Friday, March 12, 2010

Temple Grandin (2010)

THE MOVIE: Temple Grandin (2010)

MOVIE SLOGAN: Autism gave her a vision, she gave it a voice.

* Claire Danes – Temple Grandin (best known for My So-Called Life or Juliet in William’s Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio)
* Catherine O’Hara – Aunt Ann (I remember her best as the mom in Home Alone with Macauley Caulkin)
* Julia Ormond – Temple’s Mother, Eustacia (I know her best as Lady Guinevere in First Knight with Sean Connery and Richard Gere)

BEST QUOTE(S): "Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be." – Temple Grandin

WHY THE GUYS WILL SEE IT: It has an interesting story about cattle and has cowboy-ish themes.

WHY THE LADIES WILL SEE IT: It’s an inspiring tale, a Cinderella story for the autistic.

MARKETED AS: Cinemantic Biography

SYNOPSIS: Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a small child. Before there was much known about autism, autistic children were often sent away to live in asylums. Her mother refused to believe that she wouldn’t be able to function as a normal person, and continued to work with Temple integrating her into society. With determination, she was able to attended regular schools, and college, and even excelled in her studies (with the exception of foreign language.)

Although Temple’s integration was not an easy feat, her autism allowed her to see the world in pictures, and with a whole new perspective. Working on her Aunt’s ranch, she found a fondness for ranch animals, particularly cattle. After graduating college, Temple wanted to continue studying cattle and her autism allowed her to see patterns among the animals that normal people wouldn’t recognize. This singular talent led Temple Grandin to design much more efficient and humane slaughter houses.

MY THOUGHTS: The story doesn’t sound that compelling. And to be honest, the only reason I was interested in this movie to begin with is because I have a friend, named Emily, going through vet tech school right now in Colorado. In a conversation about two months prior to this movie coming out, she had asked me if I had ever heard of Temple Grandin, and told me a few details about her. I guess Temple Grandin is a professor at Colorado State University, and teaches about autism and animal husbandry (the care of animals.) She sounded rather interesting a lo and behold, there was a special on HBO about Temple Grandin. Planning on recording it for my friend, I started watching it, and got sucked in.

My first thought was that I recognized the actress playing Temple, but couldn’t quite place her. So, I IMDB’ed her (Internet Movie Database – and holy crap, it was Claire Danes. (I missed the opening credits, so I didn’t see that Claire Danes was in this.) Last I saw Claire Danes, she was the fallen star, Yvaine, in the fantasy film Stardust. And I know her best from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and her run with My So-Called Life. She always plays a pretty, soft-spoken, yet strong female lead. And here she was in this film: loud, obnoxious, ugly, weak, and annoying! But that was her character! Her acting in this was phenomenal! Her portrayal of someone with autism was astounding. I believe that Claire Danes deserves an Emmy for her performance as Temple Grandin, and I hope she will at least be considered when the 2010 Awards come around.

As for the actual movie itself, I said before, I had no intentions of watching the movie as I was just recording it for a friend, but it sucked me in. It definitely wasn’t a topic of interest to me, and I have a hard time eating anything with a face. (Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT a vegetarian… and do love my meat, but I don’t care to think about the living ,breathing animal that was slaughtered for my nutrition.) And let’s face it, this movie is about Temple Grandin’s struggle to become a part of society and her contribution to this world is her designing slaughter houses. But it was fascinating how they portrayed the images in Temple’s mind so you could relate to her. And relating to her meant that you could relate to the animals she was studying. I was really impressed with this film.

THE VERDICT: I would say go see it in the theaters, but this wasn’t a movie that came out in the theaters. This is a movie made specifically for HBO. So, if you have HBO, I highly recommend that you On Demand it, or when it comes out on Netflix, rent it. It’s not action packed, but it is really interesting.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When in Rome (2010)

THE MOVIE: When in Rome (2010)

MOVIE SLOGAN: Did you ever wish for the impossible?

* Kristen Bell
– Beth (you’ll recognize her as Sarah Marshall from Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the TV series Veronica mars)
* Josh Duhamel – Nick (known best from TV series Las Vegas or the recent Transformers movies)
* Will Arnett – Antonio (He’s Amy Poehler new husband, and known best as Gob from TV series Arrested Development)
* Dax Shepard – Gale (Been in several slapstick comedies such as Employee of the Month, and Baby Mama. Also is engaged to co-star Kristen Bell)
* Jon Heder – Lance (The one and only Napoleon Dynamite)
* Danny Devito – Al Rousso (If you don’t know who Danny Devito is, you’ve been living in a cave for the last three decades.)

NICK: I give it a year?
BETH: I would not even give it 6 months. This marriage has the shelf life of a banana! They’ve known each other for two weeks!
NICK: That’s not even long enough to have a credit check!

