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Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Movie Review - The Soloist (2009)

Starring Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey, Jr., and Catherine Keener
Written by Susannah Grant
Directed by Joe Wright

This flick was supposed to come out last year and delays in the film industry typically signal an inferior product. Unforunately, that rule reigns true in the case of The Soloist.

The plot's simple. Reporter Steve Lopez stumbles across homeless guy Nathaniel Ayers playing a violin. Friendship blossoms.

And that is all.

The problem with this film didn't necessarily come from the actors, although I never once got a sense that Downey, Jr., was playing anyone other than himself (Foxx, on the other hand, gives a surpringly strong turn as the schizophrenic musical "genius").

Half of the problem comes from the script (nothing really happens in the film when you look back on it). There was humor and pathos in the main storyline, but when some of the subplots take the front seat -- the L.A. Times newspaper in economic trouble, the difficultly in providing care to L.A.'s homeless population -- the movie just falters.

The other major issue with the film is Joe Wright's shoddy direction. There were shots that had me flabbergasted as to why they were in the film at all -- a scene where we follow birds as they fly over L.A. while classical music plays; a Fantasia-esque light show to "symbolize" (I guess) what Nathaniel "feels" when he's listening to an orchestra. These shots in particular were there simply to "show off," and the rest of the film, if anything, is rather stodgy in how it's presented (the complete opposite of "show-off," to me). The film jumps back and forth from feeling like a PBS Masterpiece Theater piece to an ABC afterschool special from the 90s. Granted, that's just as much the screenwriter's fault as it is the director's, but the film was just too flat and "blah" too much of the time for me to recommend it.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Movie Review - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

Starring Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, and Ciarán Hinds
Written by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy
Directed by Bharat Nalluri

At this point, I think I would see Amy Adams in nearly anything. Even if the films she's in aren't perfect, she always seems to give an incredibly winning performance. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is no exception.

After getting fired from her job as a nanny, down-on-her-luck Miss Pettigrew (McDormand) fortuitously stumbles upon another job opportunity as the "confidante" of the Marilyn Monroe-esque aspiring actress Delysia (Adams). The unlikely pair form a friendship as each help the other better their lives over the course of a single day (hence the title).

An amusing movie for sure, with great performances from the two leads and the supporting cast. It's slightly unfortunate that the movie's really about nothing...in the grand scheme of things, it's an adult version of Mary Poppins. The screenwriters (including Slumdog Millionaire's scripter Simon Beaufoy) try to throw in a subplot about World War II to ill effect to seemingly just add some unnecessary weight to the generally lightweight affair.

A cute movie...now if only Amy Adams could find a script that matches her talent, I'd be a happy camper.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Movie Review - The Informers (2009)

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, and Winona Ryder
Written by Bret Easton Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki
Directed by Gregor Jordan

This one will be short.

A bunch of interweaving storylines that have precarious connections at best about pretentious assholes that live in L.A. in 1983, doing drugs...and each other (I must admit, the "pretentious assholes" was mine, but I stole the "doing drugs...and each other" from imdb).

Awful movie with awful acting across the board (poor Brad Renfro who killed himself shortly after filming this was the worst of the bunch by far). Not a single reason to care about anyone. Sure there were lots of boobs, but at some point, that's not enough.

The RyMickey Rating: F

FYI...Because I care about all my readers...

In case you didn't know, according to what happens in this film, you can seemingly not have any symptoms of AIDS, but then develop purple splotches and die within in a week. Be careful out there, folks!

Monday, April 27, 2009

TV Review - Flight of the Conchords Season One

Starring Bret McKenzie, Jemaine Clement, Rhys Darby, and Kristen Schaal

I'm gonna keep this one short and sweet. I laughed out loud quite a bit during Season One of this series about Bret and Jemaine, two Kiwi bandmates, dealing with life in New York City away from their New Zealand home. Desperately trying to succeed in the music biz with the help of their manager Murray, the band, The Flight of the Conchords, can't seem to branch out from Mel, their one-person strong fanbase (a frickin' hilarious turn by Kristen Schall...who the hell is this gal? She's really funny).

Overall, a very decent 12-episode arc here. The problem with the series is that you're constantly waiting for the musical interludes (which are extremely well-done spoofs of various genres...the corny 80s music video, the 60s variety show, Billy Elliot, and many more)

Favorite Episodes
Bowie -- "David Bowie" comes to Bret in a dream, telling him how to help his band succeed in the music biz.
Girlfriends -- Bret gets used by a woman posing as a fan.
New Fans -- Kristen Schall's turn to shine...I laughed out loud for four to five minutes straight in this one as Mel becomes extremely jealous that others appear to like the band.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movie Review - Blindness (2008)

***Available on DVD***
Starting Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Danny Glover
Written by Don McKellar
Directed by Fernando Meirelles

I honestly didn't even think about my recent health "scare" prior to watching this one. Nothing like watching a movie about going blind a month after you quasi-experienced that for yourself.

This film was slightly trashed by the critics when it was released last year and, after watching it, I have no idea why. It was a smart little movie, and while it's not without its flaws (for sure), it certainly deserved a better reception than what it got.

A sudden epidemic of blindness has struck an unnamed city (or the world? We never really find that out). Initially, all the blind are herded into an old insane asylum where they are essentially forced to fend for themselves. Julianne Moore is The Doctor's Wife (no one has names in this film) and she has followed her husband (Ruffalo) into the asylum even though she is
still able to see. While The Doctor attempts to set up a "democracy" amongst the blind people in the ward, The Bartender (Bernal) has different plans and pronounces himself The King with everyone needing to do his will in order to get food. The film essentially sets up a little microcosm of the outside world inside the asylum -- displaying different types of government and trying to determine which kind works best for society as a whole (sort of...no need to go digging deep into what the flick is about at this point).

My main issue with the film is that The Doctor's Wife can see and she never uses that to her advantage until well into the film. There are scenes of horrible violence amongst the blind folks in the ward, but The Doctor's Wife never really acts to stop anything. She does eventually, but it almost seems too late. With The Doctor's Wife seemingly being "us" (or, at the very least, what we should aspire to be) in this allegorical tale, you never really got a sense how we (being a "blind" society) are supposed to act against our oppressors (it's all a crock, I know, but that's the film is saying...Act up and fight for what you believe in and don't blindly follow your leaders if you know they're doing wrong. Normally I hate message movies like this, but it worked here for some reason). Additionally, Danny Glover's character (Man with Eye Patch) is godawful. I don't know what he was supposed to be -- I'm sure he's a symbol for something -- but his lines in the movie were spoken like he was giving a speech. It didn't feel real in the slightest. There's one point where he's doing a voice-over narration that made me laugh out loud when I shouldn't have.

