Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Friends With Kids: Not Bridesmaids 2...But Still Good.

Oh dear...Has it really been almost two weeks? Jeez...I feel kinda bad. Bet you're all waiting for the latest reviews with bated breath. My bad, kids. My bad.

It's ok, guys, I know you need your fix.

Anyway, so on the rather blustery day (Winnie the Pooh? Anyone?) of Saturday, Allison and I went and saw Friends With Kids, starring half the cast of Bridesmaids. But do not be fooled, this movie is filled with all kinds of emotional issues that are more serious than you might be expecting.

Hint: Apparently these things aren't adorable all the time.

The plot revolves around Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott, whom you might recognize from Stepbrothers). Both have been best friends for forever and have been looking at the lives that their best friends now lead as parents. Seeing all of the emotional strain that it puts on their friends' marriages and deciding to opt out of that, they decide to have a child together but see other people. However, even as they start dating the people of their dreams, they start to question the decisions that they've made.

How could having sex with your best friend possibly get complicated!?

In the same vein as Will Farrell going from hilarious and outrageous comedies like Stepbrothers to incredibly serious fodder like Everything Must Go, FriendsWith Kids is not going to be the sequel to Bridesmaids that we've all been dreaming of. That being said, though, the movie gains in emotion what it loses in cheap laughs. In a realistic sort of backdrop, you can feel the characters' confusion as each couple starts to question, defend, and even make rash decisions about their marriages and friendships. And as for the main friendship/romance(?) between Julie and Jason as they try to raise their little baby boy, nothing seems less caricatured.

And I mean, check out the sick cast. need I say more?

Jennifer Westfeldt really wrote and directed the whole thing, which I find incredible. I had no idea when I was watching the film, but she really did a good job bringing all of life's elements into the plot: friendship, romance, love, despair, success, failure, things not making sense in life even though they're supposed to on paper...gah. Good movie. Stuck with me all day on Sunday.

Just a really sweet and really realistic love story, guys. Go see it.

8 outa 10 (I'm a sucker for romantic movies)

Also don't be deceived by how light the trailer seems, there's actually a lot of drama in this as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Modern Movies Just Don't Know When to Shut Up

This isn't really a review of any particular film, but I was just watching Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for the first time and its ending really made me think about how much modern movies contrast those of the 80s and 90s.

It's also quite possible that I am merely blinded by this dynamic duo in action.

Maybe it's now considered dated or perhaps stupid to not leave a movie open-ended for a sequel, but I miss the good old fashioned closure of a dumb, feel-good movie. I feel like mainstream movies today have sort of fallen to adjusting their endings to make way for sequels, hoping that their audience will follow them into a second, third, and (totally not uncommon anymore) fourth installment of characters that they apparently liked the first go-around.

But what happens with these supposed lucky movies that get to cash in on the franchise of any actor's dreams?

They totally lose their original flavor.

Look at movies-turned-franchises like The Pirates of the Caribbean, X Men, or Indiana Jones. Pirates of the Caribbean started out as a kickass tale of adventure and mystical realism that was simple but effective. Now all that they're relying on are the more and more unpredictable and stupid antics of the character Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, as if you all didn't know). And between the three franchises, the plots get so increasingly convoluted with every new film, that the audience is left with nothing to cling to except for the familiarity of the original characters amidst a muddled and usually overambitious plot.

Bet it feels good to be followed blindly by a cult audience, doesn't it?

Similarly, we have been seeing a trend lately with remakes. Like, ok, I understand when you see a movie from the 50s and you think "Man! I love this movie, but we could totally revamp it with modern technology and make it more accessible to modern audiences!" but when I start seeing movies like The Hulk or, even more recently, Spiderman being redone within a decade, you gotta wonder "Um..why?"

Not that superhero movies aren't also a huge deal right now, but why bother remaking a franchise that already had loads and loads of success? That not only ups the ante to make the characters more likable than the last round of actors, but you also have to give it its own distinction completely separate from its predecessor. Not that these aren't good things in general. I mean, jeez, look at the Batman saga before it got revamped last decade.

I think puns got temporarily outlawed after the injustice they suffered at the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze.

But at the same time, it cheapens both movies by allowing them to sort of blur together.

Where's the originality, Hollywood?

Guess we're gonna have to rely on the gems of the past for a while until they can bring back their A-game, or at least catch up to the indie scene and make films that are actually halfway original. Jeez...

Getting back to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, though, it really was a sweet film. Michael Caine's favorite movie that he ever performed in, and hilarious scene from Steve Martin as Caine's sidekick posing as his idiot brother, Ruprecht. You can totally tell Caine's trying desperately not to laugh. Skip ahead to 2:00 to watch Steve Martin in action as Ruprecht:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Winter's Bone: Icy by Every Definition

So I started watching Winter's Bone because I had heard rave reviews about Jennifer Lawrence in it last year, not realizing of course that she was also the actress that just starred in the hit The Hunger Games.

No, Katniss doesn't dye her hair blonde. This is a different movie.

Starting the movie on Netflix not really knowing anything besides that the movie was just the story of a girl looking for her dad, I didn't really have any expectations. But...wow. I was completely blown away by Jennifer Lawrence's performance as Ree Dolly and the raw footage and feel of the cold Ozark Mountains life in the backwoods.

