Saturday, February 28, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Dear Jen and Ben,
Thank you for being endearing enough in the trailers for He's Just Not That Into You, to help me overcome my resistance for chick flicks. You made the film look more like a romantic drama, which it is. For some women, this film may be too honest, for some, a bit too painful. Maybe it was my mood today, maybe it was the straightforward delivery of the subject, maybe it was the consistent performances. All I know is that for 2 hours and 9 minutes, I got what I was looking for in a movie this afternoon. Well done. Thanks.
PS (Your characters' story line was my favorite. xoxo)

The Girl Next Door

On Saturday mornings I listen to the Friday night podcast of Cort & Fatboy on KUFO in Portland, OR, for their movie chat. On a recent broadcast, Cort highly recommended the movie The Girl Next Door. On that recommendation, I rented it. On admission of said rental, my daughter said she liked this film as well. Where have I been? This is the story of a young man in his senior year of high school, who falls for a porn star (house sitting next door), and rescues her from her past. It's funny, edgy, sexy, smart, sweet and clever. Add this one to my list of pleasant surprises. Thanks to Cort and Melanie for encouraging me to see this one. "What's the craziest thing you've done lately?"

What Just Happened?

Out of my love for DeNiro, Keener, Penn (both), Tucci, Turturro and Willis, I rented What Just Happened? DeNiro plays a Hollywood producer, who is involved with a film that has major issues, and high risk dollars. He must deal with actors, executives, ex-wives and kids. A good sharp jab at Hollywood by it's best and brightest, I liked it. Color me surprised, that I liked DeNiro's scenes with Kristen Stewart as his teenage daughter. Nice chemistry. Worth a look.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 2/27/09

We are deep in the doldrums of sorry winter release season. The only new thing in RI theaters worth my attention this weekend is the movie Fanboys. Geeks abound, looks silly and fun. Watch out for all those crazy tweens that will swarm the theaters to see their beloved Jonas Brothers in a 3D concert film. If you need to catch up on your Oscar nominated films, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, The Wrestler, Doubt, Waltz With Bashir and The Dark Knight are all in RI theaters. On a lighter note there's He's Just Not That Into You, Paul Blart:Mall Cop, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Madea Goes to Jail and Fired Up. Coraline is well worth a look. Gran Torino, The International, I've Loved You so Long and Taken round out the choices for this weekend's viewing. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flash of Genius

Can windshield wipers make an interesting subject for a film? Not really, but Flash of Genius is about much more than the invention of the intermittent wiper. It is about, dreams, inspiration, family, dedication and love. A David and Goliath story that is very well done, a strong rental.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir is the recount of a soldier's trauma, suffered during the Lebanon War. Presented in an animated format, this is no cartoon. The violence of the war, and anguish of the solider, is graphic and disturbing. The final frames of the film are still photos of a horrific massacre that are hard to forget. A stunning film.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hollywood and heart in DVD

In my DVD que this week is an inside look at Hollywood in the film What Just Happened. Also on it's way to my DVD player is a documentary I've read a lot about this year, Dear Zachary:A Letter to a Son About his Father. Looking forward to seeing both of these films.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars 2009 : The Awards

I'm at my daughter's place in NYC watching the Oscars. Her dog is not taking this a seriously as I am, but he seems intrigued by my score sheets and notebooks. The Kodak looks great, it's a cool set. As a host, Hugh Jackman is engaging, cheeky, hot! Could have done without the montages though. The 5 actor presentation thing was cool, but did not help with the length of the show. It's still too long. Most fun was the sheer joy from the folks with Slumdog Millionaire. Here are a few superlatives.

Best gown: Frida Pinto
Best tux: Hugh Jackman *sigh*
Best hair: Jennifer Aniston
Best acceptance speech: toss up between Justin Lance Black and Sean Penn
Best moment: Petit balancing the gold guy on his chin

I've got tomorrow off, so I get to sleep in. Then travel home and back to reality. Thanks to the Academy for a fun night and the film makers for a great year in film. On to the films of 2009!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscar 2009 : The Films

The films of 2008 made for a fun year for this film fan. The list of Oscar nominees, no matter what the category, will make for an excellent rental list. The real standout this year though, will probably win the Best Picture Oscar. That film is Slumdog Millionaire. Beautiful, gritty and uplifting, everyone I know who's seen it, loved it. Close behind as one of the best films this year, which will probably win the Oscar for best animated feature, is WALL-E. Creative, gorgeous, layered, funny, poignant, clever, Pixar does it again. I haven't seen all of the shorts, documentaries or foreign films yet, but here's how I'm voting in the Oscar Pools. For best foreign feature, The Class, best documentary feature, Man On Wire, best animated short Presto, best documentary short, The Final Inch and best live action short, New Boy.

This ends my Oscar series for this year. I'll be in Brooklyn, dog sitting, on Sunday night. I have already organized the beverages and snacks. Maybe I'll even get a pizza from the famous Grimaldi's! A printable ballot can be found here if you want to keep score yourself. Bring on the Oscars!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Five Oscar Noms - One Day

If you are near a participating AMC theatre on Saturday, Feb 21st here's a way to spend the day. At select AMC theaters, you can see all five Oscar nominated movies in their best picture program. It will take all day, but free unlimited popcorn is included in the deal. Buy tickets here.

