yes. You're, well, you're a tad off-base, sir. That thing looked like The Manson Family Christmas Special.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes
Originally uploaded by edieamber
I was excited and confused when I found out Guy Ritchie would be doing a Sherlock Holmes film. I was even more excited once I realized that Robert Downey Jr. would play Holmes. However, despite my excitement I still remained slightly doubtful; while Sherlock Holmes is a very interesting character I didn’t understand how he could fit Ritchie’s style or how exactly it would be a more entertaining film than the past Holmes films, yet still have that core being we all know to be Sherlock. I am here to tell you that Sherlock Holmes was an amazing film.

Somehow Ritchie did what I thought might be impossible, he married his very modern style to a period piece. This blend of classic literature and modern Ritchie gives Holmes the edge that was always under the surface of the character and makes the carriages, waistcoats and constables relatable to a modern audience. Sherlock is a character not a part of his time or the society around him so Ritchie adding his stylized flair to the film is a perfect match.

I know some people that were doubtful that this modern, cheeky Holmes would be at all accurate to the Holmes they remember from the novels. To those that say this I challenge you to reread a Holmes story after seeing the film. Holmes has always been a willing outcast and rebel; he’s bored by convention, doesn’t like society and would prefer to drink, experiment and leer at those below him. Holmes is not neat and tidy; his intellect renders the world around him dull and lifeless and the only escape he has is to solve mysteries. If Holmes doesn’t have a mystery to solve he goes into a state of isolation and depression – just as he did in the books.

The absolute pitch-perfect element in the middle of an already entertaining movie is Downey as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. These two have fantastic chemistry playing off each and every twitch, sigh or smirk of the other person. The movie is alone worth watching for those two sharing screen time. It’s beyond entertaining to watch Watson try to back out of Holmes’ world out of a sense of duty while Holmes knows just what carrots to drop casually that have Watson eagerly running back into the fray, even though he thinks he doesn’t want to. Law and Downey might be my favorite pairing on screen this year.

I hope that you take the time to go see Sherlock Holmes while it is on the big screen. Not only is the film one of the most entertaining things you would do with your holiday, but now that Guy Ritchie is climbing back to the top of his game it is more than worth applauding.

Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham & Simon Kinberg
Sherlock Holmes: Robert Downey Jr.
Dr. Watson: Jude Law
Irene Adler: Rachel McAdams
Lord Blackwood: Mark Strong

Holmes: You've never complained about my methods before.
Watson: I've never complained! When have I ever complained about you practicing the violin at three in the morning, or your
mess? Your general lack of hygiene or the fact that you steal my clothes?

White Christmas

Bob Wallis & Phil Davis are old Army buddies that turned into a musical act after the war, one of the most successful and popular acts in the country. When Phil decides he wants Bob to get a girl so that Bob will be distracted and he can get a break from constant work the Haynes sisters seem like the perfect pair of girls to aid in Bob’s distraction. Judy Haynes and Phil team up to try and get Betty & Bob together and the boys follow the girls to Vermont where they find a lack of snow and their former General instead of the packed show and vacationers they are expecting. In order to save the General’s Vermont resort Phil & Bob hatch a plan to move their show to the resort under the guise of rehearsal and they incorporate the Haynes sisters into their act.

White Christmas is a Christmas classic and it deserves this distinction. I cannot go through a holiday season without watching the antics of Phil and Bob at least once. This is a pitch perfect film in casting, concept, and execution. The musical numbers a superb, the jokes funny and the chemistry palpable. This is the kind of movie that the American studio system of its day was known for, it is a grand, visual treat meant to entice viewers away from their televisions and into the theatre to experience a world they would want to be a part of.

For me one of the best things about White Christmas is the interaction between Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. As Bob & Phil the two are perfectly matched. Bing delivers his performance with the deadpan sentimentality of a crooner and experienced performer, and Danny Kaye combats Bin’s relaxed ease with a frenzy of humor, excitement and quirkiness that makes the pair a perfect odd couple and a treat to watch interact with one another. This is a pairing along the caliber of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, people that have perfect chemistry and know how to match one another in a way that plays incredibly well to an audience.

White Christmas is a film I think everyone should watch around the holidays. If this film can’t help get you into the holiday spirit, nothing can.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Norman Krasna & Norman Panama
Bob Wallace: Bing Crosby
Phil Davis: Danny Kaye
Betty Haynes: Rosemary Clooney
Judy Haynes: Vera Ellen
Major General Waverly: Dean Jagger
Emma Allen: Mary Wickes

Phil Davis: When what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be
worth getting, whatever it is you've got left.
Bob Wallace: When I figure out what that means I'll come up with a crushing reply.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Princess and the Frog

Tiana is not a princess. She’s just a New Orleans girl who works hard for everything she has, and what she wants more than anything is to fulfill the dream she started with her father and open her very own restaurant in New Orleans. Just when it seems like Tiana will get her restaurant visiting Prince Naveen is turned into a frog and in a desperate hope of financial reward Tiana agrees to kiss him and turn him back into a human. However, the kiss does the opposite and when Tiana kisses Naveen she turns into a frog as well and together the two get lost in the bayou trying to outwit that Shadow Man and find a way to turn human again.