The film runs a little long, but it ends on a surprisingly different note than I thought which intrigued me to be sure. The flick is certainly not for everyone...there's not a lot of action...lots of talking...some very odd camera shots by the director...but if you're in the mood for an "interesting" movie, Blindness might fit that criteria.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

I'm Changing My Mind...Got a Problem with That?

I recently changed the ratings of a few flicks that I saw earlier in the year (Coraline and Monsters vs. Aliens). It's not that I liked these film any less...not that my opinions changed on them or anything like that.

It's simply that as I see more movies, I'm able to gain a little perspective on what constitutes an "A" or a "B" or a "C" in terms of a "rating." I'm adjusting my critical rubric or scale, you could say.

Not that any one of the five people reading this really cares (and not that it's even remotely important), but I thought I'd let it be known. The "new" ratings can be seen in the sidebar under Top Films of 2009.

A Book a Week - East of Eden

Book Seventeen of the Book-A-Week Quest

East of Eden
by John Steinbeck (1952)

I read Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men early on in my Book-a-Week Quest and it was a very short, incredibly nondescriptive book that had the ability to create a lot of power with very few words. East of Eden is a very long, hugely descriptive novel that also creates a lot of power, but does so over the course of over 600 pages.

Although this could be the wrong terminology, East of Eden was what I would call an epic -- a tale of two families intertwined over multiple generations, each yearning to create a better future while, at the same time, dealing with indiscretions of the past from which they can't seem to shake free. Of the two families, the book's focus is on the Trask clan, and the book is essentially broken apart into two segments, with section one dealing with brothers Adam and Charles and section two dealing with Adam's sons, Cal and Aron. Both sets of brothers absolutely mirror the Cain and Abel story from the Bible, in which Cain kills Abel because God favored Abel over him. In both generations of the Trask family, one son (the Cain of the clan) feels a lack of love from his father (symbolizing God), leading him to do whatever he can to gain that love.

Various characters weave in and out of the Trask men's lives, the most intriguing of which is Cathy/Kate, a ruthlessly evil woman hellbent on doing anything she needs to do to have control over everything. A conniving whore (literally), Cathy/Kate (who happens to be Adam's estranged wife and the mother of his two sons) is likely reminiscent of the biblical Eve in that she tempts men into sin. Also fascinating was the character of Lee, a Chinese servent of Adam Trask who essentially raises Adam's two sons. Full of wisdom and heart, Lee becomes a father to all the Trasks (Adam included) and helps them sort out their various issues.

To me, the biggest theme of East of Eden (besides the struggle of good vs. evil within all of us) was that of being forced into a mold as a child, and, as one grows older, desiring to break out of the mold, but being unable to do so. The fathers in the novel were always trying to shape their sons into what they wanted them to be, or the sons were desperately trying to become whatever their fathers wanted them to be. This yearning to please others creates the inability to live a life of happiness.

Two lines in particular stood out to me in the book enough to write them down...

"There's a responsibilty in being a person. It's more than just taking up space where air would be."


"Can you think that whatever made us would stop trying?"

The first one was simply a throwaway line in a short two sentence paragraph. I realize it's rather simplistic, but for some reason, it stood out to me. The last one, in particular, got to me a lot. It was on the third to last page of the book and when I read it, I re-read it because it was extraordinarily powerful to me. It was kind of a "Wow" moment that hit me in a very spiritual way.

If I were to fault the book, it would be the beginning was a little drawn out (it makes sense in the overall "epicness" of the novel, but it was a struggle to read) and the end happened much too quickly. There were scenes at the end of the novel that were discussed after they happened, but the reader never got to witness these scenes themselves. I wanted to see confrontations, not be told about them -- I felt like I earned that or something after reading all that I read.

Still, nevertheless, East of Eden was an excellent book, and I'm fairly confident that I can say John Steinbeck is now my favorite author. I am eagerly looking forward to reading another book by him.

Just a little side note here -- this is my my second Oprah's Book Club selection (whoopie!) and the longest book so far in the Quest.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Movie Review - State of Play (2009)

starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, and Jeff Daniels
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Tony Gilroy
Directed by Kevin MacDonald

I really want to like movies like State of Play. Smart thrillers are my favorite genre (I can thank Alfred Hitchcock for that). Because of that, I'll be the first to admit that I'm sometimes overly critical of thrillers. That being said, this one was a bit of a let-down.

Russell Crowe is Cal McAffrey, a reporter for the Washington Globe, who gets put on the story of the murder of Congressman Stephen Collins's aide. The Congressman (played by Affleck), who was having an affair with the aide, happens to be Cal's buddy from college. Although they're friends, there's a somewhat shaky history there as Cal has slept with Rep. Collins's wife (Wright Penn) long ago. Afraid that Cal will be unable to fully focus on the story because of the personal connection, the Globe's editor (Mirren) puts budding reporter Della (McAdams) on the case with him. There's a whole bunch of deception and a few twists here and there to keep the audience on their toes.

The acting, for the most part, was all well above average. Crowe was quite good (the role was originally supposed to be Brad Pitt's, but he dropped out a week before shooting...I can't imagine Pitt in that role). Affleck is decent as well. I could stare at Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren all day (yes, I know Helen Mirren has to be at least 60, but I think she's hot..sue me...and I've been crushing on McAdams since Red Eye). Despite their attractiveness, only Mirren succeeds in this flick as the bitchy, powerful editor. McAdams was given a stereotypical role and she wasn't able to rise above it...some of her line readings and body language were laughable. There's also a great cameo from Jason Bateman as a sleezeball who holds a key to unraveling the mystery of the aide's death.

It's a shame that with the great acting, there couldn't be a great script for them to work with. The film starts out promisingly enough, but the middle 45 minutes are filled with nothing but leads that turn out to be red herrings for our two reporters. And the end twist...I didn't really care. Even though I didn't really see it coming, it was obvious (if that makes sense...it doesn't, I know). Which, in one respect is a good thing because the writers weren't trying to twist the story into something implausible. But on the other hand, there didn't really need to be any twist at all. It kind of fell flat instead of being a "Holy crap!" moment. I will give the film credit, however, for being neither too simplistic nor incredibly confusing. In a lot of these thrillers aimed at adults, writers feel like they need to be constantly be testing the viewers' memories...and then I feel stupid for not remembering peoples' names or how they fit into the plot. This film found a very good balance at being neither too easy nor too difficult to follow.

Still, despite the somewhat lower rating below, I'd recommend this movie solely for the acting chops on display. Add to that, it's a smart adult thriller and I'd rather see more of them than most of the junk that's out in theaters today.

