Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's Oscar season! Officially!

God bless the awards race. The Gotham noms are out!

LOVE the Winter's Bone love. Think Let Me In is a really interesting addition, and I hope it means some more people go check it out. Can't wait to see Blue Valentine, Sweet Grass and Black Swan.

Please let Winter's Bone get the ensemble award - John Hawkes and Dale Dickey are so fabulous in it!

The Social Network

Tim Lincecum will be pitching again on Thursday. I will not be watching any movies for a while.

(Please let Never Let Me Go continue for another week!)

And speaking of Andrew Garfield...

I went to see The Social Network. It is as good as everyone says. If you like Aaron Sorkin's signature dialogue (and I do), you'll enjoy this. To be honest, I don't really feel that I have much to elaborate on what reviews have come before. It's not really about Facebook. It's really about friendship, greed, rivalry, entrepreneurship, and how business is changing. The writing is good, the directing is good, the acting is good. I do hope that Andrew Garfield gets a supporting actor nod. I thought he was fabulous.

I've seen several movies lately that I thought could stand to trim 10-15 minutes, but not this one. It's pretty perfect. And I liked the narrative structure that intercut the lawsuits with the actions surrounding the founding of the site.

It was weird that the CGI on the Winklevoss twins was so perfect, while the cold breath scenes were so jarring. But that was the only complaint I could think of. Well, that and the fact that women hardly figure into the film at all, which I'm sure is not true to real life. (I think Zuckerberg has a long term girlfriend and I think his right hand person is a woman.)

I suppose I'm not really raving about this one, because I didn't fall in love with it the way I did with Winter's Bone (or Zodiac or Fight Club for David Fincher comparisons). And it isn't a 'fun' movie, so it's hard to get super excited about it. But it is incredibly well done and it's surprising that a film that is so much about hacking and writing code is entertaining and dramatic. The drama between the founders and owners takes up much of the film and I did want to know where Eduardo Saverin ended up (according to Wikipedia, he now owns a 5% share in Facebook, worth $1.3 billion).

5/5 stars

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's halloween it's halloween

Speaking of horror films, Shocktillyoudrop has 13 new Halloween classics of the last 20 years. LOVE the top 2.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I know. I'm woefully behind on my horror films. But I can't help it - the Giants are in the playoffs, so a lot of my tv time has been monopolized by baseball. I'll probably keep watching things through November.

Also - a quick note on Conviction. I thought the Boston Globe review brought up a good point (surprisingly; I don't think they have the world's best reviews). The bit was this; "Rockwell’s face conveys the emotional wear and tear of prison life, but his character’s struggle is the existential meat of the movie: How do inmates survive an unjust conviction?" While Rockwell really does do a great job in those brief scenes of demonstrating his character, the reviewer makes a great point. I think the movie would have been much better if we had seen more of Kenny's struggle alongside his sister's. But, hey, I'm a big Oz fan. I love prison drama.

ANYWAYS - the Brattle got a special preview screening of The Girl That Kicked the Hornet's Nest, so I went to that last night.

[On a quick note: reason #37 I love the Brattle? Ned was talking up some upcoming shows and mentioned that they would be showing Frederick Wiseman's new film, Boxing Gym, which is mercifully short, and a good chunk of the audience started laughing. How many places in the world will you be around people who get a Frederick Wiseman punchline?]

Back to the Hornet's Nest.

The good news is I liked it much better than the second film. I didn't like it as much as the first film, but overall I enjoyed it. My only quibbles would be that a little bit of the middle started to drag before the trial kicks in (which is surprising, considering how much material they were trying to cram in from the book). Also that a couple of my favorite characters from the book got minimal screen time. But that problem is definitely understandable, given the length of the source material. Oh, and they changed Erika's arc, which I thought made her a little bit shrill in the movie. I liked her so much in the book that I found that change a little disappointing, but it was a pretty minor part of the movie. And I definitely think that Erika needed to stick around Millennium for the plot of the film (in the book she leaves for a different position).

