Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NOW ON TWITTER (haaayyyy)

Hello, dear readers. This is just a quick note to inform you that I am now also on Twitter. You can tweet or RT me at @LPNB_reviews. Thanks!

Austenland: A Bad Movie Hiding Behind Regency Sets.

Jane Austen has become somewhat of a hot commodity in recent culture. We've got movies and books based on, adapted and spun off of the authoress's numerous love stories coming out our ears. Pride and Prejudice With Zombies, Becoming Jane, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Clueless (true story; adapted from Emma), and who hasn't seen the BBC Pride and Prejudice? (Rhetorical question; obviously you all have. And if you haven't please find yourself a library immediately) Being an avid Jane Austen fan myself, I was so excited when I got the opportunity last night to see upcoming film Austenland starring Keri Russell, Bret McKenzie, and JJ Feild.

*Let it be noted that I was ten minutes late to the movie because my mom and I couldn't find a parking spot. Damn Narberth parking!

The movie is centered around Jane (Russell), a woman who has been "unlucky in love." Her obsession with Jane Austen bars her from being able to participate in her own life as she is so fixed on finding a man that fits her "fantasy."  When she finds Austenland, a real manor house set up to mimic the English Regency Era with everything from clothes to food to decoration, she feels she's finally found somewhere where she can fit in. Almost immediately she meets the acquaintance of both a servant named Martin and the lady of the manor's nephew, Mr. Henry Nobley. The rest of the film shows her inexplicably flitting back and forth between the two like a pinball and picking one of them at the end.

Hi guys, just FYI: I love both of you. Does that work for you? Ok, cool.

I was really disappointed by this movie. You can't appeal to Austen fans and then take away their glory by making your main character a muddle. Here's my problem: Jane is supposed to be a crazy-ass Austen fan, but she doesn't play along with the Austenland game for more than ONE DAY. Um. WHAT?? Anyone who has read an Austen book more than once and seen the movies based off of them should know that taking off with servant would be a CLASS 4 NO-NO. And yet Jane does it without a care in the world. Not to mention the fact that she latches onto this guy after, like a day. Stage 5 clinger. Even in modern times.

Also, for my fellow avid movie-goers, you may be halfway through the movie thinking "Wait. Something is not right." Both men both seem to adore Jane equally and she seems to like them both equally as well. For those of us well-versed in romcom lore, we know that this is simply weird. No conflict = no story. So where's the damn conflict? It doesn't come into play until the third part of the movie, which takes too long, and feels like you're spending the majority of the movie holding your breath. And then by the end you're like "Wait a second, how can you really be in love with this guy when you were acting in love with the other---wait, what?"

Unlucky in love, my ass.

I really hate to see a good plot go to waste. They could've done so much more with this. In my world, Jane would go to Austenland intent on enjoying every freaking moment, playing along with all of the rules and concepts, become disillusioned with the facade, and then fall in love with the servant. Done. That's all you need. Shazam. Not all this confusion about oh, The Regency Era was really full of honest, simple, good people and modern people suck. Um, no. Obviously you've never heard of a Mr. Wickham, a guy so nasty he almost ruined the marriage of Elizabeth Bennett to Mr. Darcy. Or perhaps a Mr. Elton, who is grossed out by the thought of marrying someone of an inferior social class. Or maybe even John Willoughby, who ends up marrying an ice queen instead of the woman he loves because she's got more money. Please read an Austen book before you write a film based on a fan of hers. P.S. There have always been nasty people in the world; the message of your film is bewildering.

Miss Austen is displeased.

The thing that kept this movie entertaining was its clever use of side characters. Miss Charming (played by the hilarious Jennifer Coolidge) is grossly out of her element in Austenland but gobbles it all up anyway, blunder after hilarious blunder. Also notable are Miss Amelia Cartwright (Georgia King), Colonel Andrews (James Callis), and Captain George East (Ricky Whittle).

In summary, I'm becoming more and more annoyed about this movie. If you want to make a film about an extreme fan, next time pick a Twihard for your protagonist.

4 out of 10 stars. Lackluster, but got saved by the chuckles from the minor characters and their (purposefully) awful British Regency accents.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Conjuring: If You Think Witches Are Obsolete, You Are Wrong.

As a teenager I was pretty religious. Not in a weird person way (at least I don't think so), but let it be known that I regularly went to church and still have the books of the Old Testament memorized thanks to a song I learned when I was nine.

See? No hoodless sweatshirt with bright white tennis shoes.
(Does anyone else picture religious fanatics this way? Just me?
On a separate note, remember when digital cameras were still a new thing?)

But my background has made me a little...sensitive to movies about demons.

Enter: The Conjuring.

Plot: A husband, wife, and their five daughters move into a house that they've recently bought from a bank auction. The house is very old and needs some work, but they seem cheerful enough to move in.

