Sunday, September 26, 2010

2 Films To Go See Right Now!

I am so happy that I finally saw some great films in the theater this past week. "The Town" and "Easy A" both lived up to my expectations. Here is why you should see these films ASAP.

The Town

1. Ben's Redemption - The "director of Gone Baby Gone" is fantastic in this film. Not only did he create a beautiful, suspenseful and complicated story - he acted the hell out of his role in the film. It was like watching the 1997 Ben Affleck that America fell in love with.

2. Oscar nominations all around - Seriously, one of the best ensemble acting I have seen all year. Jeremy Renner (who I totally feel like I discovered - I have been a fan since he was in S.W.A.T - 7 years ago and have been following his career ever since) proved that last year's Oscar nomination was not a fluke. His character is dangerous and unpredictable, yet he embodies this on-screen presence that just forces the audience to root for him. The most unbelievably great performance comes from the least likely candidate - Blake Lively. When I saw her in the trailer, I had my doubts - dismissing her as the obvious weak link of the film. I am still in shock by her gritty performance as a drug dealing single mom. I don't understand how she did this so well, yet can't express a single emotion on Gossip Girl. She has suddenly jumped to the top of my list of Hollywood it-girls. I have always found her to be astonishingly beautiful, so I am pleasantly surprised that she can actually act. Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall were also satisfying - but that was expected.

3. Rooting for the bad guy - Jon Hamm was on Jimmy Fallon recently to promote this film and he spoke of the premiere (that was fittingly in Fenway Park - which is heavily featured in the end of the film. Boston must heart Ben Affleck for letting him film in such a sacred space) in which the audience ferociously booed every time his character (a cop) appeared on screen. It is totally true - the audience identifies with the bank robbers yet not in the same vein as Oceans 11 where the robbers were charming, sexy Robin Hood type heroes. The bad guys in The Town are actual bad guys - they shoot at cops and steal from innocent people. Why on earth do we root for them?

4. I'm not the only one - So far critics are raving - it currently has a 94% RT rating. While I don't think this film is the greatest crime thriller ever, it is certainly my favorite film of the year so far.

Easy A

1. Emma Stone - Right from the beginning it is clear that she is awesome. But then she becomes even more awesome when she sings and dances to "Pocket full of Sunshine" - a song that she loathes. It is one of the best dance sequences ever (and a whole lot better than the unnecessary one at the end of the film). She is officially a movie star.

2. It's quotable - I know I will be saying "let's bucket list this bitch" at least a few times in the next month. I laughed out loud several times and I can't wait to watch it over and over again. It's not as great as "stop trying to make fetch happen", but it certainly had some memorable moments and some great one-liners.

3. Never underestimate the power of an amazing supporting cast - Hands down best part of the film were the parents - played by Stanley Tucci (who has never been funnier) and Patricia Clarkson. I also enjoy Dan Byrd (who is outstanding as Courtney Cox's son on Cougar Town) and I thought Aly Michalka was very funny (from the new series Hellcats). I didn't even mind the usually annoying Amanda Bynes and Penn Badgley (who once again appeared shirtless even though he is not hot).

4. It actually has a point - It's not just a stupid teen comedy. It's social commentary on the way sexually active teen girls are viewed as sluts while teen boys are applauded for their sexual encounters. Olive, after lying about losing her virginity to seem cool, suddenly is viewed as a "harlot" in the same fashion as Hester from The Scarlet Letter. She decides to embrace her new identity by wearing lingerie (a wardrobe that would surely not be allowed in High School - even a public one) with a giant red A sewn on. She starts charging boys to say that they slept with her (because then they would be seen as "cool"). Oh the injustice of it all...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

5 More Shows That Were Canceled Too Soon

It's that time again - Fall TV has officially begun. There are lots of shows that I am looking forward to (a future post), but it always gets me thinking about shows that got canceled too quickly. Here are some more shows that didn't get the time they deserved:

1. Kitchen Confidential - Bradley Cooper. As a Chef. Often Shirtless. How could this show get canceled? FOX honestly didn't even give the series a chance (I think they canceled it after 4 episodes - they didn't even attempt to air the rest of the season - only 13 episodes were produced). I really liked the show (and not just for Cooper) - I thought it was funny and a little bit quirky. Plus, the plot was different - there aren't any shows about Chef's or restaurants for that matter - any industry that has to deal with the public is sure to be interesting. I really liked all of the characters and actors (Erin Hayes was Becky Sharp the love interest for Jack - who is also his biggest competition, Nicholas Brendan as the Pastry Chef - completely different than his Buffy character and Owain Yeoman as the Sous Chef - who was hilarious, I am surprised he isn't a bigger star). The best episode is the one that reunites Cooper with his Alias co-star Michael Vartan. Genius.