WHY THE GUYS WILL SEE IT: Probably because their girlfriend has dragged them to the theater or because they have brought it home to watch.

WHY THE LADIES WILL SEE IT: Because Josh Duhamel is in it

MARKETED AS: Romantic comedy

SYNOPSIS: Beth, a curator and workaholic, has not had her luck in love yet. However, her sister has decided to marry an Italian man that she’s known for only two weeks. While at the wedding which happens to be located near the Fountania d’Amore (Fountain of Love), Beth meets Nick, who is the groom’s best man. They share a spark, but Beth quickly brushes it off when she sees another woman making advances on Nick. Sad, defeated, and heavily infused with wine, she wades into the Fountain of Love, and begins to take coins from the fountain. Although, little does Beth know that people throw coins into the fountain to hopefully fall in love. However, if someone takes the coins, then whoever the coin formally belonged to, will then fall in love with whoever took their coins. Beth takes five particular coins from the fountain. Then five particular fellows begin to pursue her and hilarious hijinks ensue, forcing Beth to take a step back from her work and consider adding love into the equation of her life.

MY THOUGHTS: This movie not artistic, it’s not really witty and it’s certainly not smart comedy, but it is very entertaining. This is what I would call and consider a brainless comedy. You don’t have to have brain cells to watch the movie. My friend, Natalie, seems to think that Kristen Bell can’t act her way out of a paper bag, but I disagree. Granted, this movie doesn’t take a whole lot of acting prowress. When you have B-actors like Dax Shepard, Jon Hedar, and Will Arnett, you know the acting quality isn’t going to be spectacular. And this is certainly one of those movies where you repeat consistently in your head, that would never happen.

But when you have a Street performing Magician (Hedar), an artist (Arnett) a narcissistic model (Shepard) and a “Sausage King” (Devito) all chasing after the same girl using their own weird antics, it makes for a pretty entertaining movie.

THE VERDICT: When in Rome! I’ll probably pick this up when it comes out on DVD just because it’s pretty funny and will make for a great movie to watch when I don’t want to have to think. But I would recommend Netflixing it before you decide that you like it or not.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Lovely Bones (2009)

THE MOVIE: The Lovely Bones (2009)

MOVIE SLOGAN: The story of a life and everything that came after…

* SAOIRSE RONAN – Susie Salmon (not quite her debut, but definitely her first major role)
* RACHEL WEISZ – Abigail Salmon (known best for her role as the mummy killing historian Evelyn O’Connell in The Mummy saga)
* MARK WAHLBERG – Jack Salmon (the one and only from the Funky Bunch)
* STANLEY TUCCI – George Harvey (known as Miranda Preistly’s fashion editor in The Devil Wears Prada and also as Julia Child’s husband in “Julie & Julia”. It appears he likes to work with Meryl Streep a lot)
* SUSAN SARANDON – Grandma Lynn (the one and only Louise from Thelma and Louise)

BEST QUOTE(S): “Grandma Lynn predicted I would live a long life because I had saved my brother. As usual, Grandma Lynn was wrong.” – Susie Salmon

WHY THE GUYS WILL SEE IT: Because it appears to be a thriller with their favorite “baller” Marky Mark.

WHY THE LADIES WILL SEE IT: Because we read the book, which was compelling, and want to see how it will be interpreted to the silver screen.

MARKETED AS: A psychological thriller murder mystery. EXECUTED AS: A drama. But for anyone who has read the book, they knew beforehand that this is not a thriller.

SYNOPSIS: Taking place in the 70s when forensics hasn’t quite been developed, a young 14 year old is murdered by her neighbor. Susie Salmon, the juvenile victim, is not quite ready to move on to heaven, and watches over her family, friends and murderer from a heaven-like purgatory. She observes her family and friends as they cope (or not cope) with her absence, and she looks over her murderer hoping for his justice.

MY THOUGHTS: Ok, so let me start with how I really don’t like the marketing for this movie. I mean, really, really, REALLY didn’t like the marketing for this movie. Nothing pisses me off more than when a movie markets itself for one thing, and it’s completely not what you expected. Seeing the previews for this movie, I was really excited to see it because I’m a big fan of the thriller and the “who dunnit” movies. So, what did I do? I got on my little Kindle and downloaded The Lovely Bones right away and started reading it.

Well, I read The Lovely Bones cover to cover (figuratively speaking, since it was technically an ebook) waiting for there to be justice given to the neighbor who takes Susie Salmon’s life. That’s why it was such a page turner, it’s a murder mystery, (although you know the killer from the get go) but you want to know if he ever gets caught. The answer? A big fat no. I was so pissed when I finished reading the book because this is NOT a story about a murderer getting justice. This is a story about the family and the friends of Susie Salmon and how they either bond or fall apart following her untimely absence. Now in all fairness, had I read this book with an empty slate and an open mind, I would think that this was a good book, BUT I was expecting A THRILLER based on the movie ads.

