Saturday, March 26, 2005

Alfie 

What's it all about, Alfie? The theme song from the original comes in a bit during the opening credits, but that's about all that's about. This remake stars Jude Law as the carefree love em and leave em Brit in New York, who along the way manages to leave quite a wake in his path. His various casualties and other acquaintances include Marissa Tomei (love her), Susan Sarandon (turned out to be a Susan Sarandon double-header, in very different roles), Jane Krakowski (but she doesn't sing), Omar Epps, and Nia Long. Gedde Watanabe is in there as well, as Alfie's boss at the limo company. You might remember him as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles.

Bottom line, Alfie's life is empty, lonely, unfulfilled and rather depressing. Everything he's spent his life avoiding is what makes life worth living. He basically has no one to witness his life, and no one whose life he can witness. And that's about all this movie is about.

Reality Check: The Girl's comment as the closing credits begin to roll: "That's it? That's terrible!" She enjoyed it until it was over, but she hated how it ended. We're both glad we didn't see it at the theater.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/26/2005 04:28:00 PM

Shall We Dance 

It took us three tries, but we made it through Shall We Dance. We should know better than to try to start a movie on a weeknight after I get home from class. But we finished it off this morning. I think part of the trouble also was that this movie takes a while to get going. Richard Gere is a wills & estates attorney, with two kids, married to upscale department store executive Susan Sarandon, with a beautiful house and lovely life... and who feels empty inside. His feeling that he's not happy is compounded by his guilt over not being blissful with what he has.

But every day on his way home on the train, he goes by Miss Mitzy's Dance School and sees Jennifer Lopez gazing out the window with a lonely, faraway look on her face, and he sees himself in her. I think he also sees a hot babe, but he's above all that, it turns out. He finally ventures in to the dance school one day, and his life changes. That's all the detail I'll give.

This is a story about connecting with people, those you know and those you're just meeting, and helping each other discover or uncover the passion in ourselves. It takes work, and patience, and dedication. Watching the movie takes some element of these as well, but it pays off in the end. I think Jennifer Lopez was told by the director that her character is supposed to be closed off and disappointed by life, and she translated this into "She's an automaton." She's very difficult to watch for the first maybe one-third of the movie, but then you start getting glimpses of an actual person inside, and it catches your attention. It's all good after that. Susan Sarandon has a nice secondary storyline as a woman who is confused and a little afraid of the fact that suddenly her husband seems happier for no apparent reason, and in her search to find out why she discovers a few things about herself and her own assumptions about what life is all about.

The best lesson of the film isn't in the dance studio. It's the statement that the reason and the driving force behind spending your life with someone is to be a witness to each other's lives. That's nice.

Reality Check: She agreed that it started off too slow, but that once it got going it was a good movie. She was glad we didn't see it at a theater, though. And we both think that Stanley Tucci looks much better bald. You'll have to see it for yourself.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/26/2005 04:02:00 PM
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite 

We watched this one last weekend. Eh, so-so.

Napoleon Dynamite is the favorite target of the bullies and cool kids in his small town Idaho high school, sometime in the 80s. He has a couple of friends who are equally as outcast, and the three of them try to mumble and defensive come-back their way through their troubles at home and school. Napoleon lives with his grandmother, who is temporarily removed from the picture early on so that his obnoxious living-in-the-past Uncle Rico can move in with Napoleon and his older brother Kip, who is apparently somewhere around 30 and who spends hours per day talking online to his virtual love in Detroit. Napoleon and his friends find some motivation when his buddy Pedro decides to run for class president. Sort of Revenge of the Nerds. But really not.

Pieces of it are funny, and I laughed out loud a number of times, but it just moves along really slowly. It's the Saturday Night Live skit syndrome. Good in small quantities, but not well-adapted to feature length. Unfortunately you do have to sit through the whole thing to get the most benefit from the various storylines, but I don't suggest you start it very late at night.

Reality Check: The Girl found this to be abysmal. Hated, hated, hated it.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/23/2005 03:19:00 PM
Monday, March 21, 2005

Joss Whedon + Wonder Woman = Whoo-Hoo! 

