Sunday, June 27, 2010

5 Reason's to Rent "The Last Station"

So I just watched "The Last Station" and was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining (and educational) it was. The film was officially released in limited theaters last year (in order to compete in last years awards) but since it was really released this year, it will likely make my list of "best films of 2010". Here is why you should rent it:

1. James McAvoy - Once again, McAvoy gives us an award-worthy performance and once again, McAvoy was over-looked during award season. He is one of the few actors that instantly makes a film better just by being in it. His portrayal of the conflicted Valentin was the perfect combination of emotion, subtlety and humor.

2. The others - Helen Mirren was impeccable (has she ever been anything less?) and Christopher Plummer was perfectly casted as Tolstoy. They both give worthy performances, but it was really the other actors that were unjustly ignored. Paul Giamatti shines as the somewhat conniving Chertkov, Kerry Condon (the amazing Octavia from the series Rome) was perfect as the seductress, Masha - tempting Valentin to follow his heart and Anne-Marie Duff continues her reign as an under-rated actress as the seemingly cold-hearted daughter of Tolstoy. These performances alone make the film worth watching.

3. Tolstoy - I admit I have very limited knowledge of Tolstoy or his work - basically I knew that he wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina (both of which I have never read). I thought for sure that the subject matter of this film was going to bore me to tears - instead I actually learned a lot (always a pleasant surprise). So, apparently Tolstoy had these cult like followers - these "disciples" of his are referred to as Tolstoyans. They believed in living a life of "purity" (i.e abstinence) and of peaceful resistance - both themes are explored in the film. Yet, the biggest theme explored is the notion of private property - Tolstoy was against this (so basically he was a Communist as well as an Anarchist). The best part of all is that Tolstoy lived his life in complete contradiction of his beliefs! He admitted to having "wild" sexual affairs before he was married plus he lived in what seems like a castle - complete with servants. He practiced the "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy. The plot of the film focuses on the death of Tolstoy, or more importantly his will. The Tolstoyans believed that upon his death his works (and his money) should be considered public domain, while his wife believed that his works (and his money) should be distributed to his family. We never really know what Tolstoy wanted, but ultimately he is pressured to sign over everything to the Tolstoyans.

4. "Love and be Loved" - Along with the fascinated details of Tolstoy's ideologies, the film is also a love story. Tolstoy's relationship with his wife was intoxicating and tumultuous and therefore extremely passionate. I believe that the audience is led to believe that Tolstoy was in love with his wife, but he was equally in love with the idea of being loved by his followers. This was his ultimate conflict. The fictional love story between Valentin and Masha (a rebel Tolstoyan) provides the audience with the ultimate answer - they both choose love over Tolstoy.

5. The power of the media - Isn't it amazing that even back in the early 1900's the media was harassing celebrities and distorting the truth? Fascinating.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

2 DVD's to Avoid Watching

1. Shutter Island - I have been waiting to see this film for what seems like years. I have been a fan of Scorsese/DiCaprio collaborations (especially The Departed), plus the trailer looked ridiculously amazing, plus it also stars Mark Ruffalo. But then the release date kept getting pushed back and the reviews were mostly harsh - when it was finally released I had practically lost interest. Now that it was finally released to DVD, I was able to watch it. Here are my thoughts:

1. I am so happy that I didn't see it in the theater - I might have been tempted to walk out.
2. The Sixth Sense twist. I knew that there was a huge "surprise" twist in the film, which is always distracting in my opinion. I spent the entire film creating all the different possibilities in my head. Spoiler Alert: I knew Teddy was Andrew - that part was obvious to me. But then if Teddy was Andrew - who the f was Chuck? I thought maybe he was a hallucination but then everyone else interacted with him so he must in fact exist. So that led me to believe that he must have been part of this "conspiracy" to get Teddy/Andrew to the island. I never in a million years thought Chuck was the missing doctor - or that the entire thing was a role play experiment. Because that is the most ridiculous plot imaginable. I guess if I were really bored I might watch the film again to understand it better - but watching it the first time was painful enough for now.
3. The supporting actresses, Michelle Williams and Emily Mortimer, both gave award worthy performances. Leo was great too, but that is expected.
4. DID - The only thing that the film had going for it was the social commentary on how mental patients were treated in the 1950's. Did they actually think that this "role play" experiment would treat someone with extreme Dissociative Identity Disorder? That is incredibly disturbing.