The Princess and the Frog is the first hand drawn Disney animation film in years and I personally was thrilled to see the beautiful images on screen. I think that Disney is hoping this film will do for their animation division what The Little Mermaid did for it years before, but even though The Princess & the Frog is stunning, I don’t think it’s the caliber of the Disney films from my childhood.

Besides the animation, what makes The Princess and the Frog unique is that it is a Disney film entirely affected by feminism. Tiana is a strong woman, independent and not looking for love – she’s a career woman. She works hard to get her restaurant and doesn’t like that Naveen hasn’t had to work for a thing and would rather kick back than put effort into something. What really works about Tianna is that she has to realize, like the modern feminist, that she needs to work hard, but she also needs to find time for the rest of the life she’s been ignoring. This is a feminist character that’s post-yuppie yet somehow ended up as an animated character in New Orleans in the early part of the twentieth century.

I have to say that my favorite character has to be Charlotte. She’s a spoiled little rich girl, but she is hysterical and as if her spunky yet spoiled attitude weren’t enough, her father is voiced by John Goodman and he is a fabulous doting father. I feel like I should be offended for white southerners because of Charlotte, but I just find her too adorable.

It was nice to see Disney return to hand drawn animation again and the visuals and music in The Princess & the Frog are stunning, but I don’t see Pixar or Dreamworks as being threatened. Those films are an entirely different form of animation from hand-drawn and just like stop-motion still exists, there will always be room for hand-drawn along with computer animation.

Directors: Ron Clements & John Musker
Writers: Ron Clements, John Musker & Rob Edwards
Tiana: Anika Noni Rose
Prince Naceen: Bruno Campos
Dr. Facilier: Keith David
Eudora: Oprah Winfrey
James: Terrence Howard
Big Daddy La Bouff: John Goodman

Thursday, December 24, 2009


In ten-twenty years I think that Buddy the elf will be remembered as one of the iconic characters from this decade.

Elf is an amazing little film. One that I have to watch each and every Christmas, and occasionally even when it’s not the holidays. The single best thing about Elf has got to be the juxtaposition of such an outlandish character as Buddy amidst the utterly normal characters of New York city.

I can’t imagine what it was like to be an actor opposite Will Ferrell in Elf. Everyone is so straight laced and then when you change the camera angle Ferrell will be making a crazy face, eating syrup covered spaghetti, or jumping up and down. On an episode of Dinner for Five James Caan actually talked about how he would have to turn around occasionally to be away from camera and just loose it. Ferrell makes Buddy memorable because of the wild abandon he gives the character, and the direction of Jon Favreau makes the combination of Buddy’s world and harsh New York seamless.

If you haven’t seen Elf I highly recommend that you make sure to see it soon.

Buddy: Actually, I'm a human, but I was raised by elves.
Carolyn: I'm a human... raised by humans.
Buddy: Cool.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Supernatural: Season 1

Hi, my name is Megan and I am addicted to Supernatural.

I think that’s the first step.

So I use DVD’s like the radio. If I am working on the computer or doing a thousand other mindless tasks I tend to turn on a DVD instead of music. I did this with season one of Supernatural and before I realized it I was already onto season two again…it just happens. That’s part of how I watch so many movies. It’s kind of natural because I spent so many years in school where I’d be watching a movie while taking notes on it – I’m used to multi-tasking.

I am going to attempt to slow down on the Supernatural now so I don’t go through the whole series again while season five is still playing out. But no promises.

Bobby: I know it’s somethin’ big. A storm’s comin’. And you boys, your daddy—you are smack in the middle of it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Like any movie that wows me in a game changing way, I had to see Avatar a second time as quickly as possible. This time I saw it in 2D, or standard format to those confused by dimensionality (lil bro, you know who you are). I was shocked by the differences in the viewing style.

I was pleased to see that Avatar works in any format. Cameron knows how to craft a story and he pulls you in. Even without 3D you are concerned about Jake, Neytiri & the Na’vi people and you desperately want to be able to step foot on Pandora with them. This is an engaging story of a love, and a world that you want to be a part of – it’s just good storytelling. What did surprise me is that each way you can view Avatar is a totally different viewing experience.

In 2D in some ways parts of the world of Avatar looked more real – the skin on the animals, the close-ups of the Na’vi faces, the grittiness of part of the world – I could see textures better and it fel like seeing the object they filmed. The 2D experience was much grittier in a good way, Cameron didn’t forget the visceral feel that is needed to the visuals among all of the animation and special effects.