The RyMickey Rating: C+

Movie Review - Obsessed (2009)

Starring Idris Elba, Beyoncé Knowles, Ali Larter, and Jerry O'Connell
Written by David Loughery
Directed by Steve Shill

The fact that the original title of this movie was Oh No She Didn't should tell you something. If they had kept that title, at least I could've said that the studio knew they had shit on their hands with this film. Changing it to the boring Obsessed, unfortunately, gives away that this is the most generic of "thrillers" that brings absolutely nothing new to the table.

Derek Charles (Elba) is a successful businessman who has a wonderful wife, Sharon (Beyoncé), and a cute kid. A perfect life. His world is turned upside down when a new temp, Lisa (Larter), is hired at his office. She's hot (apparently...because we're told that multiple times) and she wants to get with Derek from the get-go -- She'll screw him by a urinal in the men's room -- she doesn't care because she's that cra-a-a-a-zy!!! When Derek says "No", Lisa doesn't take that for an answer and sets out to ruin his life.

Obsessed is essentially a Lifetime movie with a bigger budget so that Beyoncé can wear boots with 8-inch heels and have a bunch of different weaves for her hair. I was watching this flick and couldn't help but think I had written something like this in sixth grade. In fact, back in middle school, I remember writing a "book" called "FRIeND" (don't ask me why the 'e' was lower-cased...it just was) about a girl who turned into this obsessive nut and tried to kill everyone who wouldn't let her be friends with some particular girl. I mean, I wrote this 100-page "book" in middle school that was just as good as this.

And it's not just the script that's a failure. The direction is atrocious. There are scenes where someone is talking and there were seemingly five cuts before the person was even done speaking their lines. Just cut, cut, cut, cut cut. And don't even get me started on the scene where Derek is drunk and for some reason the camera gets all fuzzy. Now, if the camera were showing things from Derek's perspective, that'd be one thing (we've all seen that shot before). But the camera was looking at Derek...it was weird and wrong. We get music-video interludes, too...montages set to generic R&B songs.

As for the actors, Idris Elba is as dull as can be. He was an extraordinarily boring presence onscreen. That being said, he's no match for the awfulness that is Ali Larter. Ms. Larter is one of the reasons I stopped watching the tv show Heroes (well...her acting and the fact that the show was awful in general). How this woman has acting jobs is beyond me. I mean, it's not like she's even that good-looking. She's incredibly generic in terms of her looks (I realize I've been throwing around the term "generic" a lot in this review, but that's what everything about this movie was). When Beyoncé is the best actor in the movie, you know there's something wrong.

My biggest problem with the film is this....WARNING...THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD...

Beyoncé's "wife character" has a very small role in the first 80 minutes of the film. She's essentially seen talking on the phone to her hubby. Her role is minimal. For the end fight scene, however, it's all about Beyoncé fighting Lisa (sure, I could've said Sharon fighting Lisa, but let's be honest here...Beyoncé's just being Beyoncé...she's not really playing a character). Anyway, it's a showdown between the two broads. The sole reason for this is simply for the presumably African American female audience that will flock to this film to be able to yell a series of "You go, girl's" at the screen. I don't mean that in any type of negative way...it's just that has to be the only reason it ended like it ended. The husband was completely absent from the climax of the film...and the whole film up until that point was about him. And the final shot of the film...a freeze frame on Beyoncé. Why?!?!?! If the movie was about her, put her in it more! (On second thought, don't do that, please.)

I will say that I wasn't necessarily bored during this movie. I wasn't constantly looking at my watch...and that's an enigma to me...because this movie really wasn't the least bit good. For some reason, though, it kept my attention. Because of that, it escaped the dreaded 'F' grade that Mamma Mia and Lakeview Terrace were unable to elude.

The RyMickey Rating: D-

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Movie Review - Quarantine (2008)

***Available on DVD***
Starring Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez, Greg Germann, and Denis O'Hare
Written by John Erick Dowdie and Drew Dowdie
Directed by John Erick Dowdie

Horror movies are typically not my favorite genre.  I always find myself seemingly able to see every "scare" before it happens.  Add to that, stupid characters played by awful actors and I usually finish a horror flick and tell myself, "I just wasted  two hours of my life."

Fortunately, Quarantine did not feel like a waste of 90 minutes.  This is absolutely a very effective, taut, exciting thriller.  Told in the same shaky first-person camera vein as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, this flick is a welcome addition to the "revival" of the zombie flick in recent years (28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead).

Angela Vidal (Carpenter) is a reporter for a local news station who, along with her cameraman, Scott (Harris), decide to follow around a fire department for a "Day in the Life" type segment.  Called into action, Angela and Scott follow fireman Jake (Hernandez) into an apartment complex only to find themselves quarantined there by the CDC.  Some type of virus has broken out in the building causing people to essentially go apeshit.

With the exception of the first 10 minutes that detail the "regular" life of the firemen (everyone in that segment seemed way too forced and unbelievable), the acting is all top-notch.  It certainly helps that the characters aren't forced into doing stupid things by the writers.  Everything that happens here -- reactions, dialogue -- seems fully authentic (well, you know, with the exception of the flesh-eating zombies).

The RyMickey Rating: B   

Movie Review - Earth (2009)

Narrated by James Earl Jones
Written and directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield

From 1948-1960, the Walt Disney Company released a series of seventeen "True-Life Adventures" -- essentially documentaries that told "a story" of some aspect of nature. The series won eight Academy Awards and, although it was only moderately successful, the theme was close to Uncle Walt's heart.

On this Earth Day 2009 comes a modern attempt by Disney to replicate (and enhance) the success of those True-Life Adventures. Released under the new banner Disney Nature, Earth undoubtedly achieves what it sets out to do -- provide a basic look at the wildlife across our planet.

The stories of three animals -- a family of polar bears, and a mother and child elephant and whale -- are interspersed with quick looks at tropical birds, Arctic lynx, migrating deer, and more. All these animals are beautiful to look at, but the viewer never gets to look at them for long. Yes, it's true that the film is aimed at the pre-school, lower-school audience, but I wanted to learn more -- why did the whales have to swim to the Antarctic, why did the elephants not just stay where the water was for the whole year? It was much too basic for anyone over the age of 10.

But why dwell on the bad? There's too much good about Earth to focus on the one big negative. Nearly every shot is beautiful. There are a few that left me wondering, "Why the heck was that in there," but for the most part, it's an absolutely stunning film to view. When you add a swelling, melodic, and powerful music score (by George Fenton) to the fascinating visuals, you get an enjoyable 90 minutes of film.

I also very much liked the fact that the film doesn't force the "conservation" theme down the viewer's throat. Yes, it touches on the fact that ice caps are melting and deserts are getting bigger every year, but overall, it didn't make me feel like an awful person since I don't recycle as much as I should.