Oscar 2009 : The People

When I think of the people nominated for Oscars for acting and directing, I become a huge plate of waffles. There were so many excellent performances this year, any of these folks could win and be deserving. For best actor, the performance from Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler was strong and heart wrenching. On the other hand, Sean Penn brought a calm, joyful confidence to the depiction of Harvey Milk in the film Milk. For the best performance from an actress, Meryl Streep brings a fierce, emotional consistency to Sister Aloysius in Doubt. On the other hand, Anne Hathaway gives a tough, gritty performance, that makes the viewer uncomfortable, as a recovering addict in Rachel Getting Married. The only no brainer this year, is the award for best supporting role by an actor. Heath Ledger delivered the performance of the year as The Joker in The Dark Knight. The character he created, and the consistent, maniacal delivery is stunning. Even if he were still alive, I think he would win this award. It was just the best performance in this category this year. Another depiction of crazy could win an Oscar for Penelope Cruz, for her supporting role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. As the volatile Maria Elena, she commands every scene she's in. The best director category, this year, reads like a best director's EVER list. Every one delivered fantastic films this year, but I think the Oscar should go to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. He orchestrated a piece that not only told a compelling story, but showed us India in a way I've never seen.
What a talented group of people!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oscar 2009 : The Stories

There are two Oscar categories for the writers of the stories we see in film. One for original material and one for stories adapted from other material. In the category of original screenplay, I was blown away by WALL-E. Not a word of dialogue for almost 45 minutes. This is a creative story of love , evolution and environment. For adapted screenplay, the script that stood out to me was for the film Doubt. Written by John Patrick Shanley, from his Pulitzer Prize winning play, it is a strong piece that looks at conscience and the actions we take. Another script that is as powerful in what it doesn't say, as in what it does. Slumdog Millionaire could also win this award. The story is taken from the novel, Q and A. We learn of life, love and survival on the streets of Mumbai through the vehicle of a game show. Either of these could win, though the words from Doubt really made me think.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oscar 2009 : The Sounds

The sounds of a film surround us. The music, the sound effects, the viewer's subliminal reaction is strong. Music plays our emotions and mood. Often we don't even realize it. The original score of Slumdog Millionaire communicates the culture and setting of the story in an uplifting way. The final scene and end credits are testimony to this. The original song that struck me this year was Peter Gabriel's, Down to Earth from WALL-E. It tied a big bow on such a wonderful film. I think the Oscar for achievement in sound will go to WALL-E, along with sound editing. Clicks and whistles never sounded so good, or meant so much.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscar 2009 : The Sights

For the Oscar in art direction this year, it's tough to beat The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. A beautiful film that could be trumped by The Dark Knight (and be deserved). The cinematography of Slumdog Millionaire is award worthy, as is the editing. The visual effects of The Dark Knight are eye popping and dizzying. The film may grab the award for best makeup as well. The closest competition, for makeup, would be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I saw The Duchess because I thought it would get a nom for costumes. I was right, and I think it could win.

Long List in DVD

It's another list week for DVD releases. Click on the titles for more, enjoy!
Body of Lies
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Flash of Genius
High School Musical 3:Senior Year

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oscar 2009 : An Introduction

I am a huge fan of the Oscars, and all the hoopla surrounding the process and broadcast each year. This week, I'll be commenting on the nominees, and who I think will win. I am in no way an expert, just a fan who loves to use the nominees as a guide to my film viewing, and the broadcast as a chance to feel close to the process for a night. I have organized the nominees into five posts, I'll post one each day this week. The Sights, The Sounds, The Stories, The People and The Films. Here's to what I like to call Oscar's Week! Enjoy!

I've Loved You So Long

A woman's past is revealed slowly and deliberately in the French film I've Loved You So Long. A simple story that begins with the reunion of two sisters. The older sister has been in prison for 15 years. The relationship takes gentle examination, new relationships are formed, details are revealed bit by bit in circumstance and dialogue. There are painful moments, there are sweet moments, there are subtle moments. Well done.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day Movies and Bolt (huh?)

My most memorable trip to the movies on Valentine's Day was in 2004. I took a day trip to NYC to see the Barbarian Invasions. A wonderful Canadian film that won an Oscar that year. Before the film, I went to Sardi's for a cocktail and a snack. As it was lunch time, there were only a few people at the bar, but the eavesdropping was worth the stop. The bartender was seasoned and full of Broadway stories. One woman was from Ohio, and treating herself to a weekend of theater and dining. Another couple had tickets for Wicked that afternoon. The best story was the buzz about a couple who had just been married at the top of the Empire State Building, and had stopped in for a post-nuptial drink. I missed them, but it was the talk of the bar.

This year, my Valentine's Day film was the last of the Oscar nominated films of 2008 I needed to see, Bolt. This animated piece, from Disney, is a cute story of finding your way home. The theater was crawling with kids and their families. The kids were pretty vocal through most of the film, but at the most emotional part of the story the theater was noticeably quiet. A good sign. The animation is pretty cool, the story, a bit labored, but it worked. I liked the music. A better film than I expected, and now the project is complete. Bring on the Oscars!