The plot, as I said before, revolves around Ree looking for her father, but let me elaborate a little. Ree is a seventeen-year-old girl living in her family's house in the woods of rural Ozark territory, and caring after her mentally ill mother, and two little siblings, Sonny (who is 12) and Ashlee (who is 8, I think. And also adorable). One day the local sheriff turns up at her house asking if she has seen her daddy, a known meth-cooker in the area.

Also, you might recognize him as the dad from Raising Hope

She says she hasn't seen him in weeks and the sheriff then enlightens her to the fact that if they cannot find him, there will be hell to pay. Apparently her father put their house up for bail bond and if he doesn't show up for his court date, they lose their house, leaving Ree and her three dependents to wander the woods in their own property.

With steely resolve, Ree takes it upon herself to find her father. Through dealings with some seriously nasty people, most being her actual relatives, Ree discovers the hard way how the "law" works out in the sticks.

Hint hint.

In a weird way, (seriously weird way, but deal with me here), this movie is very Coal Miner's Daughter meets Boyz N the Hood. There's no sugar coating in this movie. These people are ruled over by themselves, with the law only occasionally stepping in to take charge, and the peoples' law is kept in order with terrifying consequences. In the same niche as territory and unspoken rules go in gang movies, these backwoods people have serious rules about the secrets that they keep, and what the penalties are for going against their ways.

The cinematography in this is absolutely wonderful. I feel like it is extremely hard to find a movie this horrifyingly realistic and yet this raw. You get chapped hands just watching Ree wonder through the woods looking for the next person to give her what could be anything from a threat to actual help. And forget overacting, these people seem like they were plucked out of the mountains by their mannerisms and accents.

Totally non-ironic wearing of a wolf-decorated sweatshirt.

All around awesome. I highly recommend. And just for the record, I liked Jennifer Lawrence a lot better in this than I did in The Hunger Games.

7.5 outa 10

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tintin: A 10-Year-Old's Indiana Jones

So on Friday, being immobilized after the activities of Thursday night, I took it upon myself to not leave my bed all day.

Good thing I have a TV in my room!

Allison and I (see! I told you I had girl friends!) piled all of our pillows onto my bed and turned on the movie The Adventures of Tintin, which we got a few days ago from a Redbox (New favorite thing. Seriously. Movies for a dollar. Awesome.).

Now, I had wanted to see Tintin in theaters, partially because movies in general are always just better in theaters and partially because it looked like they had fit so much artistry into this film that seeing it on a small screen would really detract from the whole effect. Even after seeing it, I still feel like I would rather have watched it on a big screen, cuz, man, this movie is a real dazzler.

Sparkle and shine.

The plot revolves around Tintin (voiced by Jamie Bell), a journalist (though we never really see him writing anything) in his early 20's who is always solving mysteries, the adorable red-headed scamp. He also gets some help from his dog, Snowy. On the day that that film begins, he is at a small flea market and finds a model ship that he's extremely interested in buying.

Ooh. Ahh.

After haggling for about five seconds, he ends up getting the ship. Literally two seconds after the old man sells him the thing, an American comes up to Tintin and pantingly warns him that he will be in grave danger if he doesn't get rid of the ship immediately. Tintin, like all adorable youngsters from the 40s, assures the man that he doesn't wanna get rid of the ship cuz, well, it's pretty awesome and probably worth any level of danger it might bring (you know a kid from today would dump that ship in the nearest trash can and run like hell). The American runs away and is then replaced by a man who claims to be a noble, and offers Tintin any price he wants for the model ship. Tintin again insists that it's not for sale and goes on his merry way.

Later that day Tintin comes home to find his home ransacked and the ship stolen and decides to investigate the case of this mysterious ship.

What investigating looked like before the internet, kids.

Along this adventure he gets kidnapped, ends up abroad, crosses a desert, and even flies a plane, among a mass of cool chases and comical fighting scenes. He also encounters a sea captain with a rather intense drinking problem (who could be the answer to all of the model ships' mysteries), a pickpocket's side story and a story as old as a legend.

Well first of all, this movie is beautifully crafted. Being set in Europe, Tin Tin captures all of the charm of the mid-20th century while simultaneously incorporating the essence of the cartoon and the wonder of faraway lands and legends. It's extremely nostalgic for Hollywood glamour and old timey pizazz without going over modern kids' heads.


Second of all the characters are great. I was expecting Tintin to start getting on my nerves (seriously, boyish charm can morph very quickly into stupidity), but he's so balanced out by the hilarious Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis), that really both characters end up being pretty likeable. And Tintin's personality ends up having a bit of an edge to it at times that makes him more human than I really expected him to be.

He gets a gun? Upgrade!

Bottom line for this adventure is that I really loved it. It's simple storyline has that sort of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys feel to it that a lot of movies today don't take more advantage of. It ended up being sort of a mixture of Indiana Jones and Sherlock type mystery.

But a huuuuge part of why I loved it is also just the visual quality of the film itself. They really did not cut any corners in making sure the lighting, character movements, sets, and (a common problem in 3D movies) HAIR all looked incredibly realistic. Additionally, they did not compromise the fact that this film is based on the comic series, making the proportions of the characters faces comical and caricatured as they should be.


Somehow it all ended up working and the end result is a beautiful nostalgic children's film. Check it out!

7.5 outa 10.