Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Soundtrack: Into the Wild

I am forgoing the top (Entertainment Weekly) 100 list again to tell you another favorite of mine...Into the Wild. This movie came out in 2007 and is a story based on the book by John Krakauer but Sean Penn wrote the screenplay..oh, and directed it. It is about a college graduate, from a privileged background, who decides to give his lifesavings to charity and hike across Alaska. Emile Hirsch is in the lead role and was brilliant. I recommend watching it for his performance alone. It's just a bonus that the music in it is fantastic!!

Anyway, the lead singer of Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, created the soundtrack for the film with some folksy, bluesy tunes that really helps you delve into the young man's journey.

I have two songs that stick out in particular for me but the entire album is fantastic!

My favorite song might be Hard Sun.

Here is another great song from the soundtrack: Rise. A little sidenote: this was the beginning of Eddie Vedder's ukulele obsession. He now has an entire solo album featuring that instrument.

Had to add one more...

Click on pictures below for film or soundtrack:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sarah's Key

Directed (and co-wrote the screenplay) by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Hugo Productions, 2010-2011. Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Melusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frederic Pierrot, and Adian Quinn.

Genre: Drama, War

Question: Have you ever made a decision as a young child that profoundly affected the rest of your existence? Also, did you ever go digging into other people's past but it ends up altering your path? Well, Sarah's Key takes two stories and intertwines them because of one common element while answering those questions from two people's perspectives.

As I try to expand my love of movies (yes, it is possible for it to get bigger) by choosing a foreign film today, I am discovering that I have probably missed out on some great films due to my early prejudices. Yes, I have seen many foreign films in the past but I never went intentionally looking for them - at least not in the theatre. They were always recommended and sometimes people had to persuade me until I would acquiesce.  It's not that I didn't like foreign language films but I am such a visual person, so having to read and then see the action always left me feeling like I missed something. So, I am grabbing a glass of red wine now (and silently kicking myself) as I get ready to write the review for Sarah's Key. However, I will hunt down foreign films now to put in my review repertoire.

Now I am not sure where I should start with this review because I am still a little overwhelmed by the story of Sarah's Key. As I stated there are two stories here. The first story-line takes place in modern-day France with Kristin Scott Thomas as a journalist researching the Velodrome d'hiver Round-up but soon discovers a family connection to that time period. I will admit I am not a history buff and wasn't aware of this tragic part of world history until yesterday.

The second story-line has to do with that horrendous moment in time in France in July of 1942. This is where you meet Sarah, a little Jewish girl, who along with her family, is part of the Round-up. Also, this is when Sarah decides something that she has to live with the rest of your life. You know I am not going to tell you, but I will say that when then decision finally reaches the result I was a complete and utter mess.

I believe many of this story needs to stay a mystery, not just for my normal secretive reviews, but to allow you to fully immerse yourself in these two stories. The modern-day and the past tale go back and forth not so much symbiotically but, I think, for an emotional release. Sometimes during the harshest parts, the emotional aspects of the past tragedy, it was nice break to come out of that tale. And I will say for the first half there were some parts that were hard to witness.

The modern-day story line was interesting but not nearly as tragic or emotional as the other story. Yes, this is cryptic but a lot of this story was about a woman, Scott Thomas, researching her husband's family connection to those two horrendous days 60+ years ago. I want to keep it a mystery for you all.

The acting was very good. Of course, Kristin Scott Thomas was spectacular (and is one of the most beautiful women on-screen today) but there were a few others that I have to mention. There was Niels Arestrup. I think I recognized him but I am still not sure from what. Here was this elderly man with the kindest blue eyes that showed extreme compassion for the little girl, Sarah. Some of his expressions just moved me. That is why I have to mention him even though he isn't in the movie very much.

However, the one who stole the entire movie was the little girl who played the young Sarah, Melusine Mayance. She was amazing. She had to show high and extreme emotions that not many of us ever have to come close to. There was one scene that proved this little girl can act - which I won't describe - but I was hoping the others in the theatre didn't hear me sobbing during it. Her performance caused my reaction and, OK,  I am a little sensitive but this scene was really the heart of the movie.