I was discussing the film at work today and I hadn't thought about this before, but I think one of the reasons I really enjoyed it was that it passes the Bechdel Test. I was thinking about how much I enjoyed the scenes between Lisbeth and Annika. And it struck me that I think part of that chemistry is that they are both really interesting, strong female characters interacting with each other, which I don't get to see very often.

I really liked Annika in this movie - I think she provides a really interesting counterpart to Lisbeth. They unfortunately left out one of my favorite cross-interrogations of hers from the book, though - when she tears down the psychiatrist's argument that Lisbeth's piercings and tattoos indicate a damaged psyche.

I don't remember if in the book Annika was pregnant? But she was in the film, and I really liked that, too. It was jarring at first. I can't think of the last time I saw a pregnant woman on film where the film wasn't about her pregnancy. But no - in this film, she was just going around, being a lawyer, and the fact that she was pregnant was never commented on. Just like in real life, but hardly ever like in the movies.

Oh and I loved the guy they got to play Anders Jonasson, Lisbeth's doctor. The actor they picked was younger than I had pictured from reading, but he was so spot on in the way in which he cares for Lisbeth.

Mikael and Lisbeth continue to be riveting to watch. Noomi Rapace is such an exceptionally gifted actress that she can hold the audience's attention so well while being mute and still.

Obviously, there is more in the books, and it will be interesting to see what David Fincher does with the material, but the Swedish films are well worth a watch. (Okay - the second one isn't, but it leads into the third...)

4/5 stars.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Halloween Challenge #4 - The Birds

I've never seen The Birds because I honestly couldn't believe that birds could be scary. The whole premise seemed sort of silly. In fact, it always made me think of a Far Side cartoon in which a farmer and his wife are sitting in their house looking scared and saying, "Oh no! The chickens have cut the power!".

They're birds.

But, I get a lot of; "YOU haven't seen THE BIRDS?" So, fine. I watched it.

My overall impressions is that it has not aged well and it is not one of Hitchcock's better films. However, I did like it more than I expected to, and probably because he is such a fine director. I did get a little bored though (it is just not that scary), so here are my notes taken while watching:

- I had no idea this was based on a story by Daphne Du Maurnier
-Ahh... San Francisco
-I spy Hitchcock!
-Tippi Hedren... she talks funny. I'm surprised they didn't do re-takes for some of her lines.
-the lack of a constant soundtrack

This was actually the thing I noticed most in watching the film and I really enjoyed it. There's a lot of silence. There isn't a constant score playing, trying to ramp up your emotions. It actually does a better job of letting the audience tense up on their own than if there were screeching violins in the background.

-Ah, painted backdrops. You look so silly.
-Man, pecked out eyes. Way gorier than what I would have expected for something this old.
-I'm sorry. I find this romance utterly unconvincing.
-Ok. The birds on the playground is pretty creepy.
-The kids running away? Not so much.
-Tippi is actually a pretty strong heroine. Surprisingly.
-Bitchy old ornithologist FTW.
-Crazy Irish drunk FTW.
-The birds looking down on the explosion might be my new favorite camera shot.
-Wrestling with a seagull? Not. Scary.
-but those live ones sure looked painful.
-Oh my god. Stop standing there and help.
-Some of those sound effects are not birds. They sound like lasers.
-Oh my god. The birds cut the power!
-I take it it back about her being a strong heroine. Open the fucking door!
-Wait, WHAT?!? That's the end? Abrupt much? Sheesh.

There you go. The Birds in 60 seconds. 2/5 stars.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Hallow... nope. Bunny and the Bull

Yeah, yeah. I know. Not doing so well on that whole horror movie thing. But hey - I've got a long weekend coming up.

(and Never Let Me Go and the Social Network to see... Shhh.....)

Bunny and the Bull

I enjoyed this film. It's written and directed by the director of The Mighty Boosh. Actually, the movie feels a lot like A Very Special Episode of the The Mighty Boosh. It's surrealist and a little whimsical and centers on an unlikely friendship. And yes, both Vince (Noel Fielding) and Howard (Julian Barratt) pop up as crazy characters.