MTV reports (link via Ms. Musings) that Joss Whedon has signed on formally to write and direct a big screen version of Wonder Woman.

The possibility of this project has been bounced around for years, including periodic speculation about who would make the best Wonder Woman.

Let the casting speculation recommence!!!
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/21/2005 03:14:00 PM
Sunday, March 20, 2005

Hitch 

Four thumbs up! Two from me, two from The girl. This is a chick flick that guys can enjoy as well. It's a basic romantic comedy, but it follows two main couples, plus the viewpoint is mostly from the male perspective on romance and dating (and how they either screw it up or are misunderstood and thereby blocked from succeeding, depending on your perspective). But it's not just straight guys who can identify with the "guy" side of the story, and not just straight women who can identify with the "girl" side of the movie. The actions attempted, approaches utilized, reactions brought forth and responses formed are those familiar to anyone on the dating spectrum. If you haven't performed or been subjected to one of these scenarios, a friend of yours has.

Will Smith is Alex Hitchens, aka The Dating Doctor. Some women choose to believe he's an urban myth, but in reality he is a successful but very secretive consultant who helps men not defeat themselves during the first few dates with the woman of their dreams. The idea is that after three dates, the women are less likely to read offense into actions or statements of the men, so the men can be themselves without self-termination by misunderstanding. After that, they're on their own.

Of course there has to be a wrench in Hitch's well-planned life, and it comes in the form of Eva Mendes as Sara, a jaded-on-love gossip columnist for whom Hitch falls - hard. Then there's his client Albert (Kevin James), a mild-mannered and rather goofy accountant who is convinced that his firm's fabulously wealthy celebrity client Allegra (Amber Valletta) is his soulmate. Allegra's celebrity puts her in the zoom lens of Sara, and hijinx ensue.

But the hijinx are well-written, well-acted, and include a number of well-placed Big Chase Scenes. My face was actually sore by the closing credits, from smiling for so long.

A classmate of mine recommended Hitch as fun for a matinee, but not worth full price. I disagree, and give this one a full price recommendation. But go to a matinee anyway, because it's not like you really get anything extra for paying full price, except less money in your wallet and more crowds with which to contend. But you get the idea.

Reality Check: The Girl loved it too. Plus, Hitch includes a couple of references to Jerry McGuire (one of her all time favorite movies), including a clip, which solidified a winning review.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/20/2005 04:08:00 PM
Saturday, March 19, 2005

Catwoman 

We started watching this DVD last weekend, but we started it rather late and The Girl couldn't stay awake. My school schedule being what it is, we couldn't sit down together to finish it until last night.

I liked it. I'm glad we didn't pay current movie theater prices to see it, though. It's fun comic book fluff, and the CGI action was a little goofy. Remember the scenes of Huntress running and leaping across the rooftops of Gotham? Very similar. They may have used the same clips, in fact. The scene in the jewelry store, when Catwoman was running and leaping around the walls of the store, just ahead of the automatic weapon fire? Yeah, that was a little much as well. Would have worked for Spiderman (he has those cool microbarbed hands, after all), worked fabulously for Lara Croft (she was already hooked into her bungee ballet gear, so there you go), but nothing catlike would give Catwoman the ability to defy gravity for that long.

And Michelle Pfeiffer has ruined the "Meow" for anyone else, as far as I'm concerned (I do a fair imitation, but it's not the same). Halle's got the hiss down cold, though.

The writers' efforts to inject a feminist edge and a theme of self-actualization falls a little flat as well. Sharon Stone's Laurel Hedare was evil because she was trying to be something other than what she is, while Halle Berry's Catwoman was good, because she accepted who she is. Gee, let's see. I've been given powers that allow me to be confident, agile, quick as hell, unbeatable in a fight, able to leap off tall buildings with a single meow and live, and sexy to boot. Should I accept it - hand it over, Bud! Yeah, it was a tough choice.