2. Valentine's Day - Oh the horror. This was a mess of a film (which is no surprise considering the reviews - Even Entertainment Weekly gave it an F!), but I thought for some reason it might be cute, considering all of the talent involved. But it was really just a bunch of celebrities thrown into a film with no humor, no romance and worst of all no point. Here is my take on the different stories:

1. Ashton Kutcher - I think of Ashton as the male Jennifer Aniston. He is not a movie star. He belongs on my television (he was amazing on That 70's Show), every film he has ever been in has been a disaster - except for Dude, Where's My Car - and that doesn't really count because it was like 10 years ago. His character in v-day is basically the ultimate romantic - he owns a flower shop and he thinks proposing on Valentine's Day is a good idea. He gets his heart broken by Jessica Alba and then realizes he was really in love with his BFF Jennifer Garner anyway - so no big deal.
2. Jennifer Garner - plays the woman scorned by her doctor boyfriend (Patrick Dempsey) who is actually a happily married man. She refuses to believe it until she sees it with her own eyes - which just makes her stupid.
3. Topher Grace & Anne Hathaway - Topher (another That 70's Show alum - but a much better movie star) and Anne actually make a really cute couple, but unfortunately Anne Hathaway plays a phone sex operator. This wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for her obnoxious accents and that she thinks it is ok to "work" at her real job.
4. Bradley Cooper & McSteamy - The only love story that was decent, but boring. And they only have one very tiny scene together. McSteamy is the ultimate man's man (a professional football player) who is in the closet and decides to come out of the closet (although it seems like ultimately he just likes the publicity).
5. The kids - Emma Roberts was super ridiculous announcing that she was planning on having sex with her boyfriend during lunch time. While the Taylor's were just plain ridiculous - please tell me teens aren't that stupid.
6. Jessica Biel - Not a fan of her or her character. She is throwing a "I hate Valentine's Day" party, which we all know is a "I really love Valentine's Day, but am alone and pathetic so I am pretending to hate it" party.
7. Julia Roberts & Queen Latifah - Didn't have much to do but fill the strong women quota.

Friday, June 18, 2010

4 Reasons Why I Would Recommend "The A-Team"

I wouldn't say "The A-Team" was a great movie, but it was a decent summer movie. I would recommend it to anyone who just wants to see a fun summer action movie. Here is why:

1. It was better than the trailer - The trailer basically made the film like the cheesiest piece of crap ever - I rolled my eyes at the idea of another crappy 80's re-make. I don't remember The A-Team show other than Mr. T saying "I pity the fool" and I don't know anyone that was awaiting a film version (as you can see from the low box office numbers...). However, the film wasn't that cheesy at all - it even seemed to be making fun of itself. Aside from a few awkward lines that felt forced, the movie had a nice balance of campiness and grittiness.

2. Cooper and Sharlto - It's worth the price of admission to watch Bradley Cooper as an official A-list blockbuster star. He does a great job as the smug "face" of the group - plus he is often shirtless. I also, enjoyed Sharlto Copley - this is only his second acting gig (after his egregiously under-awarded performance in District 9) and he was perfection. I admit I probably would not have enjoyed the movie at all if if wasn't for these two actors.

3. "Timing is everything" - The action was non-stop and intense. I liked the action sequences because they were all about timing - which seemed to be the theme of the movie itself. There were these chain reaction type sequences that were so intense and fun to watch. Nothing in these action sequences can go wrong because as the films log line states: There is no plan B.