The story is about a shut-in, recollecting his jaunt across Europe with his best friend the year before. The shut-in, Stephen, is sensible and practical and had just gotten a PhD in order to ask out a girl at the start of the adventure. His best friend Bunny sleeps around, drinks, gambles compulsively and organizes crab races in Polish restaurants on a whim. On the way they meet a Spanish girl whom, of course, they both fall for.

The film uses a lot of animation and Wes Anderson-style design and eccentrics. Also, I got a lot of flashes of Withnail and I, what with the sensitive somewhat crazy person with the more outlandish crazy friend, only with less Life Upon the Wicked Stage and more graphic design. I liked the animation though, in part because the film is really visually interesting and partly because it works well with Stephen's psychosis and ruminations.

My only complaint was that it could have been a little shorter. It started to drag a little bit in the middle. Overall, though, it was enjoyable. I'd definitely recommend checking it out if you get the chance.

3.5/5 stars.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Halloween Challenge - #3 Time Bandits (?)

Okay, okay. Not really a horror or thriller. But it's been at my house for weeks and I needed to hurry up and see it (again) so that I could get something new. I had seen it before when I was a little girl, but only remembered bits and pieces of it. Mostly the bit at the end with the big fight.

The basic premise is that a little boy hooks up with a roving band of time traveling drawves and they pop through several historical time periods. All the while they are on the run from god (whom they stole the time travel map from) and end up facing off with evil incarnate.

That summary, along with the knowledge that it comes from Terry Gilliam, will give you a pretty good idea of whether you will enjoy it or not. It comes out of the same camp as Labyrinth - fantasy that works best for kids, but is entertaining enough for adults. While I enjoyed Time Bandits, I'm not sure it's as clever as Labyrinth, although Labyrinth may just hold more of a nostalgia factor for me.

Michael Palin (who co-wrote the film) and John Cleese pop up with cameos, and Ian Holm plays a Punch and Judy obsessed Napoleon. Sean Connery turns up as a Greek king, as well, in a segment which attempts to give some emotional grounding to the child star.

Speaking of whom, that child had no eyebrows. I spent the first half hour wondering if it was a young Matt Smith (it was not).

I'm glad I saw it again, if only to remember what happened in it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend spending time on it unless you have kids.

3/5 Stars

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dear Katherine Heigl

Dear Katherine Heigl,

Your bosses might have an issue with you calling the projects you are supposed to be promoting "a little bit sexist" or saying that something "sucks."

The rest of us have an issue with your sexist work sucking.

You don't have an image problem. You have a career problem.


[Update: Girls on Film tackles the issue.]

Boston alert!

This may apply to other major cities as well. Just as a heads up - Cell 211, which was one of my favorite films from this years IFF Boston, as well as a GOYA-award winner, is coming out for one week only on October 22nd.

The movie is about a prison guard who gets knocked unconscious on his first day on the job and wakes up in the middle of a prison riot, so he has to pretend to be another prisoner to survive. It's really, really well done and I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance.

Summer Box Office Challenge

Here were my predictions 4 months ago:

1. Iron Man 2 - $370 million
2. Toy Story 3 - $359 million
3. Twilight: Eclipse - $316 million
4. Shrek 4 - $292 million
5. Inception - $243 million

And the actuals:
1. Toy Story 3 - $410
2. Iron Man 2 - $312
3. Twilight Eclipse - $300
4. Inception - $282
5. Despicable Me - $244

I can't tell you how glad I am Despicable Me replaced Shrek on that list. But hey - I was pretty close.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What I miss about San Francisco

Am I looking at San Francisco though rose-colored glasses (nostalgia covered glasses?). Perhaps. Probably definitely. But I'll share with you this quote from a friend of a friend who moved to the city;

"This is a city full of people who really love it here. I ask almost everyone I meet, and only the ex-New Yorkers feel differently. Yes it's expensive, yes it's frustratingly leisurely for an ex-east coaster, and yes it's wicked cold. But it's also a friendly place with positive energy, it has an extraordinary exterior, and it offers as much opportunities as cities several times larger."
Aaah..... cold. *tear*

So - in no order whatsoever - here is what I miss (some of these things are not exclusive to San Francisco, but they are definitely not in Boston) :

-Guerrero’s Taqueria

-Ocean Taqueria

-Land’s End

-Davies Hall

-The Zoo

-the zoo has Aye-ayes. I'm not even kidding. Real, honest-to-god Aye-ayes. They are so amazing.