However, as amazing as the film is in 2D, 3D is a whole different ball game. The way Cameron used 3D in Avatar is completely unlike anything I’ve seen before. You literally feel like you are walking through the jungles of Pandora and that you are following Jake around. The very first time Jake opens the eyes of his Na’vi body and is blinking while he tries to focus, you almost feel as though you too are trying to focus your eyes on the surroundings. There was even a time or two that most of the audience tried to swat away bugs or ash that was on screen. This is the closest you can come to actually being on Pandora and making it real.

I can’t wait to see this film again. I desperately hope I can see it in 3D one more time and that perhaps the 3D version will be released on DVD, though I doubt it will be the same quality as the theatrical experience at all.

Jake: Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Iron Man

I don’t get tired of talking about movies I love; when a movie resonates with you it deserves to be loved and praised and hopefully you can make others watch it. I am hoping that people love Iron Man as much as I do and that at some point through the course of my raving about it through this blog that perhaps if you hadn’t seen it, you went out and saw it.

Part of why the story of Iron Man resonates with me so much is that it hits all the story points I love. You have a flawed character, one that has all the potential in him to be so much more, an insurmountable obstacle that pops up, and the character learns the error of his ways and finds a way to redeem and conquer. When you combine that kind of story with the visuals and heart of Iron Man it’s no wonder I fell in love. This is the kind of movie magic that I fell for as a child, the kind that makes me want to make movies.

I have never been a Marvel girl per say, I was born and raised on the heroes of DC, but with the exception of the Nolan Batman films Marvel is definitely winning the movie war.

Christine Everheart: You've been called the Da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that?
Tony Stark: Absolutely ridiculous. I don't paint.
Christine Everheart: And what do you say to your other nickname, the Merchant of Death?
Tony Stark: That's not bad.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Originally uploaded by wiro204sableng
Jake Sully is a paralyzed former Marine who gets a tragic, lucky break. His Twin brother Tommy was part of the Avatar program on Pandora, he had his DNA blended with the native peoples so he can be linked into the Avatar body and interact with the natives, but Tommy was killed and now The Company is afraid of losing their investment so they ask Jake as his twin to take over Tommy’s Avatar. Jake soon is caught up between the Marine Colonel that wants to exterminate the natives to get to their natural resources and Dr. Augustine who founded the Avatar program because she believes there is a greater wealth to Pandora than their natural resources.

Jake soon meets the natives princess, Neytiri who believes their diety has given them a sign that Jake is significant to them. Jake must learn the ways of the people in 3 months and get them to leave peacefully or face destruction. What Jake never expects is that he would feel more alive in his Avatar than in his human body.

James Cameron hasn’t made a narrative film since Titanic, and I have to say that I was a naysayer when I found out one of the great delays with Avatar was the 3D process. After seeing the film I have two things to say ; firstly, that Avatar was worth the 12 year wait, and secondly, that the 3D is the most astounding use of the technology I have ever seen.

I am a 3D hater, and I don’t want to make it sound like Avatar is all about technology and not a good movie. It’s actually quite the opposite. Avatar is a great movie on its own, but the addition of the 3D element takes it to a whole other realm for the audience. Most 3D is gimmicky and doesn’t add anything to the story, which is why I dislike it; but with Avatar Cameron managed to use the medium for it’s ideal purpose – the 3D pulls you into the story and makes you feel like you are on the planet with Jake & Neytiri. You forget you are watching 3D.

Cameron typically does stories that focus on strong women, and I was a bit surprised to find out that Neytiri was not the main focus of this film – Jake was. However, Jake is a great, well rounded character with a strong arch and played very engagingly by Sam Worthington. On top of that, instead of one strong Sarah Connor figure you get 3 strong women in Avatar - Neytiri, Grace Augustine & Trudy. These women play the spectrum of strong women. Neytiri is the native princess that learns to accept Jake and protect her people, Grace is the scientist who is not afraid of the military and fights for the planet and Trudy is a fighter that learns the difference between orders and what is right.

I would love to give a play by play of this entire movie, how geeky I was about it and what I loved, but I truly think this is a movie that has to be experienced. I encourage you all to go see it and be willing to shell out the extra bucks for 3D, you will be glad you did.

Director & Writer: James Cameron
Jake Sully: Sam Worthington
Neytiri: Zoe Saldana
Dr. Augustine: Sigourney Weaver
Col. Quartich: Stephen Lang
Trudy: Michelle Rodriguez
Parker Selfridge: Giovanni Ribisi
Norm: Joel Moore

Col. Quaritch: You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentleman.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Battlestar Galactica 2.0

Season 2.0 of Battlestar Galactica begins with the aftermath of Boomer shooting Adama and Roslin & Apollo being accused of mutiny. Col. Tigh is in command of the fleet while Roslin escapes and Adama is recovering, he makes a series of unwise choices, declaring marshal law and at one point even losing the rest of the fleet with an ill timed FTL jump.

Roslin believes she is the prophet foretold by the gods who will lead the people to Earth and is waiting for Starbuck to return from Caprica with the arrow of Apollo so that they can use the arrow to find the way to Earth. When Adama awakens and takes back command of the fleet it soon becomes apparent that he needs to end the division in the fleet, find Roslin and make amends. Together they discover a heading for Earth and deal with their ever changing view of the Cylons as Starbuck uncovers one of Boomer’s copies who is pregnant.