But then (of course) weird things start to happen. During a game, the mother confuses the claps of her child with those of a resident child ghost. Pictures fall off the walls. All of the clocks stop at 3:07 a.m. Children's feet are grabbed while they're sleeping in the night. One of the daughters begins sleep-walking. One sees someone in her room and smells rotting meat. And during one terrifying night, the mother is dragged down to the basement and tormented by a demon, while her two daughters are locked in their room and attacked by the ghost of a witch. People are hurled across the room and the family is reduced to all sleeping in the living room.

See? Dragged to the basement.

While this plot line is moving along, we are also introduced to Ed and Lorraine Warren, experts in the paranormal field. Not frauds, these two are dedicated to helping people debunk their "ghost stories" and help solve any that happen to be real. When approached by the mother of five, they decide to help her. Lorraine, a psychic, sees the demon latched onto them all as soon as she enters the house (giving a reason, in this instance, why they can't all just "RUN!!"). She also gives insight as to why there are so many ghosts in the house: a child and his mother from the turn of the century, a maid, another woman, and the demonic presence of a witch that had been hanged on the property during the 19th century.

After the Warrens come to help, things gets cray. That's all I'm going to say. Prepare to be scared.

Yes. That is a woman wrapped in a sheet, sitting in a chair.
Upside down on the ceiling.

I would say that The Conjuring did give me some trouble sleeping. If it hadn't added the quotation before the credits from the real Warrens on the reality of God and the devil I probably could've put it out of my mind a little bit more easily. Seeing the picture of the real family during the end credits didn't help much either. If you'd like to learn more about the real story behind The Conjuring (which, let's be honest, could be a load of crap), check out, a site which examines the verity of various Hollywood films "based on a true story."

The only thing that bugged me about this movie (which, in hindsight, I should probably be grateful for), is that they didn't make the witch look all that scary. After looking at IMDB, the witch's role is apparently played by a man (not unlike the role of Zelda in Pet Sematary). However, it's clear that there's something a She looks a little too weird to be true, and it diminishes the thing that makes the movie so scary: its basis on fact.

With the exception of this scene. During which I nearly peed my pants.

So, in conclusion, The Conjuring I found to be pretty frightening. Like so many other modern demon movies, the fact that there is a malevolent spirit latching onto people rather than their properties is terrifying. We're not dealing with a poltergeist. We're dealing with evil. And that makes the movie especially scary.

8 out of 10. If you're looking for a scare, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Despicable Me 2: Kristen Wiig is Taking Over the World...And That's Okay.

Felt like I was in high school again this past Friday when I went out to see Despicable Me 2 with my boyfriend and his little brother (just to clarify, his "little" brother is a 6'2 sophomore in high school, and yes, we are all nerds).

If the one in the middle was a girl...then this would look like us...

Plot: Gru, now a single dad, spends his days looking after his little ones and (unsuccessfully) trying recipes for various jams and jellies that he hopes to sell.  When he is suddenly kidnapped by a woman who ends up working for the Anti-Villain Agency (or something), he is then recruited to reach back into his darker days and try to help them find a villain that has been tampering with a top-secret serum that turns cute things into monsters. Bonding with the woman, named Lucy (Wiig), he finds that maybe his feelings for her are a little more than professional. And of course, bringing up the rear are hilarious characters such as El Macho (who was rumored to be the most manly man in the world, dying as a result of being tied to a shark strapped with bombs that landed in an erupting volcano, hahaha), Dr. Nefario, and the three little girls (with a special emphasis on Agnes; omg so cute).

Could he finally have met his match?

Hmm, what to say. Did I like the movie? Yes. Was it funny? Yes. Was it hilarious even? Yes. But was it as memorable as the first one? Impossible.

Unfortunately for kids' movies, I think that sequels' screenplays and plots tend to revolve around events and not necessarily character development. What makes the original Despicable Me so hilarious is the fact that Gru is so grumpy and hateful in the first half and then finds his mushy side when he decides to adopt the three girls. This is missing in the newest edition. Gru, instead of being his regular hateful self like in the last one, is made to find compromise between being a grump and the kind-hearted man that he discovers within himself in the first film. Therefore there isn't much to expand upon character-wise besides highlighting his romantic side (which has always been decidedly awkward). Who better to match his awkward turtley-ness than the Queen of Awkward, Her Majesty, Kristen Wiig.

This girl.

Wiig definitely brings the humor in her first heavy role in a kid's movie. However, her flighty/spazzy sort of humor doesn't really add much depth to her character either and we're sort of left with a cartoon romance. Which, I guess isn't a big deal since it's a kid movie and all, but it doesn't make the film particularly memorable. I would've liked to see them stir up some conflict with Gru going back to his evil ways or something a little more interesting.

Would've liked to see a little more of Evil Gru though...

However, the minions (as always) really beefed up the chuckles and I was laughing the whole time regardless.

Not bad, Dreamworks. Solid 7 outa 10.