Is the film simplistic? Yes, too much so. But its aim is not to be a biting commentary on the world today. Its aim is to introduce young kids to a world outside their backyard by showcasing some absolutely amazing images. DisneyNature's first foray into the cinema is perfect in that regard.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Monday, April 20, 2009

Classic Movie Review - The Letter (1940)

The Letter
Starring Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, and James Stephenson
Written by Howard Koch
Directed by William Wyler

"If you love a person, you can forgive anything"

This movie has been on my Netflix queue for a long time (how I found out about it, I have no clue), so when I saw it was showing on Turner Classic Movies, I jumped at the chance to finally watch it. I was not disappointed.

Bette Davis gives a powerhouse performance here. I tend to think of Davis as a great actress, but rather harsh in her delivery. Here, she's quite subdued, while still maintaining that hint of sharpness in her character. Davis is Leslie Crosbie and when we first see her, she has a gun in her hand and is shooting a man outside of her cottage in Malaya (now Mayalasia...a little Wikipedia search told me that this was a British colony at the time). Why she did it is unknown and is only gradually revealed, and the director and writer both did wonderful jobs of maintaining suspense and tension.

With her husband by her side, Leslie must face trial for her crime, but has assured everyone that she killed in self-defense. While initially believed to be telling the truth, her lawyer becomes aware of a letter Leslie wrote (hence the movie title) that shines a new light on the crime...one that may prove Leslie is not as innocent as once expected.

The movie is a thriller, but in an old school sense. Tension arises from the actors, their line readings, and their facial expressions. Helped by a beautiful Asian-tinged melodramatic (not in a bad way) 40s style musical score by Max Steiner, director William Wyler has crafted a great looking movie. His use of shadows, lingering shots, and the way he frames scenes is certainly admirable.

With a brisk 90-minute running time, this is a perfect starting movie for those interested in discovering what classic 40s melodrama is all about.

The RyMickey Rating: A-

New Format, Part II

Because it is nicer for posts to be on the left than on the right...

Plus, the blue is soothing...aren't you soothed?

And, although this won't mean anything to anyone, there's a little "Hidden Mickey" in the generic Header...at the upper left...those three "squares" forming a quasi-Mickey head...

Yeah, it's a stretch, I know...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Theatre Review - Hay Fever

Hay Fever

written by Noël Coward
directed by John Going
When: Saturday, April 18, 2pm
Where: Thompson Theatre at the Roselle Center for the Performing Arts (University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware)
Type: Play, Comedy, Professional Theatre

Bear with me here...since I don't see much theatre, these theatre reviews are much tougher to write...

University of Delaware's professional acting troupe concludes their first season with British playwright Noël Coward's comedy Hay Fever -- a tale of the eccentric Bliss family who welcomes four guests to their country home for the weekend.

The problem with comedies (whether as a movie or as a play) is that sometimes it's difficult to differentiate where the fault lies if there's a lack of comedy -- Is it the actors or the script? And that's kind of how I felt with this one. There was definitely humor (oops, sorry, this is British...humour) and I certainly laughed quite a bit (especially after the first 20 minutes), but, in the end, the play's not really about a darn thing. Which is fine. It's a comedy. But in the grand scheme of things, looking back on it, there really wasn't much that happened in the 140-minute run time.

For the most part, the troupe of actors was quite good. Kathleen Tague as the matriarch, Judith, was certainly the star. Sure, she was over-the-top, but as a retired actress, it was a perfect fit. By the time Act II started, I was eagerly awaiting her scenes. Similarly, Mic Matarrese's portrayal of Richard, an initially uppity diplomatic houseguest, makes the absolute most of a smaller role. Some of his line readings were laugh-out-loud funny. Another amusing turn came from Sara Valentine's Jackie, an uncomfortably shy, unintelligent "flapper-ish" girl, who had the ability to make me laugh without saying a word.

The set and costumes were great. While I've only seen one Broadway "play," I'd think that this little troupe could certainly rival what you'd see in NYC in terms of set design. I'm actually quite amazed at this theater group's ability to produce such elaborate scenery and garb...I'm sure they plop down quite a bit of money in these areas of the production.

While I didn't love the play, it's tough to complain for $14 worth of live theater (and it's especially worth it when you think that seeing a 3D movie at the movie theater is $14). The group certainly puts a lot of effort into this and there are definitely some winning performances and nice little touches (don't get up and go to the bathroom during the two intermissions...their way of changing scenery in between acts was very, very clever and a perfect fit). I'm definitely hooked on UD's Resident Ensemble Players...it is certainly a cheap way to open up my mind to theatrical productions that I would've never even thought of going to see.

Coming Attractions

500 Days of Summer - Final Trailer

I know I posted this the last time I did a trailer round-up, but this movie is quickly becoming my most anticipated of the summer. The scene in the trailer where they're dancing and an animated bird lands on his finger...awesomeness.

The Hurt Locker
I'm ready for a good war movie.

Great cast here...Jason Bateman, Kristin Wiig, J.K. Simmons, Mila Kunis, Ben Affleck, and Clifton Collins, Jr. (seriously, this guy is everywhere now...Sunshine Cleaning, Crank 2)...written by the Office Space/King of the Hill guys.

Friday, April 17, 2009

New Format


The reason for the change is that I felt like the old format felt a little too "cramped" in terms of the way things were posted...it seemed like I was only getting ten words (if that) to a line. This one's a little more stretched out.

What do my three loyal readers think? Back to the old? Try this for a bit?

Movie Review - Crank: High Voltage (2009)

***Updated the rating 1:00 4/17/09 and again on 9/16/09***
Starring Jason Statham and Amy Smart
Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor

"I'm gonna go floss my teeth with some pubes."

Seriously...that's a line from this flick. One would think that with a line like that, there's no way I could possibly like it. And you'd be right. Crank: High Voltage is a really awful movie. But it's also a movie that doesn't take itself the least bit seriously and is completely in on the joke. And because of that, it succeeds at simply being entertaining.

The story picks up immediately where the first Crank left off. Hit man Chev Chelios has fallen out of a helicopter, landed on a car, and survived. Immediately after landing, he is literally scraped off the ground with a shovel and taken to some Asian gang's headquarters where they remove his heart and replace it with an artificial one...for, you see, since Chev's heart could survive that fall, this Asian gang wants to place the heart in their 100 year-old leader. Well, Chev ain't too happy about this. He wants his heart back, but the problem is that the artificial heart only has enough battery power to last for an hour, so he needs to do whatever he can to give himself a shock and pump electricity into his body...whether that be tasering himself, grabbing high voltage wires, or having sex in public (you know, fornication is a haven for static electricity, of course). [Side Note: Why they needed this public sex scene is completely unknown to me. They do the exact same thing in the first movie...and the scene in this one literally feels like it goes on forever. Easily my least favorite scene in the movie because the writers definitely copped out by repeating something that was humorous the first time, but overkill the second.]