I must admit that while I enjoyed the concept of BSG and season 1 I wasn’t hugely sold on the show; however, season 2.0 sealed the deal for me. I still have to finish the season with 2.5 and I have no idea what’s going to happen. The fleet is at a breaking point, Adama & Roslin are being challenged and any character is on the chopping block. This is a show that knows it is good enough to push the envelope and challenge it’s crew and viewers and does so consistently.

What was most interesting to me this season was the way the writers began to play with the idea of the Cylons and now that the officers and citizens all know the Cylons can look human what this means. Most of the people are incredibly conflicted, they still think of the Cylons as machines, toasters, but to know that any of them could be a Cylon and that one of their closest comrades was a Cylon has obviously shaken them all and made them react in very different ways. The two characters that this is most interesting to watch go through this are Helo and Tyrol.

Helo was alone on Caprica for months with the Cylon he thought was the original Sharon and they fell in love. When he found out she was a Cylon it was shocking to him, but he managed to start seeing her as a person instead of a Cylon and this continues onboard the Galactica amidst the jeers and slanders he and Sharon encounter from his shipmates.

For the Chief he has the torture of finding out the woman he loved is not only a Cylon but that she tried to kill Adama. While he was still wrestling with that he then has to watch her be murdered by one of his own crewmates. Tyrol goes through hell in season 2.0 and it’s not made any easier by the fact that Starbuck and Helo bring Sharon back to the Galactica. The Chief reaches his breaking point in 2.0 and Sharon has a great deal to do with that.

2.0 is a great season with episode after episode that deserved Emmy’s and recognition. However, my single favorite episode of 2.0 is Flight of the Phoenix. Everyone on Galactica seems to be at their breaking point & Tyrol is feeling it the worst because of Sharon so Tyrol decides to create a challenge – he wants to make a new fighter. Tyrol starts out on his own and no one wants to help him because they think it’s a fool project, but his faith in it and his effort start to galvanize and inspire the entire crew; first his deck hands pitch in, then pilots and technicians from around the ship and before long the entire crew is waiting with baited breath for Starbuck to pilot the Blackbird on its maiden run. It’s a fantastic episode; a testament to the human spirit and more than anything I’ve seen so far that episode is a touchstone for what BSG is all about.

I can’t wait to see how season 2.5 changes the show even more. If I don’t get lended the DVD’s soon Netflix will be involved so no one gets hurt!

Adama: Edward James Olmos
Roslin: Mary McDonnell
Apollo: Jamie Bamber
Baltar: James Callis
Six: Tricia Helfer
Boomer: Grace Park
Starbuck: Katee Sackhoff
Tigh: Michael Hogan
Tyrol: Aaron Douglas
Helo: Tahmoh Penikett

Adama: She was a Cylon, a machine. Is that what Boomer was, a machine? A thing?
Tyrol: That's what she turned out to be.
Adama: She was more than that to us. She was more than that to me. She was a vital, living person aboard my ship for almost two years. She couldn't have been just a machine. Could you love a machine?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock is one of my little gems from 2008. I adore this movie and pretty much any time I watch it I get happier. I know that the story is fictionalized but this is one of the best underdog stories I’ve seen on film and I’m still shocked as a American, a Californian especially that I hadn’t heard about this victory over France until it was made into a movie.

What I love about Bottle Shock is that it managed to be a film that is well crafted in all senses of the word. It’s an interesting story, a well written script, the cast and performances are impeccable, the production design & cinematography are beautiful – this is a film that is obviously crafted by a director and producers that have a passion for this story and this art and want to make sure they put the best possible story they can on screen. I get the impression that this is the kind of team I would want behind one of my movies, and that the experience would be a great one.

If you haven’t seen Bottle Shock I suggest that you grab a bottle of your favorite wine, invite a few friends over, pop in the DVD and enjoy what awaits you.

Maurice: Where I'm from, they call it a left-handed compliment. They don't have a name for it in England: it's too ingrained in their culture.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Home for the Holidays

I had a pretty dang good childhood and I have a great relationship with my parents and my siblings, I really don’t know how to get through life without them; this is why I cannot figure out why I love Home for the Holidays so much. This film is about a hugely dysfunctional family. Tommy & Claudia get along fabulously but Tommy’s still secretive, and neither of them gets along with their sister. All in all, this is a family that proves you can be blood and not know one another at all.

However, there is a heart behind this film that is sorely lacking in other dysfunctional family films. Granted, I just watched The Family Stone but that’s the first dysfunctional family film that pops to mind – everything that I think the characters and Stone family are missing in that film Jodie Foster was able to include in Home for the Holidays. There is a heart in this film that drives the story and in the end these characters are totally likeable and a much truer depiction of a real family and their problems.