(Caution: spoiler ahead). "Oh, but she must sacrifice other things, like long term happiness with the man of her dreams!" That bit was given no justification in the storyline. He was fine with who she is, she was fine with who he is, and they were damn fine together. It felt like they just tossed that in because she's supposed to be "dark," so she should walk off alone into the moonlight. (Spoiler portion over).

I know, I know, I opened this post by saying I liked it, then rambled on about all the crap things that bothered me. Give me a break - it's what I do.

I liked the character they built for Patience. She had a lot of depth, and her pre-Catwoman persona wasn't unbelievably inept or reclusive, but it was enough to be a strong contrast to her post-Catwoman behavior. I liked Benjamin Bratt's character and his contribution to the story. Although the technology in the police crime lab was a little over the top. I absolutely loved her loft apartment, although I'm not sure how she was affording it being a struggling artist with a crappy low level day job. It seemed to be in a really bad neighborhood, so that probably explains that. I loved, loved, loved her takedown of the Harley Party Dude across the alley. Who hasn't wanted to do that to their bullying neighbor?

But the best part was the way that Hally Berry turned into a cat. She just had the moves down so well when it was just her doing it, not some CGI enhancement. My favorite scene was when she was talking to Sally on the phone and just moving around her apartment like a cat would - jumping up on the counter with no effort, swatting at pretty shiny things, strolling across the back of the couch. It was perfect. The part where she woke up from a nap and found that she was curled up on a pillow on a shelf was good, too.

I think if they had stuck to the characters and the small details instead of blowing their budget on the grand scale (but in the end not very effective) CGI, it would have been a much better movie. If they'd had enough money to have really good effects, okay, but apparently they didn't.
And finally, let me say that Halle Berry did not deserve the Razzy for this one. She did a great job with what they gave her. And good on her for being such a good sport and showing up in person to accept it! But the director deserved his for what could have been a really good movie, and the effects crew should have gotten one as well. Sound mixing was a problem too - the action scene music was too loud and the dialogue too soft. We had to keep turning the volume up and down. No way this was the worst movie of the year, though.

Reality Check: The Girl hated didn't like it (she corrected me on this - "It wasn't as bad as Gigli, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut or Mulholland Drive."). For some reason the thing that seemed to push it over the edge for her was the sexy rooftop walk in the crazy ripped up leather pants after Patience had apparently accepted her Catwoman side. Okay, the ripped up pants were a little much, but... Meow.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/19/2005 08:08:00 AM
Sunday, March 06, 2005

Eulogy 

Now that Oscar season is over (for a while), The Girl and I have gotten back to watching less known, quirky films. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're really bad.

Last night we hit a winner: Eulogy. This 2004 movie stars, well, tons o'people, and is just hysterical. Zooey Deschanel stars and narrates as Katie, the favorite grandaughter of Edmund (Rip Torn), whose recent death brings this totally dysfunctional family back together at their mom's (Piper Laurie) house for the funeral. Ray Romano is the unrestrained testosterone son, who with his own twin testosterone spawn drove his wife out of their lives with their various stunts. Hank Azaria is the overly sensitive but incredibly self-absorbed failed actor son, who returns with his daughter Kate. Debra Winger (yes, THAT Debra Winger!!!!) is Alice, the overbearing, controlling and vastly judgmental daughter who has browbeaten her husband and three children into silence. And she wears very cool geeky glasses. Kelly Preston is the lesbian daughter who is planning to marry her partner, Famke Janssen, and who has years of bitter resentment built up against big sister Alice. Add in some old flames, Glenne Headly as a family friend, a couple of cameos by Rene Auberjonois as a ditzy pastor, and get ready for the fun!

Other Trek connect (besides Odo): Debra Winger's silent husband (uncredited on IMDB) is played by Mark Harelik, who was on Voyager as the very smooth Devore Inspector Kashyk. I see from his IMDB profile that he was also on Angel, but I can't take credit for remembering that one.

The dialogue is fun and incredibly snarky, the soundtrack is great (including a couple of Joan Armatrading songs), most of the plot points don't come armed with sledgehammers, and there are some superbly done point-of-view shots that left me howling.