So, now thinking that I didn’t want to see the movie anymore, because the book was more of a tear-jerking drama instead of a thriller… but then I watched the “Sneak Peek of The Lovely Bones by HBO.” And Peter Jackson’s vision seemed intriguing and it was still instilled as a psychological thriller. So, I thought to myself, maybe they changed the book (as movies often do) and made it still into some sort of a thriller. So, I resolved to see the movie. Now, as I mentioned before, the book is not a bad book. I just felt mislead. So, my friend, Natalie and I set on to see The Lovely Bones.

So thoughts on the actual movie itself: If you’ve read the book, like I said, you know it’s not a thriller, it’s a drama. The artistic direction is incredible. The colors and the portrayal of Susie Salmon’s “heaven” is amazing and very creative. But instead of spanning 10-15 years like it does in the book, it only spans like a year to two years. So several key events are cut and repositioned and changed to make the story line fit into two hours. However, if you didn’t read the book, the movie is very confusing and actions of the characters are not given motivation. I may not have felt this aspect of the movie, but until I kept having to turn to Natalie to explain to her what wasn’t there, I realized that this is not a movie to see unless you HAVE read the book.

THE VERDICT: I would come up with a creative pun, but there’s nothing I can come up with that doesn’t sound absolutely morbid or inappropriately sexual. (I mean, really… how can you not come up with something inappropriate with a title of The Lovely Bones? It’s a bad Porno title just waiting to happen.) So, I’m just to come out and say that the movie is a decent portrayal of the book. If you haven’t read the book, it will be confusing and chaotic. If you’ve read the book, wait to rent it on Netflix or On Demand, if you haven’t read the book, wait until it’s free on a movie channel, or don’t bother.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Book of Eli (2010)

THE MOVIE: The Book of Eli (2010)

MOVIE SLOGAN: Some Will Kill To Have It. He Will Kill To Protect It.

– Eli (You know him from badass films such as American Gangster, Déjà Vu, and The Bone Collector. There’s a plethora more of his films.)
* GARY OLDMAN – Carnegie (You know him lately as Comissioner Gordan from the latest Batman films, or as Harry Potter’s Godfather, Sirius Black, and as the Russian terrorist in “Air Force One”.)
Solara (You know her from “That 70’s Show” or the receptionist from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”)

BEST QUOTE(S): “The burned the Bible because some people thought that book caused the war.” - Eli

WHY THE GUYS WILL SEE IT: Because Denzel Washington always plays a badass, and he plays a badass with a machete.

WHY THE LADIES WILL SEE IT: Because their boyfriends dragged them to it.

MARKETED AS: A post-Apocalyptic world epic journey. (And executed as marketed.)

SYNOPSIS: In a post-Apocalyptic world, Eli (Washington) has been walking West across America for 30 years since the “Big Flash.” (which is clearly the metaphor for nuclear bomb.) He has been instructed by a voice in his head to travel West while protecting a sacred book, we know as the Bible. The destination is not really known by Eli, but felt in his heart.

During his travels, he comes a across a “town” run by a corrupt man, Carnegie (Oldman.) Ironically, Carnegie is searching for the exact book Eli carries to gain personal power. Trying to “schmooze” Eli into joining his “town”” he offers up the feminine pleasures of his girlfriend’s daughter, Solara (Kunis). While this is a “family film” with the religious theme, of course, Eli is not deterred or swayed in his mission. Eli thanks the town and Carnegie for the hospitality, but while trying to continue West, not only does Solara try to be a stowaway with Eli, but also, Carnegie discovers that Eli has the book he’s been searching for and a hot pursuit and blood bath ensues. Not that I want to be a spoiler here, but can you guess who the badass is? I’ll give you a clue, Gary Oldman isn’t much of an action hero star.

MY THOUGHTS: Well, I should probably start that I may be biased. I really can’t stand apocalypse and post-apocalyptic films. Maybe it’s because personally, if the world is ending, I would want to go with it. No one wants to live in a world of anarchy, and where you may or may not be hunted for food. Personally, wouldn’t care to become the new Red Robin Bacon Tiffany burger. But regardless, I try to keep an open mind with every film that I watch.

The movie is highly entertaining with its twist on the mission at hand. Unlike, The Road with Viggo Mortensen, (I’m about to spoil “The Road,” so if you intend on seeing “The Road,” skip ahead) where their mission was to get to the coast, and then Viggo dies. I mean, really? Yeah, it was boring, and it was BAAAAAAD. BUT The Book of Eli doesn’t have that component of you needing to check your watch every 10 minutes. Again, it has lots of action, lots of Denzel Washington kicking ass with a machete, and with a concrete goal other than just travelling.