Watching this film again I do genuinely think part of the reason I love it so much is the relationship between Claudia and Tommy. These siblings love one another in a way that I can relate to because I have a relationship like this with one of my brothers. At the beginning of the film Claudia is devastated by what’s happening in her life and grief-calls Tommy and leaves a message on his machine laying everything out and telling him she misses him and doesn’t know what she’s going to do without him coming home for Thanksgiving. In the middle of the night Tommy shows up claiming that he didn’t get Claudia’s message but that his sales job dropped him in the neighborhood so he decided to spend the holiday with them. Durring the climax of the film Tommy reveals that he did come home because of Claudia’s message and when their sister rips Tommy and his life style apart the scene in the kitchen when Claudia and Tommy console each other still moves me.

Like Drew Barrymore did with Whip It, Jodie Foster proves that actor/directors tend to have the ability to get phenomenal performances out of their actors. This is not a bubbly, light hearted film, but I do think it’s a film that should be watched and enjoyed.

Adele: I'm giving thanks that we don't have to go through this for another year. Except
we do, because those bastards went and put Christmas right in the middle, just to
punish us.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Family Stone

Meredith Morton & Everett Stone are a socialite couple in Manhattan, but when Everett takes Meredith home for Christmas she clashes with his family so badly that Meredith refuses to stay at the house and calls her sister Julie in to help her out. While Everett tries to convince his mother to give him his grandmothers engagement ring so he can propose to Meredith the rest of the family becomes more and more sure that Everett & Meredith should not get married.

The Family Stone is a film I really wanted to see because of the cast. There are great actors littered throughout this film and all of them are actors that I enjoy greatly. However, I was very disappointed in The Family Stone.

While watching The Family Stone I got the impression that the film thought it was a quirky comedy with a slightly dark underlining. However, I almost didn’t get through more than half an hour of The Family Stone because the film is downright angry and depressing. These characters are really horrible people. Without any explanation more than one or two lines of dialogue you find out one character dislikes Meredith and the rest of the Stone family (who has never met her) immediately begins to hate on her. After about half a movie of being a really boring person Meredith turns out to be downright insulting and continues to say really horrible things to members of the family or scream at people. Not a single character in this film is developed or likeable. The only reason I watched the entire film is because I felt the need to see if possible the ending redeemed the film. It doesn’t.

The ending of the film is almost worse than the rest of the film. It’s a complete and total cop out. Again the writing and direction leave much to be desired. Rather than finding a way to motivate all of our characters into their conclusion a few lines of dialogue are delivered about couples breaking up, other couples share longing looks and then we flash to the next Christmas where all the issues are magically resolved and we’re never told how or why.

No family real or fictional can solve the kind of problems the Stone family had that Christmas in the course of twelve months. It’s just not possible, especially after the rest of the film built up nothing but an intense hatred for Meredith.

I know I’ve probably insulted a ton of people that absolutely adore this holiday movie and think I’m completely wrong in my analysis. To those I say this: can you tell me why these characters deserved an hour and half of my time?

Director & Writer: Thomas Bezucha
Julie Morton: Claire Danes
Sybil Stone: Diane Keaton
Amy Stone: Rachel McAdams
Everett Stone: Dermot Mulroney
Kelly Stone: Craig T. Nelson
Meredith Morton: Sarah Jessica Parker
Ben Stone: Luke Wilson
Thad Stone: Tyrone Giordano
Patrick Thomas: Brian J. White
Susannah Stone Trousdale: Elizabeth Reaser

Meredith: What's so great about you guys?
Sybil: Uh, nothing... it's just that we're all that we've got.

Home Alone

Kevin is lost in the shuffle when his Mom & Dad invite his entire extended family to stay at his house the day before they all leave for Paris for Christmas. When they accidently leave him at home they don’t discover the blunder until they are on their flight to Paris and it will take days to get a return flight. While alone Kevin believes he’s wished his family into oblivion and enjoys his new freedom, until two oafish thugs start to burglar the homes in the neighborhood and Kevin realizes his house is next and he has to defend it.

I remember seeing Home Alone in the theatre at a child and absolutely adorning it. The thought that I could set such grand, screwball trap at my house and outsmart two adults was absolutely the coolest thing ever. The best part is that as an adult I am able to watch Home Alone and still enjoy it thanks to the formidable talents of John Hughes.

Hughes had a way of finding the human, universally relatable elements in his characters no matter their age. This film is almost Planes, Trains & Automobiles for children, and the themes and humor play to children and adults alike. Hughes makes Kevin at once annoying and loveable, he’s a confused kid who comes to realize he should be careful what he wishes for and Kevin’s mother is domineering and nurturing, the mother that disciplines her child and regrets it – something every kid wants and something at most point most parents feel when they go too far with a punishment. This movie is as much about the bond between family, and learning to appreciate is as it is about the Wet Bandits, homemade traps, and caring about your neighbors.