-the Academy of Sciences

-the DeYoung (Hey! It's the fifth most visited museum in the US!)

-the Palace of the Legion of Honor

-Manor Coffee Shop

-Golden Gate Park

-China Beach

-The Warfield

-the Dickens Faire

-the Giants (hey! Did you know? The Giants have won more games than any other team in the history of American baseball. Wikipedia told me so.)

-veggie dogs at AT&T Park

-the Marin Headlands

-Point Reyes (ALL of it. Stinson Beach, Tomales Bay, the entire Seashore, especially Drake's Beach, the lighthouse and Chimney Rock, and Toby's Feed Barn in Point Reyes Station.)

-Ano Nuevo and the elephant seals

-In general, being able to get out to wilderness that actually feels wild

-And the fact that most of that wilderness is chaparral

-Bay Area ecosystems. I miss black widows. I miss Brown Pelicans. I miss Monterey Cypress trees and California Live Oaks. I miss Sage and Manzanita and Yerba Santa and Toyon. I miss Scrub Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, California Quail, Great Horned Owls, Red Tailed Hawks and California Gulls. I miss California Poppies.

-the entire GGNRA. It's one of the largest urban parks in the world and one of the most visited national parks in the US. And it contains more endangered species than any other park in the continental US.

-Rouge et Noir camembert

-the Cowgirl Creamery grilled cheese at the Hog Island Oyster Co.

-Really, all of the ferry building

-Jamba Juice


-Bay to Breakers

-the view of the Farallons

-Coit Tower


-Muir Woods

-griping about El Nino

-diversity. Actual, honest to god, diversity.

-the silent film fest at the Castro

-the Japanese Tea garden


-Mitchell’s Ice Cream

-In n’ Out

-Girls Chorus concerts

-Chinese New Year

-sushi in Japantown

-taking the 1 down to Monterrey

-Cal Basketball and Volleyball

-Angel Island

-I actually miss MUNI. I swear to god. Get me off the T.


-Irish coffees at the Buena Vista


-local writers (yes, I realize I can read them anywhere. Shaddup.)

-the murals


-being near mountains


-the weather

-drag queens

-vegan food


-our city motto; "San Francisco. Not smug. Just Better."
(and our runner-up motto; "Back door. BACK DOOR! Step down. STEP DOWN!")

-Zante's pizza

-Actually, Round table pizza, too

-Amoeba records

-concerts at Stern Grove

-ACT and the Berkeley Rep

-pedestrian safe

-Noah’s bagels

-Trader Joes

-real, honest-to-god sourdough

-Dude! Did you know there's a trampoline park in the Presidio?!? That. I miss that.

-vegetarian friendly

-public art

-the Blue Angels


-people wearing leather, tattoos, vinyl, piercings, hell – TIE-DYE – I don’t care so long as it isn’t J. Crew.

-the Exploratorium

Other facts to love about San Francisco: the most college degrees per capita (yay nerds!), the thinnest city in the US, the most walkable city in the US, the best large city for young professionals, the only American city in the global top 10 happiest cities (I love the description), the second best city for singles, the third most veggie friendly city, the third healthiest city in the US, the sixth best biking city, in the top 20 Green cities, we won the NL West, actually there's a whole list that is like Who's honoring Me Now? and hey! SF is one of the least bad areas in the state for unemployment... That's encouraging for a job seeker.... Kinda...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Halloween Challenge - #2 Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Now - THIS one I loved unreservedly. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a pretty straight forward horror comedy. It takes the "college kids pursued by murderous hillbilly" tropes and inverts them and it is very funny. Basically, Tucker and Dale are two rednecks who have just bought their vacation cabin in the woods (which one of my seat mates thought looked a lot like the Evil Dead cabin - but don't all spooky woods cabins?). A group of college kids go camping near them, mistakenly believe that Tucker and Dale are trying to kill them and, in trying to fight back, manage to start killing themselves all over the property. In many hilarious ways.