I would have been upset if I had paid to see Blindness in the theater. Just sayin'.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 2/13/09

Ah yes, Friday the 13th. I do not suffer triskaideakaphobia, and will not be in theaters with the fans of the franchise, when the latest rehash of Friday the 13th hits screens today. To those slasher-horror fans, enjoy! On a much lighter note Confessions of a Shopaholic opens for chick flick fans and The International for thriller fans. New in Town, Paul Blart:Mall Cop and He's Just Not That Into You are entertaining fare as well. The amazing Coraline is well worth a look. I will be at the Avon to see the French film I Have Loved You So Long, appropriate for Valentine's Day. Bolt has returned to RI theaters. Why do I mention that? Because it is the last of the Oscar nominated films I need to see to complete my project. Other Oscar nominees in RI theaters are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire. All nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and are playing in RI theaters. Other Oscar nominees you can see are The Dark Knight (in IMAX), Doubt, Revolutionary Road and The Wrestler. Two films I strongly recommend are Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler. Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine's day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Winnipeg

Guy Maddin brings some of the most interesting images I've seen, to the screen, in My Winnipeg. This faux documentary is sentimental, brash, haunting and at times, a bit disturbing. Madin's dream-like images are mesmerising. Interesting film.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Frozen River

Desperation and love are the central themes of Frozen River.To get the money for a decent home for her children, a woman gets involved in an immigrant smuggling racket from Canada to the US. The border route is over a frozen river which is dangerous and unpredictable. The turn of events over that Christmas Eve are frightening and heartwarming. The final act has suspense, drama and a simple joy. Well acted, well written, well done, well worth seeing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Desperation, Despair and Dopes in DVD

The Oscar nominated film Frozen River is in my hands. Can't wait to see it. I also have the film Blindness, which had such mixed reviews when it came out that I decided to wait to see it in DVD. The only DVD release I've seen this week is W. The film is more sympathetic to George W. Bush than the American people right now. Not a bad week for DVD releases, enjoy!

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I am so glad that I took my 10 and 12 year old nephews with me to see Coraline. We all thoroughly enjoyed the film, but even better was the 2 hour discussion that followed. I think a lot of the concepts in this story will be lost on younger children. Based on the novella, Coraline, the story of a young girl who moves into a house with a creepy secret, is best left to unfold for the viewer, no spoilers here. The basic theme of this story is courage. Coraline has an inner bravery that we all hope for in adverse situations. I heard the author, Neil Gaiman, say that, "being brave is when you are scared and do it anyway." He stated that scary stories appeal to us, because they show us that bad people can be defeated. Coraline is scary, intense, thought provoking, intricate and uplifting. I'm glad I had such good company to see this film. And, oh yeah, the film is gorgeous!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bottle Shock

Wine is sunlight held together by water ~Galileo

I couldn't agree more. Viticulture is the brag of the characters in the film Bottle Shock. A smart, poignant, well written film, about the discovery of California wine in the mid 70s. A wine snob discovers that California vintners make good wine. An interesting story develops, as he travels from vineyard to vineyard taking barrel samples to find worthy wines for a French wine tasting competition. When he comes to the revelation that California wines are good, a local bartender says to him, "what were you expecting? Thunderbird?" It's a little sassy, a little sexy (mostly because of Rachel Taylor and Eliza Dushku) and a lot of smart. A nice depiction of a true story, that also looks at what motivates people who are passionate about what they do. The attitude and flavor of the 70s is well represented through music and dress. A strong cast, good story and beautiful cinematography make this an entertaining film I really enjoyed.... along with my own glass of chardonnay.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Friday Flick Picks 2/6/09

The new stop-action, animated film, Coraline arrives in RI theaters today. I already have a date with my nephews to see this acclaimed piece. Other new arrivals include He's Just Not That Into You, The Pink Panther 2 and Push. Paul Blart:Mall Cop, Taken, Last Chance Harvey, Gran Torino, Bride Wars, Inkheart, and New in Town are entertaining audiences here. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire are all nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and are playing in RI theaters. Other Oscar nominees you can see are The Dark Knight (in IMAX), Defiance, Doubt, Revolutionary Road and The Wrestler. Plenty of good movies to take the chill off this weekend, enjoy!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Porn, Playlists, Pino and Prejudice in DVD

Romantic comedy rules in DVD releases this week. Zach and Miri Make a Porno and Nick and Nora's Infinite Play list are two sweet, edgy romcoms I enjoyed. The Secret Life of Bees is a good story about identity, strength and race. In my DVD que is Bottle Shock and another romantic comedy, Everybody Wants to be Italian. A nice week for DVD.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pride and Glory

Edward Norton and Colin Farrell are two of my favorite actors. In Pride and Glory they take on a so-so "corrupt cop" story set in NYC. It's an OK script and you can tell they are trying like hell to make it work. Despite the gritty style, it's a bit formulaic and predictable. The two hour ten minute run time is way too long, but this is an OK rental, for the performances and film style, if you like violent crime films.