Perhaps what’s best about this film is unlike too many film and television shows from start to finish Kevin is a child. He may have momentary insights in how to cope with situations, or flashes of inspiration but he is not spouting wisdom and intelligence well beyond his years. Kevin is not a boy genius; he uses micro machines and toys in his homemade booby traps and escapes to his tree house, and in the end still needs to be rescued by an adult.

John Hughes was a master at what he did. The only thing that could have made Home Alone more of a classic than it already is would be if Hughes had directed instead of merely penned the script.

Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
Kevin McCallister: Macaulay Culkin
Harry: Joe Pesci
Marv: Daniel Stern
Peter McCallister: John Heard
Kate McCallister: Catherine O’Hara
Gus Polinski: John Candy

Kate: This is Christmas. The season of perpetual hope. And I don't care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike. If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Up In The Air

I watched Up In The Air with very different eyes than most of the audience. I watched it with the eyes of someone who lost their job in 2009. Due to this, the events of the film affected me in a very different way, ways I didn’t expect at all.

I cried.

I am not someone that cries at movies, and I in no way want you to think that because I cried that I did not enjoy Up In The Air or think it was a great movie. It was perfection, beautiful, magical perfection on screen. Since leaving this film I get choked up every time I think about it. I think the fact that this movie has moved me so deeply is a testament to its skill and impact; this is not just a great film, an award worthy film – it’s art.

Great art is meant to make you think, but even more it’s meant to stir up emotions in you, emotions that are unique to you whether that be passion, joy or in my case a year of pent up anxiety, stress, grief & confusion. In the end a catharsis should be achieved somehow Up In The Air stirred up all of those emotions I’ve been denying and perhaps even began my catharsis.

I sincerely love Up In The Air on it’s merits as a funny, touching, engaging film and I think this is a film that will be enjoyed by those who haven’t lost their jobs this year. However, I already think this film is going to become a part of my makeup as an artist because Reitman and co. managed to tell the story of the last year of my life, even as I am still processing the year that was.

I thank Jason Reitman for that on a level I’m not sure he can understand as I am a complete stranger to him.

Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner
Ryan Bingham: George Clooney
Alex: Vera Farmiga
Natalie: Anna Kendrick
Craig Gregory: Jason Bateman
Kara Bingham: Amy Morton
Julie Bingham: Melanie Lynskey
Bob: JK Simmons
Jim Miller: Danny McBride

Ryan: Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left. Bingo, Asians. They pack light, travel efficiently, and they have a thing for slip on shoes. Gotta love 'em.
Natalie: That's racist.
Ryan: I'm like my mother, I stereotype. It's faster.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Little Mermaid

Ariel is the youngest daughter of the sea King, Triton, who micromanages Ariel to keep her away from the water’s surface and the human world. However, adventurous and rebellious Ariel goes to the surface one night and falls in love with Prince Eric, a human she rescues from drowning. When Triton finds out he forbids Ariel from ever seeing him again and destroys her collection of human possessions. This devastates Ariel and she goes to Ursula the sea witch, and makes a deal to give Ursula her voice for three days as a human where she will have to get Eric to fall in love with her or return to the sea as part of Ursula’s possessions.

I am slightly geeky about The Little Mermaid. This movie came out around the time I was in second grade and my friends and I fell in love with it. We wanted to live in Ariel’s world, and I think subconsciously most of the women in my generation are attracted to men with dark hair and blue eyes because of Eric. More significantly, this is the film that started the Disney comeback that I remember as a child. After the wild success of The Little Mermaid you had Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin & The Lion King. These films revitalized Disney in the marketplace and took back the title of creators of ageless tales.

This film is pretty much a flawless masterpiece. It may be a fairy tale tweaked in the Disney way, but there is nothing wrong with that. The brother’s Grimm did not invent the fairy tale; most of the stories they wrote down existed in many different forms before they ever rewrote them in their depressing, typically tragic style. Disney’s version is simply another in a long line of versions of these stories and I love the way this one ends. Frankly, even now I hate to see the prince fall in love with another woman and make Ariel so upset she commits suicide by jumping back into the sea and becoming seafoam – seriously, if you don’t believe me go read the Grimm version and stop complaining that this version ends happy.

The hands down best thing about The Little Mermaid is of course the music. Having Sebastian the crab be the leader of an undersea orchestra, and Ariel’s special gift be her voice was a beautiful and brilliant move. It made the music and the characters more vibrant because it gave them a context within the film. To this day I can hear this music and still be delighted.

Directors & Writers: Ron Clements & John Musker

Ariel: If I become human, I'll never be with my father or sisters again.
Ursula: That's right. But - you'll have your man. Life's full of tough choices, innit?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox
Originally uploaded by ablogvoyage
Mr. Fox is an expert bird thief and loves it, until the day Mrs. Fox tells him that they are expecint a child and makes him promise to get an honest job. Mr. Fox does and begins writing a column for his local paper but pines for the job he was good at; in an effort to better his family’s life he buys a local tree and they move in – into the shadow of Boggis, Bunce & Bean, three of the meanest farmers in the land. When Mr. Fox decides to take up his bird thief ways again he unwittingly brings disaster onto all of the animals in his community.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a brilliant little movie; somehow, Wes Anderson did manage to turn a children’s story into a family film with his own personal flair. But this film has Wes Anderson stamped all over it, from the way the characters deliver their lines, to the quirky costumes they wear and the way they get stuck in situations of their own making. Don’t let the claymation stop you – this is a Wes Anderson film.