Now, if one were black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, or a woman, one would probably find this movie incredibly offensive...and I can't say they'd be wrong. Not falling into any of those categories, I couldn't help but laugh at every single thing onscreen. At first, you think, "Man, this movie is awful," but then about 30 minutes in, you realize that this movie wants to make you laugh. It's purpose is to be as ridiculous as possible (hence the fight scene where Chev and some other guy literally turn from humans into oversized, giant puppets and fight by picking up electrical towers and going Godzilla on each other).

It's like an 80-minute long Cartoon Network Adult Swim show. Super-crazy, making no sense whatsoever, but for some unknown reason, incredibly entertaining.

Is Crank: High Voltage a good movie? Not in the slightest. But I can't help but like it (at least, I think I can't help but like it).

The RyMickey Rating: B or D
(...Depending how I feel at the moment...I keep reading reviews and they describe scenes and I think, "Wow, that scene was awful.")

UPDATED RATING (9/16/09): B+

Thursday, April 16, 2009

TV Review - Arrested Development Season One

SEASON ONE -- 2003-2004
starring Jason Bateman, Portia DeRossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jessica Walter

Raves...nothing but raves...that's all I heard before I started watching this series. I would hear lines from it repeated at work. I would see dances from it re-enacted at work. I would be forced to listen to incessant humming of "The Final Countdown", having the tune get stuck in my head for hours after.

So, was it worth it to watch the 22 episodes of Season One of this critically acclaimed (though low-rated) tv series? Yes, it was worth it. Am I falling head over heels for it? Not in the slightest.

With the head of the Bluth household in jail for fraud, son Michael (Bateman) needs to take over the company from his incarcerated pop (Tambor). Meanwhile, Michael's mother (Walters), sister(DeRossi), and two brothers (Arnett and Hale) wreak havoc on his goal of getting the company fully operational again.

While it is certainly true that the episodes build off of each other and reference former episodes, I found that humor was surprisingly lacking. Yes, there were moments where I laughed out loud, but there were also seemingly whole episodes where I barely cracked a smile. I could say that it's too smart for me, but I think that's selling myself short. I'm not sure that there's laugh-out-loud comedy here.

There were certainly some hilarious moments -- guest star Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a blind attorney had me laughing hysterically, Jessica Walter's biting line readings were a hoot (and when she paired with guest Liza Minelli, it's extra special), and the Annyong character makes me laugh just thinking about him -- but these moments off absolute hilarity were few and far between.

I don't know...I feel like I laugh more watching a rerun of Home Improvement than I did watching this. Maybe it is too sophisticated for me. That being said, I'm sure that a huge issue that I have with it is that this series could never live up to the expectations and accolades it received.

Still, I plan on watching Season Two for sure, because it was definitely a decent tv show...but at this point, not a great one.

Favorite Episodes
- Justice Is Blind -- Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a blind attorney; her scene with brother-in-law Tobias (Cross) had me keeling over in laughter.
- Pier Pressure -- Michael's son, George Michael (Cera), tries to buy drugs for his uncle, unaware that his father is setting him up to teach him a lesson.
- Missing Kitty - Brother Gob performs his big magic trick of making the Bluth family yacht disappear, but may have also inadvertently killed the Bluth secretary in the process.

RyMickey's Season One Overall Rating: B-

Movie Review - Son of Rambow (2007)

***Available on DVD***
starring Bill Milner, Will Poulter, and Jules Sitruk
Written and directed by Garth Jennings

The premise in this one is incredibly simple.  When Will (Milner), a young boy whose strict religion does not permit him to watch tv or go to movies, meets up with bad boy Lee (Poulter), they decide to make a movie inspired by Rambo: First Blood.  The odd pairing starts off on shaky ground, but they soon discover that they quickly become friends and have more in common than they'd thought.

I went into this little British comedy with high expectations for some reason and it unfortunately didn't live up to them.  It's certainly not because of the actors.  Both young stars Milner and Poulter are quite good...Milner in particular.  A simple smile from Milner made me laugh.  

The problem is that there's really not much to the film.  It's cute, but there's nothing there.  There's very little conflict here to drive the story and it makes the quick 90-minute film drag.  While there are certainly some very creative scenes in the film (particularly when Will's imagination is "displayed" on screen), for the majority of the running time, every shot is too simple.  It just is there...kind of blah.  And blah is exactly how I felt when it was over.

If you want an excellent British flick involving kids, check out Danny Boyle's Millions...there's a winner.  Son of Rambow, not so much.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Monday, April 13, 2009

Movie Review - Rachel Getting Married (2008)

***Available on DVD***
starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie Dewitt, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Mather Zickel, Tunde Adebimpe, and Debra Winger

written by Jenny Lumet
directed by Jonathan Demme

The term voyeur carries a negative connotation.  The idea of a "peeping Tom" automatically makes one think of a creepy guy sneakily following you around watching your every move.  It absolutely conjures up a sense of uneasiness.

That's how I felt when watching Rachel Getting Married.  I was watching something I really shouldn't be privy to -- the inner workings of a family that isn't nearly as happy as they'd like you to think they are.  And as I snuck into this liberal Connecticut family's home and hid behind the doors or the sofas, I was certainly uncomfortable, but I was absolutely captivated by what I witnessed.

Kym is a recovering drug addict, leaving a stint in rehab to return home for her sister's wedding.  As a fellow friend from rehab says, seeing one's family is one of the hardest things for an addict to do.  Kym's father dotes on her profusely, going over the top in trying to make her feel at home.  The bride-to-be, her sister Rachel, greets her much more warily, unsure of "which Kym" may be arriving home.  And Kym herself finds the whole thing quite an ordeal.  There is joy in the family upon her arrival, but there is also incredible pain -- pain that is revealed ever so slowly in Jenny Lumet's truly fascinating script.  Lumet creates a family that (although unlike any family I know, and, to be completely honest, a family that would be way too "weird" for me to ever find enjoyable) feels so incredibly realistic that it truly feels like you are watching a documentary of sorts.

That documentary feel is certainly achieved, in part, because of Jonathan Demme's direction.  Although he must have shot with handheld cameras, the footage is never jumpy or shaky.  The camera is always where it needs to be in order to achieve the greatest emotional impact.  At times, it really is voyeuristic, looking at a room from afar.  Then, he'll switch things up, moving uncomfortably close to the drama.  Some really exquisite work here.