The only issue I take with this film is that I have a hard time believing that it has taken Eli 30 years to get to Carnegie’s town. I get that it’s on foot, but I can walk 4 miles in an hour. It’s roughly 3108 miles from San Francisco to Boston, MA. If I were to walk roughly 8 hours a day at 4 miles an hour, I would get to Boston in roughly 97 days. HOW does it take Eli 30 YEARS??!

But overall, it was entertaining. The twist in the end is an eyebrow raiser. Karma wins, and Carnegie gets what he deserves which always gives me a fuzzy feeling, and the cast is very well picked. Each major player played their part very well.

THE VERDICT: Not quite the nuclear bomb, but was explosive enough. Worth seeing in the theaters, but don’t know if I’ll purchase it when it comes out on DVD.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Blind Side (2009)

THE MOVIE: The Blind Side (2009)

MOVIE SLOGAN: Based on the Extraordinary True Story.

* SANDRA BULLOCK – Leigh Anne Tuohy (You know her from “Miss Congeniality”, and most recently “The Proposal”.)
* TIM McGRAW – Sean Tuohy (You know him as the hit country singer and “Friday Night Lights”)
* QUINTON AARON – “Big Mike” Michael Oher (You know him as Q from “Be Kind Rewind”)

BEST QUOTE(S): “You should get to know your players, Burt. He tested 98% in protective instincts. I said you can thank me later…. It’s later, Burt.” --Leigh Anne Tuohy
“Who would’ve thought that we'd have a black son before we knew a Democrat?” – Sean Tuohy

WHY THE GUYS WILL SEE IT: Well, there’s football in it.

WHY THE LADIES WILL SEE IT: It’s a Cinderella story. And most of us like Sandra Bullock’s acting.

MARKETED AS: A sports Rags-to-Riches story. (And actually executed as marketed.)

SYNOPSIS: This is the story of the start of Michael Oher, the All American NFL football player, who without the generosity of a wealthy family, may have never had his start. If you don’t know the story of “Big Mike” Michael Oher, it’s a real life Cinderella story. But anyone who has seen the previews should know that it’s a Cinderella story, so I’m not really giving anything away.

Michael Oher grew up in the projects of Tennessee. A private Christian high school takes a chance on Michael Oher. Of course, their pretense is that it would be un-Christian-like to not accept him, but really, you can see the athletics coach salivating and foaming at the mouth to accept Michael Oher at the school. There’s only one problem, Michael Oher’s IQ tested at 80% which puts him in the 6th percentile for intelligence. Without the grades, Michael Oher would not be eligible to play sports anyway. But meanwhile, with a science teacher taking some extra time making sure that he comprehends the material, and with the Tuohy family taking him in, giving him a roof over his head, clothes on his back, and food in his stomach, he becomes the school's best offensive left tackle. And the football field is where “Big Mike’” belongs considering he tested in the 98th percentile in protective instincts.

MY THOUGHTS: If you’re reading this, you may know by now that The Blind Side has been nominated for Picture of the Year by the Academy. To put it bluntly, there’s a reason it was nominated.

I hate to say it, but considering that the movie is all about a current football player in the NFL, this is a complete chick flick. I mean, it’s great because guys will probably drag their girlfriends, thinking that it will be all footbally, but it’s really a touching, feel good movie that the girlfriends will be able to appreciate. It left me wanting to give a huge hug to Michael Oher, who seems like the sweetest teddy bear there is. (Quinton Aaron does an amazing job, and gives a very honest performance.)

Sandra Bullock gives a surprisingly great presentation as Leigh Anne Tuohy. I’m so used to seeing her as a slapstick romantic comedy actress, so I appreciate the change of pace. Leigh Anne Tuohy seems like a complicated woman, anyway. Or so she is portrayed. She has wealth and carries herself with class, but there are times where she is pushy, and really just a big bitch. And Sandra delivers all the layers of this onion with conviction. Same goes for Tim McGraw who plays Sean Tuohy. I’m so used to seeing singers turned actors as a disaster. (Anyone remember Jessica Simpson in “Employee of the Month”?) Tim McGraw’s role wasn’t large, but he was a great supporting actor to Sandra Bullock.

Overall, the acting was great, the story is compelling and each scene where Michael Oher shows his appreciation and gratitude for clothes, food, and even a bed received leaves you willing yourself to get through the movie without grabbing for a tissue. Although, I failed. I had to grab for a tissue a few times.

THE VERDICT: This was a touchdown for me with a two point conversion. It was worth it to see in the theater, and I will definitely add this to my DVD collection.