I didn't recognize Tyler Labine, who plays Dale, but Alan Tudyk plays Tucker and they are both really good. The blonde college girl looked wildly familiar to me at first, and for about 10 minutes I kept going, 'wait. Christine Taylor isn't old enough to have a daughter that age!' and having random Hey, Dude flashbacks. But it turns out she was Suri from 30 Rock.

The whole thing is slappy and silly and doesn't drag on for too long with anything resembling an actual plot. I'm not going to link the trailer here, because while it had been months between my seeing the trailer and the film, one of my friends had just seen the trailer and thought it gave away some of the better punchlines. If you get a chance to catch this (other horror festivals? DVD?), I'd say check it out.

That brings me to my last point - I saw Tucker and Dale as a part of TerrorThon'10: 9 Days of Horror at the Somerville. I unfortunately only found out about it midway through the fest, so I couldn't make it to more than one night, even though I would have liked to. Anyways, it seemed like a really cool fest, and if you're in Boston, getting on their mailing list would be a good idea.

4/5 Stars

Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween Challenge - #1 Let Me In

Well, let me start off by saying that this review is really for those who have previously seen Let the Right One In. If you haven't seen it, your experience of seeing Let Me In will probably be different than mine.

[I'd also like to recommend seeing the Swedish film at some point if you haven't, because it was one of the best films of 2008.]

I went into the film cautiously optimistic, because I had read a number of reviews from people who had also loved the original movie and were trepidatious about a remake, but who ended up really liking the American version in its own right.

The end result for me was that I'm glad I saw it for free. The film definitely had its moments; Matt Reeves set up some really beautiful shots, but I couldn't stop comparing it to the first film. Let the Right One In was so unique and wonderful, that when I saw it, it really seared itself onto my brain. The remake just didn't impress me enough to stand on its own.

I liked the setting (1980s New Mexico) and I really liked most of the actors. Elias Koteas is fabulous and Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee are mostly very good. Richard Jenkins, on the other hand, isn't given much time in which to make an impact and I cannot see Jack's kid from LOST without thinking "Jack's kid from LOST."

My problems with the film were these:
- the CGI for Chloe's character. I'm sorry. It looked hokey and totally pulled me out of the film. It was like a gollum-vampire every time she ran around.
- which brings me to point #2. I think it would have been more effective if there had been less time spent with her in 'vampire mode.' A little girl attacking a grown man in a tunnel and ripping his throat out is scary. The same girl with weird contacts and makeup licking blood off the floor is not. (or a little girl bounding around a tunnel like gollum. Not. Scary.)

What I loved best about the first film was this concept of a young girl vampire. It really dealt with what the consequences of that creature would be. Someone perpetually at that age of burgeoning adulthood, hormonal swings, and tunnel vision focus. How would she survive? What would happen when someone who lived with her grew up and she did not? And finally - what would it be like to meet this little girl who needs blood to survive. The Swedish film emphasized her similarities to a young girl, rather than her vampire traits.

I will say what I loved best about Chloe Moretz's performance was the way she showed Abby's want, or hunger. It reminded me of the description of Claudia in Interview with a Vampire; "A little child she was, but also a fierce killer, now capable of the ruthless pursuit of blood with all a child's demanding." When she craves something, it fills up her whole being and that worked really well.

However, one of my other problems of the film was also with Chloe Moretz. Not for her performance, but for her casting. I think it's because I had seen her as Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, but she just didn't come off as quite fragile enough. There wasn't the jarring disconnect between tiny girl and unstoppable killer.

As for the blossoming relationship between the two, both young actors were quite good, and it mostly worked.

My final problem with the film? The swimming pool scene. There was just not the tension or the shock and awe that the first film had. Oh well.

UPDATE: Cleolinda has a really interesting post up over at her place that has the perspective of someone who hasn't seen the original.

3/5 Stars