And then there are the actors.  How this ensemble was not nominated for Best Ensemble at the Screen Actor's Guild is beyond me.  This is the best collection of folks I've seen onscreen in years.  Starting with the "star," Hathaway strips herself of the sweetie-pie persona that's so well known and totally inhabits the addled recovering Kym.  Dewitt's Rachel is a perfect counter -- seemingly rational, but hiding much pain inside over a past family tragedy.  And then there's the absolutely fantastic Bill Irwin as Kym and Rachel's father.  Probably my favorite in the film, Irwin is obviously a father who wants the best for both his daughters, but is completely oblivious to what he needs to do in order to create happiness in his family.  There's a scene in the family's living room with these three great actors where Rachel confronts Kym about her role in the accident that caused her family so much sorrow that was simply riveting.  And then the scene that comes after that with Kym and her mother (Debra Winger in a tricky role)...wow, just wow.

If I had to fault the film on one thing, it would be that the wedding party scene goes on much too long.  However, that's where the voyeuristic nature of the film blasts full throttle.  We, as moviegoers, are actually there -- watching this family celebrate, watching this family cry, watching this family come to terms with what it means to be a family despite whatever cards they are dealt.

The RyMickey Rating: A 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Classic Movie Review - Easter Parade (1948)

starring Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, and Anne Murray
screenplay by Sidney Sheldon, Frances Goodrich, and Albert Hackett

directed by Charles Waters"In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter parade."

Easter Parade is a stereotypical 1940s musical if there ever was one. It's got your dance sequences that are only there to show that Fred Astaire can dance. It's got your typical scene where they showcase "elegant fashion" simply for no other reason than to showcase "elegant fashion" (Lord knows, it has nothing to do with the plot and all and brings the movie to a dead halt). It's got a final 40 minutes that are simply there to "put on a stage show" and not advance the plot in the slightest.

Sure, these things are laughable nowadays, but for the most part, Easter Parade works as a film and that certainly has a lot to do with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. Right at the very beginning, Astaire is seen walking down the street singing "Happy Easter" to people, and I couldn't help but smile. Sure, it's corny as hell, but Astaire sells it. And Judy Garland is definitely a stunning presence onscreen. I admittedly have not seen many of her films, but she certainly delivered in this one.

The plot is super simple. Astaire is Don who has been working with Nadine (Ann Miller) for years as part of a dancing/singing duo. Nadine, however, wants to go solo and she leaves Don. A sullen and angry Don finds young dancer Hannah (Garland) at a bar/club and hires her on the spot to join him onstage. Will Don be able to mold Hannah into the dancer she needs to be in order to succeed on Broadway? Only time will tell (although, let's be honest, it's Judy Garland...she's the star...there's not much tension here...you know she's gonna "make it on Broadway").

Now, it's not a perfect movie...There are the faults that I mentioned in the first paragraph that definitely bring the film to a near stop an hour in. But the first hour is genuinely entertaining and lovely to look at. Director Waters allows his camera to linger on certain scenes which seemed to me to be unusual for 1940s musicals...there are whole verses and choruses that he allows the actors to sing without making cuts and it made for some interesting shots.

Overall, it was certainly a fitting movie to watch today (thanks, Turner Classic Movies), and it definitely made me interested to see some of Judy Garland's other work.

The RyMickey Rating: B

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Movie Review - Sunshine Cleaning (2009)

Starring Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Clifton Collins, Jr., and Jason Spevack

Written by Megan Holley
Directed by Christine Jeffs

Little indie movies always have to work harder for me to enjoy them for some reason. They need to overcome the smaller budget and grainier look with a stellar story. The main storyline of Sunshine Cleaning -- dealing with two sisters who form a business specializing in cleaning up after crime scenes -- is entirely amusing. Unfortunately, it is the secondary plots that cause the movie to falter a bit.

Amy Adams is quickly becoming an actress that I would see in anything. She has a charisma onscreen that is winning and captivating, and as Rose she absolutely becomes the character. Similarly, Emily Blunt as younger sister Norah was Norah...I never felt like I was watching actresses onscreen at all. Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins, Jr., also provided some good supporting work. On the other hand, in the case of Alan Arkin (as the two ladies' father), I couldn't help but think I was watching an actor. Arkin was simply playing the same character he played in Little Miss Sunshine. It certainly didn't help that the subplot surrounding Arkin's Joe trying to find success in various odd business ventures dragged down the movie. I didn't care at all about Joe. The same could be said for the subplot surrounding Lynn (Rajskub) as a woman who Blunt's Norah befriends after the two sisters clean up after the suicide of Lynn's mother. Completely unnecessary, it completely brought the movie to a halt whenever Rajskub was onscreen.

Those subplots are incredibly unfortunate because the general story is a great one and had such comedic potential. The movie was fairly short as it was, but I feel like if it was 30 minutes shorter without the extraneous secondary stories, it could've been a great movie. Unfortunately, it was only an average movie bolstered by winning performance from Amy Adams.

The RyMickey Rating: C+

Friday, April 10, 2009

Angry Old Man Rant #1

Please join me for an occasional series that will showcase the fact that I am becoming a crotchety old man as I head into my (God help me) late twenties (head into?...I'm already there...).

So, I'm driving down the road at 10:30 last night and an SUV pulls out in front of me.  Now, I had plenty of time to slow down, but it was obvious that he shouldn't have pulled out in front of me...there wasn't enough time for him to comfortably speed up.  Alright, but, whatever...road rage is not something this old man really experiences. 

I notice that he's got those two tv screens in his SUV.  Now, whenever I see those tv screens in the car, I always try to pull up close to them and see if I can figure out what they are watching that's so exciting that they can't get from Point A to Point B without watching a television in their car (in the olden days, people would drive 16 hours to Florida with only activity books that came with those nifty "magic pens" that made stuff appear on the page and music tapes of Raffi and they'd have a good time doing it, dagnammit!).  Now, up until this point, I had only seen these tv's so that they could be viewed by those in the backseat.

But, I pull up close to this guy and the tv screens are on the damn visors of the driver's and passenger's seat.  The front seats!  This guy's driving down the road with his visor down watching a frickin' video?

Driving...and watching tv at the same time!

Okay, well, (A) that's not exactly the safest thing to do, and (B) you really couldn't live without tv for ten minutes?  I mean when this guy pulled out in front of me, he was coming out of some neighborhood, and when I passed him, he was going into some neighborhood only three minutes down the road.  For those mere minutes, you had to have your tv turned on?

I can't imagine this is legal.  Is it?  A tv on your frickin' car visor?  I mean, really, isn't that just an accident waiting to happen?

...And that's why I'm becoming an angry old man...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Movie Review - Don't Look Down (No mires para abajo) (2009)

***Available on DVD***

starring Leandro Stivelman and Antonella Costa

written and directed by Eliseo Subiela

Having never heard of this movie before, the only reason I watched this is because a buddy saw it at the Philly Film Festival and thought it was good. Me, being jealous that he went to the Philly Film Festival looked up all the movies he saw on Netflix and was surprised that this one was actually already available to watch on dvd. So, although I didn't get to go to the Festival, I could kind of pretend like I did by watching this Argentinean film right away. And, adding to the excitement was the fact that the buddy mentioned above actually liked this one.