4. Low expectations - if you go in expecting the worst - I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, June 11, 2010

4 Reasons This Summer's Films Suck

So I kept meaning to write a post about "Summer Movies that I can't wait to see", but procrastination kept getting the best of me. This weeks "Entertainment Weekly" made me realize that it is not in fact procrastination - it is the simple fact that this summer's movies suck! I kept putting off writing a post because I don't have any desire to go to the movies this summer (with a few exceptions). Here is why:

1. There is no originality - This year's films are all either re-makes (The A-Team, Robin Hood, The Karate Kid) or sequels (Sex and the City, Iron Man, The Twilight Saga, Shrek Forever After, Toy Story 3) or completely unoriginal (Killers, Grown Ups, Eat Pray Love) or look absolutely awful (Johah Hex, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Piranha 3D, The Sorcerer's Apprentice). When are the studio's going to realize that films are supposed to be entertaining and though-provoking and creative.

2. Netflix is cheaper - They always say that the movie industry is the least effected by economical hardship and for the past 2 years they were right. People went to the movies more than ever - escaping from the problems of real life. But what happens when there is nothing worth going to the theater? People are certainly not going to waste their hard earned money on garbage. Even I - a die-hard film fanatic find myself saying "eh - I will just wait for the DVD". Even movies that I want to see like Iron Man 2 are sitting on top of my Netflix queue, since the reviews have been mediocre.

3. Speaking of reviews - According to Entertainment Weekly, there are zero films that have been released this year that have Oscar potential. Reviews have been harsh - usually the first half of the year is filled with the less-potential, but there are often exceptions and always films on the horizon that are incurring "buzz", so I am quite disappointed in the state of films. When films like The A-Team are getting positive reviews - you know something is wrong. Are critics starting to lower their expectations? I sure hope not.

4. The exceptions - There are only 2 films (2. out of more than 100.) that I truly am looking forward to. Inception and Salt. Inception looks interesting because I have absolutely no idea what it is about - the trailer is ridiculously incomprehensible. It doesn't hurt to have Leo Dicaprio and JGL in the same film. Salt probably falls in the "not original" category, but I love Angelina doing what she does best - kicking ass. I am not one of those people who is going to pretend that she is overrated. She brings people to the theater, whether they admit it or not. I also will likely see The A-Team, simply to see why the reviews are surprisingly positive and more simply to support Bradley Cooper.

so out of an entire summer - I will likely only go to the movies 3 times. How pathetic is that? The film industry needs to react quickly before it completely crumbles.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The MTV Awards: 3 Best Moments; 4 Worst Moments

So watching the "MTV Movie Awards" makes me feel especially old, but it also makes me quite sad to witness what the next generation feels is award-worthy. I wouldn't really consider any moments as "best" but here are the "better" moments of the show:

1. The Generation Award - Given to the always amazing Sandra Bullock. The Generation Award used to be a spoof on a Lifetime Achievement Award - often awarding fictional characters like Chewbacca, but over the past few years it has been taken slightly more seriously- awarding funny men like Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey etc. This year, I think it is very fitting to give the award to Sandra. Not only has she had one amazing year (career wise), but she has been a part of the MTV Movie awards for over 15 years now - yes, Speed was 15 years ago (!). I can't think of a more fitting standing ovation.

2. Tom Cruise becomes relevant - of course it was for resurrecting a character from 2 years ago - but hey whatever works. The beginning clip featuring Les Grossman was amusing, but it was mid-show when he took the stage with Jennifer Lopez (and actually held his own with his surprising dance moves) that he really out did himself. I actually thought that they replaced him with a look-a-like professional dancer until I saw Katie Holmes in the audience cheering. I give him a lot of credit for stepping outside his comfort zone - now he just needs to start making some interesting films. Then I will forgive him for being a complete psycho. Maybe.

3. Ed Helms & Ken Jeong - Unfortunately, they were overshadowed by Les Grossman - but their rendition of "Stu's Song" from The Hangover while Jeong was dressed in a tiger leotard was quite funny. And Ed Helms actually has a pretty amazing live voice - he almost sounded like Elton John.


1. "Twilight" - I get it- the tweens love Twilight, but having the same people win 2 years in a row is extremely boring. Considering that there is yet another Twilight film being released this year - they should just cancel next years awards. I mean, we all know who is going to win right? Even Anna Kendrick's win for Up in the Air, still felt like a win for Twilight because you know the teenagers that voted for this did not see Up in the Air. I feel like this is the kind of award show that films like The Hangover should win.