The one thing I have to mention about The Fantastic Mr. Fox is something that’s been festering for awhile. I keep overhearing people talking about how they don’t know why such a big deal is being made over the animation technology in this movie because the same thing was done in movies like Over the Hedge. I love Over the Hedge, have seen it many times and that’s why I know that’s a computer animated film. The Fantastic Mr. Fox is stop motion – totally different technology & completely different visual style to it. These were actual little models of the characters that were moved and photographed one frame at a time, not drawn inside a computer. If you really can’t see that it’s time to get your eyes checked.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that this film will be nominated for Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards this year. I do think it deserves the nomination, but I’m not sure it will win. The stiff competition for this film comes from Up, another brilliant family film that also deals with responsibility & family. It will be interesting to see who wins.

Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach
Mr. Fox: George Clooney
Mrs. Fox: Meryl Streep
Ash: Jason Schwartzman
Badger: Bill Murray
Kristofferson: Eric Chase Anderson
Bean: Michael Gambon
Rat: Willem Dafoe
Coach Skip: Owen Wilson

Mr. Fox: Who am I, Kylie?
Kylie: Who how? What now?
Mr. Fox: Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?
Kylie: I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds illegal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Star Trek

I learned something new about Star Trek, something that probably explains part of why I enjoy the visuals of the film so much and why for a sci-fi film it looks so grounded in reality. JJ & crew push to do as much of the film as they could practical & on location. This film was shot all over California, out of sound stages as much as possible, in Paramount’s B-Tank, and simply put using old Hollywood techniques. There were shots that JJ knew they’d have to do CGI because they couldn’t build that grand a set, so instead he built some half scale sets and used children as doubles for some shots. These are tricks the classical directors used to use, tricks that still stand up in a computerized world if you watch their films today.

It’s gutsy to go into a space adventure and say that you want to find locations to shoot in. I am sure more than a few people gasped in shock and surprise. But in the end I think Star Trek looks like a better film for it.

Scotty: This would be like tryin' a' hit a large bullet wi' a smaller bullet, wearin' a blindfold, while ridin' a horse.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sense & Sensibility (BBC)

Sense & Sensibility is one of Jane Austen’s classics. In 2008 BBC remade the tale for television as a miniseries.

The story revolves around Elinor and Marianne, two sisters with very different sensibilities. When their father dies Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters are forced out of their home by the girls half-brother who inherits everything; though the father’s final wish was for the brother to take care of the ladies his wife convinces him to give his sisters and stepmother nothing. As such Mrs. Dashwood takes the girls up the coast where they begin to live in a small cottage and Mrs. Dashwoods cousin attempts to find Elinor and Marianne husbands. In true Austen fashion the two eldest Miss Dashwoods both fall for men that they can’t have until of course that twist of fate intervenes and they find out the men of their dreams are available.

I’ve seen two versions of Sense & Sensibility now and I just have to say that maybe I am not a Jane Austen fan, but a Pride & Prejudice fan. I cannot get into this story at all, I don’t connect with the sisters, I dislike their men, I get annoyed by the predictable ending…it just all around annoys me on some level. I am not empathetic with the plight of two women who are annoyed by the people around them. It’s such a similar story to Pride & Prejudice and yet I think Elizabeth & Jane are much more interesting.

That being said, the two lead actresses in Sense & Sensibility were very engaging and enjoyable to watch. The language of Jane Austen can be a mouthful and yet Hattie Morahan & Charity Wakefield never seemed to miss a beat. Their relationship was genuine and they could definitely pull off being Victorian sisters.

I am sure plenty of viewers enjoyed this version of Austen’s tale. I’m just not one of them.

Elinor Dashwood: Hattie Morahan
Marianne Dashwood: Charity Wakefield
Mrs. Dashwood: Janet McTeer
Col. Brandon: David Morrissey
Edward Ferras: Dan Stevens
Wiloughby: Dominic Cooper
Margaret Dashwood: Lucy Boynton


Any adult that watches the beginning of Up and is not affected by the story of Carl & Ellie doesn’t have a heart. You might as well join league with the Grinch because you heart is two sizes too small.

I’ve seen Up twice now and watching Carl and Ellie meet, fall in love, and grow old together still moves me. Ellie is only physically in the film for about ten minutes or so and yet her character drives the film. She was Carl’s world and in those few images the filmmakers make you fall as in love with Ellie as Carl is, so that you completely understand his sorrow when she is gone.

The most astounding thing to me about the whole movie is that Ellie remains a character through the whole film because of the house. Carl carries Ellie with him physically by taking the house, the life they lived together with him on his adventure to Paradise Falls.