Well...despite the fact that I was able to stare at some lovely breasts for 60 minutes, there was not much to this film at all. Seriously, it was two people having sex, late-night Cinemax (pardon, Skinemax) style with the requisite bad ethnic music in the background. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, these sex scenes were certainly erotically charged and I guess the sex meant something in this (more than in the aforementioned Skinemax movies, at least) but, in the end, I really didn't get what it meant...even though I'm 100% certain that the director was trying to get it to mean something.

I thought that the lead guy (Steivelman) was an atrocious actor. I mean, I'll give him credit (along with the girl) for being naked the whole time. I agree that it's bound to be uncomfortable...but I was watching it and, no joke, I honestly felt like he was mildly mentally challenged -- there's a scene of him driving down the road on his bike and his awkward facial expressions made me crack up (I don't think I was supposed to either, although who knows when it comes to these wacky Argentineans). The gal (Costa) was an infinitely better actress than the guy was, and, since they shared a lot of scenes together, it made him look awful.

There was a ton of meta-physical mumbo-jumbo and some weird "mental traveling" thing, but that was all much too odd for me.

Now, I will say that if I went to a Film Festival, for some odd reason, this is exactly the kind of funky film I'd expect to have seen. I may have even liked it more had I seen it in that context. But in the context I saw it in, it was not very good at all.

The RyMickey Rating: D
(and, let's be honest here, the only reason it rated that high was because of the nice boobs)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

We Are the Champions

Who cares the the rings were incredibly ostentatious?  It's still pretty damn cool that a hometown team can wear championship rings.

The Phillies Ring Ceremony happened this afternoon.  True, what kind of fan am I, since I forgot.  But, I did get to watch the replay a few minutes ago, and, admittedly, it was kinda cool to see everyone out on the field (loved the extra applause for Joe Blanton, Matt Stairs, and a seriously humbled Jamie Moyer).  

Then, to follow that up with a win this afternoon...sure, it helped that the Braves allowed the Phils to literally walk right over home plate six times, but it was a nice cap to a day that doesn't come often enough in Philly.

We'll forget about the fact that the Phils' offense still needs some work (although that is showing some life) and that Myers, Moyer, and Blanton haven't looked so hot so far...we'll forget about it for today at least.

Movie Review - Duplicity (2009)

Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Tom Wilkinson

Written and Directed by Tony Gilroy

Despite the fact that there are four really good actors in Duplicity (and, yes, I am including Julia Roberts in that bunch), this spy "comedy" just sits there onscreen, not really doing a thing to engage the viewer.

Roberts and Owen are Claire and Ray, two corporate spies who, after meeting and falling in love, team up to try and swindle their bosses (Wilkinson and Giamatti) out of as much money as possible. But are they also playing each other in this game, or do they truly care for one another? The answer: I really didn't care.

Personally, I liked the way the film was set up, bouncing back and forth between present-day and flashbacks to the past. Eventually the two come together for the "big reveal," but, like I've said above, instead of being this crazy revelation, it lands with a thud.

Problem #1 was that this film tried to be a light comedy in addition to being a spy thriller and it should not have tried to do that. The laughs fell flat. There's a scene over the opening credits that is supposed to be funny, but it ends up being simply too forced and winds up just being silly. Problem #2, which branches off of the flat comedy aspect, is that Roberts and Owen had zippo chemistry. In their previous screen pairing, Closer (which I certainly recommend), they definitely both exuded a sex appeal, but in this film, I never got that they were connected in any way. They were simply Julia Roberts and Clive Owen instead of Claire and Ray. In a movie like this, sexual tension is absolutely necessary in order for the sly humor to work and there was no tension here at all.

I initially came out of this thinking that I'd give it a 'C' simply because I liked the way it looked (director Gilroy employed some cool, retro split screens) and the supporting cast was quite strong, but after thinking about it some more, I'm knocking it down a degree. Certainly disappointing.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

A Book a Week - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Book Sixteen of the Book-a-Week Quest

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers (2000)

There were parts of this book (based on true events) that I loved...the relationship between the author and his younger brother, whom he has to watch over after both their parents die within the span of a little over a month, was particularly engrossing and felt quite real. The thoughts of Dave, a guy in his mid-twenties, were similar to thoughts I would have, so I guess that helped me relate. His relationships with his mother, father, and other brother and sister also resonated.

But, when the story shifted to Dave's friends and work, I just didn't care at all. It was in those moments that he seemed incredibly full of himself, callous and uncaring, and, for lack of a better word, kind of a prick. I mean, hey, if that's the way he really is/was, so be it, but it didn't make for interesting reading.

The writing style was incredibly readable (for the most part...there were times where I thought that Eggers was simply showcasing various funky writing styles for the sake of shoving them in the reader's face). The breaking of the fourth wall (a device that I hate most of the time in movies) works incredibly well here. This "trick" could've gotten old really quickly, but Eggers uses it sparingly enough. And I saw quite a bit of similarity between this and The Things They Carried, in that both make you question what is true and what the author has made up to simply bolster his own thoughts/vision about what the book "should be about."

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I was able to. Now, I didn't dislike it in the least, and at this point in the Quest, it's definitely got a placement in the Top Ten (if not Top Five), but the book only worked in parts, not as a "whole," for me

Interesting Side Note to those who have read the book and feel some connection to the "characters" -- Dave's sister, Beth, a strong presence in the book, committed suicide in 2002. I read that, and for some reason, it made me feel kind of sad. I guess Eggers did a better job of making me connect with his family than I thought.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Movie Review -- Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

**Available on DVD**

Starring Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan
Written and Directed by Mike Leigh

What happens when you have a great actress acting in a movie that has no plot at all?

Find out by watching this flick.

There is seriously not a plot to this movie at all. Poppy (wonderfully played by Hawkins) is happy all the time. She's never sad. She wants to learn to drive. She hires a driving instructor (Marsan). He's a curmudgeon. Their personalities clash.

That's it.

Nothing else to it at all.

Two hours of nothing. How this film got nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards is beyond me.

Hawkins' performance is the only thing that makes this remotely watchable. She is great and insanely cute. She never crosses that line over to "too cute," though, and she very easily could have.

There are scenes that worked in this (the flamenco dance scene, the rather touching scene dealing with a young boy being beaten by his mother's boyfriend), but they never formed anything cohesive. There was no underlying storyline...no arc to follow.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Opening Night!

I don't ever remember being as excited about an opening night of baseball before, but for some reason, I was psyched for the Phillies' first game of the season.  