2. The bleeping - not because it was offensive, but because it was incredibly annoying. Who wants to watch a show where every other word is bleeped out? I actually though Peter Facinelli's "satirical" speech was quite amusing.

3. Aziz Ansari - Not a terrible host, but also not very memorable either. I think the only thing I laughed at was his "Swagger coach" clip - but I think I was probably laughing more at Zach Galifianakis.

4. Katy Perry and Christina Aguilera - Both of their performances made me press the fast-forward button.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Picks for the 10 Main Emmy Categories 2010

Aside from the bevy of mind-dumbing reality programming - this past year has been one of the best years for television that I can remember. Here are the shows and the talent that I feel deserve an Emmy nomination:

1. Best Supporting Actor (Comedy) - Most of my picks here have to belong to Glee. Mike O'Malley, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer are perfection- although O'Malley might be included as a "guest actor" I am not really sure of the qualifications, his performance is standout enough for me to be included in this category. Cory Monteith has really shined in the most recent episodes, while Colfer had my heart from the beginning. Rounding out the category, I would say that Aziz Ansari from Parks and Recreation and Josh Hopkins from Cougar Town always bring the funny to their respective shows. None of that matters of course when they are up against Ty Burrell - who steals the spotlight on Modern Family in every episode. I actually think the entire cast of Modern Family deserves some Emmy love, but Burrell is by far the best.

2. Best Supporting Actress (Comedy) - I would be really surprised if Jane Lynch didn't get a nomination (let alone win the category!), she has helped create a character that will live forever. To be honest, I don't think anyone else compares - but for the hell of it here is her biggest competition (i.e no competition at all...): Julie Bowen for Modern Family, it is hard to match comedic wits with Burrell - but I think she holds her own pretty well. Christa Miller and Busy Phillips for Cougar Town are fantastic as rivals for the BFF crown. Alison Brie for Community and Aubrey Plaza for Parks and Recreation - essentially they both accomplish the same thing on their respective shows, which is to quietly and awkwardly steal our hearts.

3. Best Actor (Comedy) - This is probably the only category that I didn't have to narrow down from a dozen. Two of the nominations are a given: Alec Baldwin and Steve Carell. Personally, I would throw Joel McHale for Community in there (knowing that yes, his supporting cast is much funnier than him - but I am bias. His work on The Soup should have garnered him a nomination years ago). My fourth pick is Adam Scott from the little watched but brilliant Party Down - and yes if Jane Lynch didn't kill as Sue Sylvester on Glee, I would insist on a nomination for her work on this little gem of a show. I am usually a little behind on premium channel programming, so I can't really say for sure - but I loved David Duchovny on Californication last year, I am assuming he is just as good this year. I also wouldn't be upset if Zachary Levi was nominated for Chuck - although I think this past season was the weakest yet. Please, oh please do not nominate Charlie Sheen for a 5th time.

4. Best Actress (Comedy) - Tina Fey finally has some challenging competition and not just Amy Poehler. While both of these comedians are deserving of nominations, I think Courteney Cox might steal both of their thunder. Cox has proved to be extremely talented, not only is she the first "friend" to have a successful television show, she is also the first "friend" to truly shed her "friend" persona. I do not see Monica Geller while watching Cougar Town - not even a little bit. Also competing should be Leah Michelle from Glee and Eva Longoria from Desperate Housewives (although the show is quickly sliding down hill, Longoria has been consistent through out the series). I am assuming that Edie Falco or Toni Collette (or both) might make the list of nominees this year for Nurse Jackie and The United States of Tara respectively and I also assume that they are both deserving (I still haven't watched either show).

5. Best Comedy - This is really just a show-down between Glee and Modern Family, with the latter having a minor edge only because its target audience is slightly older (and wider). Both shows are deserving and so completely different that it is really hard to gage which is actually the "better" of the two. My other picks for the category are Cougar Town, Community, Parks and Recreation and Party Down. I am calling for a shut out of 30 Rock (which has won the past 3 years in a row) simply because my other picks are consistently funnier. Also, my usual "lock" in this category is Weeds, however the last season was incredibly disappointing and also really not funny (although I won't include it in the "drama" category either).