2. My So-Called Life - One of the worst cancellation decisions in the history of television (and most critics agree). I remember watching the show when it aired but I was only 13 so I can't say that I realized its relevance to pop culture then. Later, when it started airing on MTV, I watched it in awe. It had groundbreaking characters like Ricky and Rayanne (characters that one could actually relate to), groundbreaking dialogue and emotion and the most groundbreaking teenage romance ever. Two words that make every girl who grew up in the 90's sigh - Jordan Catalano. Possibly the dreamiest guy ever - of course played by the equally dreamy Jared Leto (who is still one of my favorite actors - robbed of an Oscar nomination twice for Requiem for a Dream and Chapter 27). The weakest link was Claire Danes - although this is her at her best (she is one of the worst actresses working today), she did kill it as Angela Chase - I still remember her dancing to Blister in the Sun with an over-sized t-shirt on. It only lasted one season, but it is considered to be a cult classic and is often included as one of the best shows on television.

3. The Black Donnellys - 4 Catholic boys growing up in Hell's Kitchen. If that doesn't remind you of one of the greatest films ever - then you obviously haven't seen Sleepers. (you should - it is amazing). I was very happy when this show was premiering because it was so reminiscent of one of my favorite films. Plus it had Jonathon Tucker (who was actually in Sleepers!), Olivia Wilde (love her!) and was created by Paul Haggis. The show was really good - it was a faithful depiction of a working class Irish Catholic family who was often involved with the Irish mob (as was everyone living in Hell's Kitchen). It was dark, mysterious but also highly entertaining and actually kind of funny. NBC cancelled the show after only 7 episodes, while the other 6 episodes were streamed online (an interesting fact about the show - it was the second highest streamed show on NBC's website - right after it's #1 show Heroes - so obviously it had a fairly large audience).

4. Firefly - Joss Whedon just can't catch a break. Ever since his extremely successful Buffy the Vampire Slayer series (and Angel spin-off), his series seem to get cancelled rather quickly (this show and Dollhouse). I can kind of understand why Firefly had a hard time finding and audience. I admit that I didn't watch it when it aired back in 2002, but after reading several articles that list it as must watch television - I finally gave in. It was weird - sort of a Western, sort of Sci-fi and mostly odd. But its oddity is what made it a great series - what other show can be described as "futuristic" and "retro" in the same sentence? What made it an even better series was that it had one of the best casts of any series ever. Seriously. Gina Torres (Anna Espinosa on Alias), Adam Baldwin (the brilliantly sarcastic John Casey on Chuck), Alan Tudyk and Summer Glau (both on Whedon's other series Dollhouse) plus surprise cameo appearances by Mad Men's Christina Hendrik's and a very young Zac Efron. The star of the show, Nathan Fillion, is often praised by Entertainment Weekly and now I see why. He reminds me of Gale Howard (only Howard is much prettier), but he is witty in this weird self-absorbed way, while still being charming and charismatic.

5. Jack & Jill - Back in 1999, a new "Friends" like show premiered on the WB (remember the WB??!) starring the super adorable Amanda Peet as Jack and the super hot Ivan Sergei as Jill, along with other notable cast members - Justin Kirk, Simon Rex and Sarah Paulson. I can't say that 10 years later that I remember much - but I do remember really liking the show and being extremely disappointed after it was canceled after a mere 2 seasons. It also ended with a giant cliff-hanger. So unfair.

3 More Disappointing DVD's

I don't know if I am becoming overly critical or if 2010 is just a sucky year in the film industry, but I recently caught up on some more DVD's of films that I was excited about - and am once again disappointed. The fall season really needs to step it up (so far my best list has 2 films on it - "The Last Station" - which was officially released in 2009 and "Inception" - which isn't even that amazing, however my worst list is getting really long...). Here are my thoughts on the DVD's that I recently watched:

1. Alice in Wonderland - Truly an awful film. Just awful. I am not even sure what else I can say about it. Half of it didn't make sense - I realize Alice in Wonderland is supposed to be a bit absurd and fanciful. I appreciate Tim Burton using the Jabberwacky style mixing words together and basically creating a world of nonsense. However, with words like fudderwachen being used it was hard to taking the film seriously. I felt like i needed to smoke something first to understand it. I am not sure Burton thought about his audience at all (for example - who exactly is the audience he was going for? because if I couldn't understand it - then I guarantee a 9 year old would be utterly confused - yet I felt like it was too immature for an adult audience as well). It also features the worst casting decision of the year - Anne Hathaway as the ethereal White Queen. Hathaway is a decent actress, but her representation of this character was basically to hold her hands up in the air and float around with a blank expression on her face. It was hard to watch. I am glad I saved my money and missed it in theaters (especially in 3D - I might have died).