I'm sure going to the fourth game of the World Series last year and experiencing the thrill of communal excitement has something to do with it -- high-fiving complete strangers when Blanton (the freakin' pitcher!) hit a home run, listening to (and somewhat joining in) the drunks yelling "Eva!" at the Rays' Evan Longoria, laughing hysterically as "Philadelphia Legend Patti LaBelle" sang the incorrect words to the National Anthem -- all those things and more are still resonating from me from last year.

And then the completely inconsistent Brett Myers takes the mound tonight and blows it in the first two innings.  Granted, the Phils' offense didn't provide Myers any help (until an ill-fated ninth inning rally) and he admittedly looked better after the second inning, but Myers' typical unpredictability doesn't foster hope.

But hope we must have.

Then again, last season I was certainly prone to saying, "The Phillies suck."  In August and September, I was certainly the one that had no hope in this team.  

Maybe I just need to not care...or at the very least not have any faith in them...It worked last year.

Oh, well...it's just one game...161 to go...

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Movie Review -- Tell No One (Ne le dis a personne) (2007)

***Available on DVD***

Starring François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze, and Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed and Written by Guillaume Canet

I'm actually on a roll with French movies lately. First, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, then I've Loved You So Long, and now this taut thriller.

Alexandre Beck (Cluzet) was living a perfect life -- a beautiful wife, great friends (one of which is English actress Scott Thomas who proves to be incredibly fluent in French), a wonderful job as a pediatrician. And then his wife is murdered. Eight years go by and two bodies are found that cause the supposedly solved murder case to be reopened with Alex a prime suspect. As if that wasn't enough to weigh on Alex's mind, he soon receives an e-mail from his supposedly dead wife. Could she really still be alive?

It's a great premise and the film definitely delivers. The acting is spectacular by all, particularly Cluzet. He was really riveting in his portrayal of a grieving widow hellbent on finding out the truth behind his wife's murder. All the various character actors really inhabited their roles as well.

Writer-director Canet certainly delivers on the directing front. I thought the film looked great, had taut, exciting action sequences, and provided moments of heartfelt sincerity. I don't want to ruin anything, but I did have a problem with the film at about the halfway mark and my issue lasted for about 20 minutes...just a minor flaw in the story. But the film definitely picked up at the end. The end...I never really saw that one coming...twist upon twist, but they certainly did not feel forced at all. They absolutely felt like they really could've happened.

Overall, this is definitely one that you should rent. Even if you're not up on reading subtitles, give this one a shot.

The RyMickey Rating: B+

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Best movie ever? How come we're not getting this one at our theater?

"It's as if God has chosen you and if that's true, man, it's gonna tick off the devil."

Movie Review -- Twilight (2008)

NOTE: Although in the past I've lumped dvd reviews together, I've decided to flesh out some of these reviews for particularly spectacular or simply popular films.

Starring Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Written by Melissa Rosenberg

***Spoilers in this one***

I don't even know where to start with this one. This was by no means a good movie. There were so many things wrong with it that it was incredibly frustrating when I watched it.

But for some reason, I kinda sorta liked it.

And it wasn't because of the acting. Because the two leads lacked any type of charisma. Schoolgirl Stewart in particular was like a lump just sitting onscreen. Brooding vampire Pattinson started out awful, too, but he became slightly more appealing as an actor as the film progressed.

It wasn't because of the direction. I feel like I could've directed this thing better. There were scenes that were completely unnecessary. There were awkward pauses in dialogue. There were some horrifically awful shots in this thing -- one in particular that sticks in my craw is a scene where the camera pans around the two main characters in a circle, stops when it gets three-quarters of the way around, and then cuts to a shot looking at the characters straight on...um...you could have just continued that circular pan. And don't even get me started on the Matrix-ish slow motion and sped up action scenes (that baseball scene...unintentionally hilarious!). Fortunately, Hardwicke got kicked off of directing the sequel.

It wasn't because of the dialogue. With choice lines like "Hold on tight, spider monkey" and "Your scent is like a drug to me. It's like you're my own personal heroin," I was cracking up when I wasn't supposed to. And it wasn't just the dialogue...whole scenes were laughable. How about the scene where Bella drops an apple on the ground and Edward catches it with his foot and then kicks it up, catches it in his hand, and puts it on her plate? It was ridiculous when Tobey Maguire did that in Spiderman and it's still ridiculous here.

And it wasn't because of the silly ending where a rival vampire gets attracted to Bella's scent and follows her all the way from Washington to Arizona just to taste her sweet, sweet blood.

So, why the hell did I kinda sorta like this movie?

I honestly have no clue. Now, obviously this wasn't a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, and I honestly don't even think I can list off anything that I really liked about it.

But there was something weirdly appealing about the film...and I kinda sorta wanna see the sequel.

The RyMickey Rating: C-

Side Note: Can anyone explain to me the appeal of this Robert Pattinson guy?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A Book a Week - The Things They Carried

Book Fifteen of the Book-a-Week Quest

The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien (1990)

This book was recommended to me by someone at work. Although we tend to agree on a lot of things, any time this guy has raved about something, I've always been a little let down (see Slumdog Millionaire as an example). Towards the beginning of my Book-a-Week Quest, he told me about this book, and I held off reading it for months because I was certain that his opinion was going to make me like it less.

However, since I picked up the book two days ago, I never really wanted to put it down. Although a work of fiction, author O'Brien narrates the short stories about the harrowing hardships faced by an American platoon in Veitnam. Since O'Brien is a Vietnam war vet himself, you read this and imagine that it's all true...and I'm certain that many of the tales do contain bits and pieces of truth (or maybe it's all full-blown truth). And this sense of "what is true" and "what is a made-up story" is echoed throughout the book. O'Brien forces the reader to question the tales of Vietnam that you've heard, but realize that even if the stories aren't totally true, they are true to the veterans that are telling the tales...and that's all that matters. We, as a country, need to let them believe their truth.

There's an effortless, simple writing style present here that makes the book extremely accessible. Through much repetition, O'Brien absolutely gets his "points" across and in the hands of a less skillful writer, you would feel like you were being hit over the head with the same thoughts. O'Brien crafts his story in such a way that the repetition carries such emotional weight and substance.

In a lot of war movies, the members of the platoon are simply there -- they may play a certain stereotypical "role" -- "the gung-ho war-is-kick-ass one", "the wise beyond his years lieutenant," "the funny jokester," "the religious guy." While these "characters" may be present in O'Brien's work, they actually have depth and substance. They aren't just token faces -- they have names -- Rat Kiley, Jimmy Cross, Azar, Kiowa. They are people, not just symbols.

I honestly can't say enough about this book. I absolutely plan on reading this one again. Absolutely one of the best books I've ever read.