Sarah's Key is an excellent movie but I will admit the ending became a little slow or convoluted. Plus, the emotional draw to the story lines had already reached their pinnacle but the movie-makers kept trying to drag a little more out. I don't think it was as powerful but still an outstanding film overall.

Don't let the subtitles keep you away. Sarah's Key is worth it. (Based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay.)

My favorite part: Realizing I could read the subtitles and still watch the movie and catch every nuance.

My least favorite part: Learning that things like the Velodrome actually happened.

Note: Sarah's Key has already been released overseas late last year but only just opened here in the US this past month. I believe the film is already available for rental or downloading outside of the US.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 111 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10

Click on pictures to watch film instantly or order book (ebook):

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Worst Movie Cliches

I just received this and loved it - especially #2 & #3 for obvious reasons...Enjoy!!!

Preview: Restless

I saw this preview before Sarah's Key yesterday and this one looks a little different. I'm intrigued. Plus, it from Gus Van Sant. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preview: Sarah's Key

Very rarely do I tell you all what movie I just viewed, but when it is film like this I have to share it right away. It's called Sarah's Key - a French film starring Kristen Scott Thomas. I have to share the French preview because the American one showed WAY TOO MUCH!!

This is in the theatres now. In fact, this was at my local cinema that doesn't normally show independent or foreign films, but I don't know how much longer. My review will be out this coming Tuesday. Enjoy!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preview: The Rum Diary

So, Johnny Depp has teamed up again with another Hunter S. Thompson novel/film adaptation: The Rum Diary. I do love Johnny Depp, and I will probably see this, so I didn't watch the entire preview. Those of you who want to see what's coming up - check it out.  October 2011 release date.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fright Night

Directed by Craig Gillespie, Albuquerque Studios, 2011, Starring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelcin, Toni Collette, David Tennant and Imogen Poots.

Genre: Comedy, Horror

Question: Do you ever decide that you want to conquer your fears because you are tired of being so scared? Well, let me tell you I just tried facing my fear of horror movies with Fright Night today. It was a bad idea - a very bad idea.

I should tell you I saw the original and didn't find that one all that scary and I love a good vampire story (and Colin Farrell as a vampire - I mean, come on!). So I was kind of thinking I could handle this one, no problem. Well, I was wrong - very, very wrong. However, it wasn't so much the movie that scared me but what led up to it. It sort of made me rethink the whole conquering fear thingy.

First, I show up to the theatre thinking it starts at 10:45am. I wanted that show because that was the only one that wasn't 3D. But when I get there the first showing wasn't until 11:00am and it was 3D. Damn! Fine...

So, then I get into the theatre and take my seat and realized I didn't have my headphones. I usually sit in the theatre and listen to my IPod so as to block out others and avoid hearing the previews. Damn! Previews start and here is where the chicken that I am starts to take a hold...

The first preview is The Thing where the lead character's name was Kate. I remember John Carpenter's version and that one scared me to tears but the "Kate" thing started my heart pounding a little. Next preview: Paranormal Activity 3 starts with two little girls where the oldest girl is called Katie. Ummm, perhaps I should mention now that my name is Katy.

Alright, still having to listen to (and sometimes peek at) the previews with eerily haunting music playing, people screaming or calling for help, and then hearing my name a few times I started to panic a little. However, I really started freaking out when I realized I was the only one in the entire theatre. My heart started pounding more, my legs soon curled up to my chest and I started wanting my stuffed animal from my youth, Herman the whale. And the movie hadn't even started yet.

Next preview: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark starring Katie Holmes. Really!! Next preview was for Straw Dogs starring Kate Bosworth. I AM NOT KIDDING!! Yes, I am actually freaking out because every horror movie preview they are showing has my name or a variation of my name somehow connected to the film. That was just too coincidental for my taste. Luckily, the next preview was for Harold and Kumar with some Christmas movie, and I am thoroughly glad I had not taken what they usually take or the paranoia would have be at an all time high (sorry for the pun).