Even though this is a children’s film it is layered with subtext that live action films can’t accomplish. Pixar is truly able to perfect some of their stories like no one else because of the manner in which they are forced to tell them. By being an animated film the filmmakers have multiple versions of the film created before they ever being the final, animated version of the film. By the time they get around to that version they have more than figured out what works, what falls flat and how to make the characters on screen as three dimensional as their animation technique.

While Pixar normally has the best animated film category of the Oscars locked up, I am interested to see what will happen as there will be five nominees (one probably from Wes Anderson) this year. I think Up will still walk away with the golden boy, but it could be an interesting year.

Carl: Hey, let's play a game. It's called "see who can be quiet the longest."
Russell: Cool! My mom loves that game!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Laura Hunt has been murdered in a brutal crime. She answered her door and was shot twice with a shotgun in the face. Det. McPherson has been called in to solve the crime and he does so by interviewing the most influential people in her life and soon discovers that Laura was a woman that engendered love in most of the males she met; even after her death Waldo Lydecker & her fiancée Shelby Carpenter are still vying for her affections and McPherson begins to develop feelings for Laura himself.

Laura is a spectacular film, on that reminds me of a film Hitchcock would have wanted to make. Like any classic noir it starts because of a death, and the characters all have their own motives for being involved in the mystery, a mystery that only gets deeper as McPherson attempts to unravel the crime. This is a film that has some incredible twists and turns, twists that will be honored by my truncated review here; there are elements that have intense power to this film and I will not spoil them.

What really intrigues me about Laura are the three men that are central to this sotry: Lydecker, Carpenter & McPherson. Each man is an entirely different representation of a type of male and their motivations for loving Laura are vastly different. Lydecker is the intellectual who believes himself the only one truly worthy of Laura, Carpenter is the playboy who caught Laura’s eye and therefore her heart, and McPherson is the protector and knight in shining armor who is trying to save Laura. In many ways the traditional roles assigned to females in a noir (the angel, the femme fatale, etc.) have been flipped and placed on these men instead. Rather than women competing in any way possible for a man, these men of power have become cut throat with each other, vying for the place a Laura’s side.

If you have an appreciation for mystery films, noir or simply a movie that will keep you on your toes I suggest that you do what you can to find and see Laura. The film is incredibly entertaining and kept me guessing right until the great reveal.

Director: Otto Preminger
Writer: Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein & Elizabeth Reinhardt
Laura Hunt: Gene Tierney
Det. McPherson: Dana Andrews
Waldo Lydecker: Clifton Webb
Shelby Carpenter: Vincent Price
Mrs. Treadwell: Judith Anderson

Waldo Lydecker: Love is eternal. It has been the strongest motivation for human actions throughout history. Love is stronger than life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of death.

The Company

Ry is a young dancer for the Jeoffrey Ballet that has just lucked out and been given a chance to become a principle dancer. As she works hard with choreographers and in classes Mr. Antonelli works to complete the season for the Joeffrey and oversees every project they have. As the season moves on the company prepares for new ballets and Ry gets a new boyfriend and balances life with dance.

The Company was one of Robert Altman’s last films and a challenge for him as this is a dance film unlike any I’ve ever seen. What makes The Company so different is the way it is told. More often than not dance film follow almost the same formula as sports films; the young dancer catches someone’s eye, gets a big break and works harder than everyone else until the finale with the giant show that impresses everyone, applause, applause & curtain drop. Instead, The Company is made great because Robert Altman brings Robert Altman to the dance movie formula and makes the film something else entirely.

What Robert Altman does is something I have never seen anyone else successfully do. Altman fully immerses the viewer in the world of his films. He begins his film when the story is already started; there are people, locations and events that we as a viewer don’t know but Altman feels no need to explain them to us. Instead, he drops the audience in as an observer and an active participant; we must pay attention to any and all details in order to get up to speed with where the characters are at in their journey and that mystery in itself is what creates the drawing power of an Altman film. You can’t look away because if you stop paying attention the characters lives will go on without you. This Altman technique is used to beautiful effect in The Company and helps to uncover the elegance, fights, bruises and layers that exists within a dance company.

The Company is also special because of Neve Campbell’s involvement. What most people didn’t know until The Company is that Campbell was a dancer long before she was an actress. As such she actually helped come up with the story for the film, produced the film and starred. Campbell did not need a double for the dance sequences. She trained with the Jeoffrey and every dance her character is in Campbell is dancing herself. It’s a wonderful thing to not have to cut the dance sequences constantly in order to hide the identity of your dancer and it gave Altman the opportunity to make the dances much more organic and realistic so they feel like live sequences that are truly unfolding before you.

This may have been on of Altman’s final films, yet somehow I think this may be one of my favorites. Altman manages to find a sense of realism and grace in chaos that is sorely lacking in most dance films and The Company is better for it.

Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Barbara Turner
Ry: Neve Campbell
Alberto Antonelli: Malcom McDowell
Josh: James Franco