2. Kick-Ass - I was indifferent about this film when it was released, but then it started getting some hype and some good reviews - I thought it might be a fun, kick-ass film. And it was...kinda. Unfortunately the bad elements of the film brought down anything good about it. The bad being Nic Cage (hate him. With a passion.) and Aaron Johnson (supposed to be the next hot young actor - but I wasn't that impressed with his looks or his acting). It was also about a 1/2 an hour too long and it seemed a little out of touch (it kept referencing Myspace - I am not the most up to date with technology but even I know Myspace has been over for years now). The good stuff was some really beautiful cinematography and choreography (the action sequence with the little girl in the dark was oddly beautiful). I am also a fan of Chloe Moretz (she was JGL's little sis in 500 Days of Summer and Peter Krause's daughter on Dirty Sexy Money- she is also the girl that landed the much anticipated role in the remake of the beautiful Swedish film Let the Right One In - the American version will be released this fall and is titled Let Me In). I can understand why people had issues with her cursing and using guns (at the age of 13), but I think as long as her parents raise her right - she will be just fine. Look at Lilo - she did cookie-cutter family films at that age and she is a hot-mess now, so the type of films doesn't really matter for these younger actresses - it's all about the parenting. I also think people are ignorant about how much their children actually know - 13 is not that innocent nowadays.

3. The Crazies - not much to say here. It was pretty predictable and not very scary. The trailer was much scarier. I never saw the original, but am now very interested in watching it. I like the story (although it is cliched now - I am sure it was ground breaking in 1973 when the original was released). I actually thought that this was the premise for that tv show Happy Town but it was nothing like it (and the show was a big fat disaster). So, the acting was decent - I like Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant (although I can't believe he actually has a career after his horrible over-acting in Scream 2 and Go). All in all a pretty mediocre film.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fall Movie Preview: 12 Films That I am Excited About

Finally, some films to look forward to! I am very excited for the films being released this Fall - hopefully they live up to my expectations. Here is what I will be seeing:

1. The Town (9/17) - Probably the film that I am most excited for this season. The trailer was fantastic - although my favorite part was when they advertised that it was directed by the same director of Gone Baby Gone (aka Ben Affleck). I was so distracted by the fact that they didn't say "directed by Ben Affleck". Is his reputation that bad? That is sad, because he is fantastic behind the camera (directing & writing) and while he has made some bad film and girlfriend choices (what A-list actor hasn't?) - he proved he can act in Hollywoodland and he is now married to a wholesome girl next door, the talented & beautiful Jennifer Garner - and is often photographed doting on his daughters. So can everyone forgive him and move on now? The Town will hopefully be his redemption in Hollywood. With such talent as Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm & Rebecca Hall, an intriguing story and that Departed feeling to it (every film set in Boston will now and forever be compared to The Departed) - I can't see it failing.

2. Easy A (9/17) - I love, love, love Emma Stone - so I am really happy that she has a starring role. This film is being compared to Mean Girls (and Stone being compared to the redheaded former serious actress, current hot mess Lindsey Lohan). That is a big comparison, considering how much of a cult favorite Mean Girls has become - but I am hoping for the best. I want to be quoting this film 10 years from now. No pressure.

3. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (9/22) - It's Woody Allen - so that could be a really good thing or a really bad thing depending on which Woody Allen he is going for. Hopefully, it is the witty, satirical, dark character study type film that Allen does so well (not the self-involved, boring, wannabe quirky but ultimately annoying character study that I hate). The cast is pretty fantastic - Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin & Freida Pinto.

3. Never Let Me Go (9/15) - The only reason I want to see this is because it is different. Based on the 2005 novel (can't decide if I should read the book before or after I watch the film..), it is about a group of students who are basically human clones - born to be used for parts. They are held captive at a boarding school - kept from living any "real" life in order for the process to seem more "humane". I can't imagine that the story will end well, but at least it is actually interesting and current. However, the films effectiveness will rely heavily on its actors which makes me nervous - Keira Knightley is hit or miss for me and Carey Mulligan was good in An Education (but hardly Oscar worthy). It also has newcomer Andrew Garfield (recently cast in a very coveted role as the new Spider-Man) - this could be his year if he nails this part and his role in The Social Network.

4. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (9/24) - I already included this film in my Spring Movie preview - not realizing that it was only to be released for Cannes and would be released widely this fall. I am still just looking forward to this film for Shia. He seems to make every film watchable, although after this (and the third Transformers film) I am hoping he will go back to making some indie films.

5. The Social Network (10/1) - I am not on Facebook and I never will be. I have no interest in reading what other people are currently doing, how they are feeling etc. I have no interest in talking to people that I knew 10 years ago (if I didn't keep in touch - there is probably a good reason). I have no interest in updating my status and keeping others informed of my whereabouts. I am not that self-involved and I have better things to do with my time (yes sitting on my couch, petting my cats and watching a full weeks worth of General Hospital is a better use of my time...). So, I bet you are wondering why I am excited for this film. Hello - did you see that trailer?? It made the film look freakin' amazing. The drama and tension between everyone layered with a haunting version of Radioheads "Creep" - I was completely captivated (it gave me chills). Seriously, what a perfect song for a film that captures the narcissism of the next generation - the words take on a whole new meaning (I want you to notice when I'm not around. You're so f**king special. I want to be special). Plus...two words - Justin Timberlake.

6. Let Me In (10/1) - The original Swedish film was beautiful and horrifying and gory and heartbreaking all at the same time. It seems like it will be hard for the American version to accomplish the same feat. However, it already has some brownie points for casting two of the most talented child actors currently around - Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee, plus the always reliable Richard Jenkins. I found the first film to be slightly too long, dragging a bit in the middle - and a little predictable - so if the American version can avoid these things, it could be an Oscar worthy film - plus it is totally on trend with the whole vampire thing (or is that already out?)

7. The Company Men (10/22) - I remember good things being said about this film when it premiered at Sundance - a lot of people gave props to "the director of Gone Baby Gone". So, hopefully this will just be the icing on Bens redemption cake. It also has Chris Cooper in it - always a positive feature for a film.

8. Hereafter (10/22) - I hate to admit this, but I am not really a Clint Eastwood as a Director fan. The only films of his that I thought were decent are Flags of our Fathers and Mystic River. His films tend to be extremely boring and hard to sit through. I just watched Invictus (which was extremely boring and hard to sit through) and hated it (Damons accent was cringeworthy). I always thought of Clint as being an amazing director - but when I actually looked at his work as a whole - I am just not a fan. So, here is hoping this film will change my mind. It looks different than his normal work - He describes it as a film "about people dealing with tragedy in different ways". It involves 3 different story lines that intersect at some point - which is usually a plot device that I enjoy.

9. RED (10/15) - Retired and Extremely Dangerous. This film looks incredibly fun - watching Helen Mirren kick ass is worth my time alone. Plus Morgan Freeman is like the coolest person ever. And you know my love for Mary Louise Parker - I am glad to see her in a film, I feel like it has been a while (with all her attention on Weeds).

10. Due Date (11/5) - Todd Phillips has a lot to live up to - this is his first film since his smash hit The Hangover. Good thing the trailer looks hysterical. I love RDJ - he is obviously a very talented comedian, so I am happy that he is able to showcase this. I am hoping they didn't just shove all of the funny stuff in the trailer (like most comedies) and that it is just funny enough to keep me laughing until The Hangover 2 comes out (next year please).

11. Fair Game (11/5) - Doug Liman seems to be getting a little repetitive...the CIA is often his subject matter and now he is moving on to the war in Iraq (and the so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction) - the latter was the subject of Greenzone (a complete snooze-fest). This film tackles both subjects as Naomi Watts plays a CIA agent exposed after her husband (a journalist- played by Sean Penn) writes a story about the Bush administration altering information (based on a true story). I am hoping that this film has a little more excitement to it than Greenzone or at least more meaning to it...something that isn't a complete waste of my time. But I am really happy to see 2 of my favorite actors working together again (Penn and Watts killed it in one of my favorite films 21 Grams).

12. Unstoppable (11/12) - Don't make fun of me - I know it will be predictable trash (and eerily reminiscent of Denzyl Washington's film about a speeding subway from last year), but the trailer was exciting. It totally made me want to see it!!