I started to relax after the last preview but then there was another preview. Dam...oh wait, it is for a vampire movie. I don't mind those. It was for Underworld Awakeningbut then I remembered who stars in that series... let's say it together... Kate Beckinsale! Alright, enough of the Kates and Katies but that one I will see. I loved the first Underworld so I was happy at that moment.

However, just when I thought it was safe...a summer teenage movie preview started and there was a lake...oh, and by this point we, I mean, I had to put on the 3D glasses...where was I? Oh yeah, there was a lake and...sharks! Shark Night 3D. Seriously!? Did I ever mention that I don't go in the ocean anymore? I was done and completely terrified by that point. No headphones, all the horror movie previews with all the Kates/Katies, and I was all alone. Help me...

I was supposed to talk about Fright Night wasn't I? Well, I sat through the movie, giggled a little, enjoyed seeing Colin Farrell almost shirtless, and watched some decent acting through a campy story all while my heart was racing because the majority of the movie is set in the dark. Remember I said I was all alone and now in a dark theatre with plenty of blood and guts seemingly beaming right out of the screen towards me? This may be the dumbest idea I have ever had. At least I knew how it was going to end. Trust me I kept praying for it to end because I really needed to go to the bathroom but was too chicken to stand up and walk out.

The 3D effects were not needed at all but one got me. Damn! Now I might need to find Herman and sleep with him tonight. Anyway, all-in-all it was a tolerable movie. It probably wasn't all that scary but I think I was just set up to be a tiny bit more scared than most. I did enjoy a surprise or two and there was one 10 second moment where I wouldn't have run away either from the vampire (Mr. Colin Farrell). Y'all will just have to see the movie to figure that one out.

Now for the end of the movie: The credits come on but the theatre remains dark and I can't stand up. It's too dark and the after-effects of the last two hours have a strong hold on me. And let me tell you my Iphone does not have a very bright screen. So, I sat there until the lights came on and almost ran out into the sunlight...Yep, I am a chicken and I will not being seeing another horror movie in the theatre for a long, long time.

So, what did I learn today about conquering fears? Well, it sucks and I think I need to change my name.

My favorite thing: I am at a loss for words on that one.

My least favorite thing: That I will probably be sleeping with Herman tonight.

Rating: R
Length: 106 minutes

Review: 4 out of 10

Click on film posters to view instantly:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Guard

Directed (and written) by John Michael McDonagh, Reprisal Films 2011. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Stong and Fionnula Flanagan.

Genre: Comedy, Thriller

Question: Is there a certain nationality that you feel a kinship with? Maybe it is an American thing that I have a need to ask that or share with you mine, but I feel a strong connection to my Irish heritage. So when I saw the preview a couple of months ago for the Irish indie film The Guard (and even posted the preview on my blog) I knew I had to see it. It finally came out last week.

I walked into the same theatre where I was SUPPOSED to see Another Earth earlier this week. I will admit I was a little nervous, and if you read my blog recently, you'll know why I felt that way when I arrived there this morning. Anyway, Another Earth was already gone. Darn! But The Guard was another film I was happy to see still in at the same cineplex. I decided not to press my luck and sit in the same seat as last time so I chose a different row. (What? Ok, I might be a little superstitious - maybe that's an Irish thing.) The movie began and I slowly started to relax.

Now I am not sure how I can desribe this movie because it's not like many I have seen before. It states above that it is a comedy and a thriller. Sure, I would say that both genres were there but so subtly written that it is really hard to say that The Guard was a flat-out comedy or an unbelievable thriller. I would say it was more of a black comedy and not "A Raucous Comedy!" as it states on the movie poster behind me. However, the thriller part is something you might not get until the end which is why I really enjoyed this film.

The story is about a small town in Ireland where there is a confrontational and unorthodox Irish policeman (guard) trying to solve a murder. The FBI comes in to help with the situation and up the ante with the murder with a huge drug deal possibly surrounding the murder. You know, somehow they are...connected!