6. Best Supporting Actor (Drama) - Please, let this be Aaron Paul's year! I can't even describe to you how fantastic he is. He stands out against other fantastic supporting performances, including his Breaking Bad co-star Dean Norris who surely deserves a nomination for one of the series best episodes "One Minute". Grey's Anatomy has proven to "own" most of the supporting talent on television this year (although their "stars" are lacking - Pompeo and Dempsey just can't compare to their co-stars). This year I would give the edge to Justin Chambers and Kevin Mckidd. I would also single out John Noble for Fringe (although I think technically he could possibly be submitted as lead actor) and Terry O'Quinn for Lost (the only Lost actor worthy of a nomination this year).

7. Best Supporting Actress (Drama) - The usual players in this category from Grey's Anatomy, Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson both deserve another nod (Oh has been nominated 5 consecutive times for this role - maybe this year they should just give it to her already). Their biggest competition comes from Parenthood, Monica Potter delivers every scene with such emotional resonance that I practically cry every time she appears on screen, but the best performance on that show belongs to Mae Whitman who blew me away with her honest portrayal of teen angst. Jennifer Carpenter deserves some credit for her work on Dexter and Christina Hendriks continued to be outstanding on Mad Men (although she was seriously under-used last season). On a side-note, I could argue that all of the supporting actresses on Grey's Anatomy deserve a nomination - Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw are amazing at creating the only relationship that I actually root for on the series, Kim Raver finally finds a challenging role and kills it, while even the newcomers from Mercy West prove to be talented - Sarah Drew's performance in the season finale was incredibly powerful. However, an all Grey's Anatomy category would just be ridiculous.

8. Best Actor (Drama) - Two of my favorite television actors will compete against each other this year - former co-stars Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Peter Krause (Parenthood). My vote will always be for Hall for his sublime portrayal of serial killer Dexter Morgan, however Krause does a fantastic job on Parenthood as the father of a son with Asperger's syndrome and a loyal brother and husband who is often stuck in between these duties. The only other actor who compares to these two heavyweight actors is Bryan Cranston for Breaking Bad (he has won the last two years). I would love to see some younger talent nominated such as Ben McKenzie for Southland or Paul Wesley for The Vampire Diaries (although both are unlikely). I also wouldn't mind if Hugh Laurie is nominated for House (I don't watch the series, but I love his speeches) and I guess I can't leave out Jon Hamm for Mad Men.

9. Best Actress (Drama) - Last year this category was filled with actresses on shows that I don't watch - Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Sally Field and Holly Hunter will likely get nominated again. All are amazing actresses so, I really can't argue against them. However, there are some talented actresses on shows that I do watch that I would like to see get some recognition. Lauren Graham from Parenthood is a fan favorite and she is now a favorite of mine. Anna Torv is a force to be reckoned with on Fringe. I will include my favorite actress, Mary Louise Parker, in this category because her work on Weeds is always fantastic - even if the show has lost its spark. I think Taylor Shilling did fantastic work on Mercy, even if the show was mediocre (and cancelled). Rounding the category out, I will include Regina King from Southland and January Jones from Mad Men (who was wrongfully snubbed and replaced with the awful Elisabeth Moss last year).

10. Best Drama - My favorite new drama Parenthood will have a hard time competing with previous nominees Breaking Bad and Dexter. Emmy favorite Mad Men will likely win again. Other shows I would like to see included are Southland (simply so NBC will wince in pain) and Fringe. I do not feel that the last season of Lost is nomination worthy but since it is the last season of such an innovative show, I will not be upset if it is nominated (and awarded). Also, again it would be nice to see The Vampire Diaries get some recognition - I think the show is truly fantastic (as you can tell from my previous posts), but I know this is a long shot since its target audience is tweens and it is on the CW (has anything on the CW ever been nominated?).