Reality Check: The Girl liked this one too. We may have to purchase it. She did get a little tired of my running commentary on the various other shows and movies each actor was in, but that was done after all the characters were introduced.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/06/2005 08:53:00 AM
Friday, March 04, 2005

Best of Youth - Longest of Movies 

I've been reading this morning about an Italian film that opened in limited US cities this week: Best of Youth. It's received glowing reviews (mostly) so far, earning an 89% on the Rotten Tomatometer. That puts it in the same rating range as many of this year's Oscar nominees and winners. So what, you might ask?

This is a six-hour, subtitled film that follows two brothers over the passage of 40 years.

Six hours. With subtitles.

This movie must be amazing, for film critics to have lasted through the whole thing, gone home and still have had the will, desire and physical capacity to write a rave review. I've got to see it. Sadly, I know there's no way in any of the rings of hell that The Girl will be joining me in this screening, even if we were to wait until the DVD release. In fact, she's vowed off all subtitled films for the foreseeable future, after our recent whirlwind tour of Maria Full of Grace, Motorcycle Diaries and The Story of the Weeping Camel. And a six-hour commitment? Forget about it. She was cranky enough after Return of the King.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/04/2005 08:33:00 AM
Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oscar 2005 Wrap-Up 

Once again our Oscar Party was a great success, and it appeared that fun was had by all. This year's party had the added feature of When Bloggers Meet, as a few of the guests have read each other's blogs, but had not yet met face to face. Bloggers present were me, The Creeping Unknown, Not a Freak, and Soxfan.

As evidence that blogging makes you smarter, TCU and Soxfan tied for the most correct picks, at I believe it was 15 correct picks each. Last year we also had a tie at 19 correct, and the statue stayed at our house since The Girl won the tie-breaking thumb-wrestling match against The Hammer. This year only one of our winners lasted through the entire awards show, so the trophy went home with The Creeping Unknown. Our little Oscar shrine looks empty on the wall now, so we may have to get another trophy which will be the Permanent Display, while the other will become the Traveling Trophy.

This was a tough year. I had more correct picks on my losing entry last year than the winners had this year. As The Girl pointed out, there was no Lord of the Rings to which to hitch your voting wagon. But it made for an exciting night, with so many talented nominees.

On another accurate prediction note, we're getting better at calculating the amount of chinese food for Oscar Night, and we didn't have quite as much left over this year. In true geek fashion, I saved our order list, and marked which items were Too Much, Too Little, and which were Just Right, so we can modify accordingly for next year. Seating was almost sufficient, with all living room seats filled, plus three people parked on the floor and two good sports on the stairs (they're open into the living room, so it was a clear view to the screen). Delicious desserts were contributed by a number of guests, and everything was simply fabulous.

Consensus was that:
  • Chris Rock was an excellent host.
  • Mermaid dresses were the dominant choice.
  • Fair-skinned, blonde women shouldn't wear gowns that match their skin tone so closely.
  • Hilary Swank was the fashion winner as well as Best Actress.
  • Beyonce must have been exhausted from all those wardrobe, hair and makeup changes. And the singing.
  • Pierce Brosnan is fine.
  • Natalie Portman is poise personified.
  • The floating Oscar stage decoration was really cool, even if it reminded us of Carousel in Logan's Run.
  • Trader Joe's makes the most delicious little cream puffs.
  • Not letting the less prestigious category winners give their acceptance speeches from stage really sucked.
This may be the only big public recognition most of these people get in their careers, and part of the thrill is looking out from stage onto all the people in the audience who are applauding your achievements and talent. Instead they had to stand in the aisle with their backs to the audience and simply speak into the camera. The other new format of having all the nominees on stage was okay, as the winner still got to walk forward to the mic and address the whole theater. For next year, keep that one but get rid of the in-aisle presentations. Thanks Gil!

And may I just add that Regina King and Sandra Oh need some big time recognition. Soon.

For next year: March 5, 2006. Save the date!!!
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/01/2005 09:24:00 AM