Brendan Gleeson plays the main guard and I bet you know who he is just by the list a few of the films he has been in: 28 Days Later, Braveheart, Cold Mountain, Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (he is Mad-Eye Moody). Anyway, I have always enjoyed his performances but he is hardly the lead role so this was a nice change. And what a character he played. He's a single man, a cop but likes to ignore the law on a few things, etc.. He even uses the favorite curse word that the Irish seem to enjoy a lot (you know which one, right?....oh for fuck's sake - it should be obvious), but when he talks to his mother or a woman he is sweet, gentle and kind.

Now here's a hint at the thriller part of The Guard - or at least that is how I saw it....he was sarcastic - my favorite - but most of time you don't know if he is being sarcastic or not. I had a smile on my face throughout this entire movie because of his character and even a few soft chuckles. Brendan Gleeson is the main reason I enjoyed this film.

Don Cheadle plays the FBI agent sent over to join the investigation and is taken aback with the guard's crass and racist slurs, but he soon realized that he likes him as they work together to solve the crimes. He puts it perfectly when he calls him an unconventional police officer.  It was an interesting pairing to see the American federal agent and the small town police officer hunt down the drug smugglers - especially at the end of the film.

There are a couple of others things to mention about The Guard. The criminals, or the drug smugglers, were an interesting trio that when together would go off on odd topics like philosophy. I wish I could remember some of the dialogue but I do recall giggling during their scenes especially when Mark Strong's character would communicate. He had some of the best dialogue.

With all that was in The Guard I think the ending might be why I liked it even more. You will just have to see what I am talking about because I am not going to tell you.  Sláinte!

My favorite part: The quick Irish wit - that really does put a smile on my face.

My least favorite part: That I wasn't having a pint of Guinness while watching the film but it was only 10am.

Rating: R
Length: 96 minutes

Review: 8 out of 10

Click on poster to watch instantly:

Monday, August 22, 2011

Soundtrack: Beauty and The Beast

Today we are closing out the 80s with Beauty and The Beast at #80 (EW's list) on the top 100 soundtracks of all time. The Disney movie came out in 1991 - 20 years ago this year. Hmmm, let's see where I was then. I was 20 years-old, in college, with no excuse like a little sister or brother dying for me to take them to see this movie. Yep, I went and saw this movie all by myself. I will admit it, proudly.

Disney movies just make me smile. I remember enjoying this film but couldn't stop comparing it to one of my favorite Disney films, The Little Mermaidwhich came out a few years prior....yes, I owned that movie for a while. What? I am big kid who likes cartoons like this.

Anyway, back to Beauty and The Beast. Right now all I hear in my head is Angela Lansbury singing..."Tale as old as time..."

Disney does know how to put a good soundtrack together. So do I really need to tell you all more about this film and the music? I didn't think so. Enjoy!

Soundtrack and DVD:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top 25 Horror Movies

I didn't realize I forgot to post something yesterday but I haven't seen a movie since Wednesday. Yeah, I might see a movie today or two. Anyway, I was looking at my last post about The Woman in Black - a soon-to-be released horror/thriller/drama movie. And that got me thinking. I mentioned I saw the play 2 decades ago and it really scared me. Why? Well, take a look at the first genre associated with this film. Not my favorite genre. I don't usually like to watch horror films mainly because I am a chicken - big time - when it comes to the macabre.

I use that last word because for a long time Stephen King was my favorite author and he is always described as the king of the macabre, right? Someone recently reminding me of that when he wrote about him on his blog. I devoured his books in my 20's. So, I ask myself why don't I like to watch horror movies but loved reading Stephen King novels? Well, first his novels usually aren't all blood and guts like the adaptions Hollywood have done from his books. Also, for some reason none of his books scared me. Well, Pet Sematary did a little. Oh wait, It terrified me. Well, it was all about childhood fears! I remember I could only read it during the daylight; and once I didn't notice twilight came and went. Yep, that night I slept with the light on. I was 20 years old - big chicken. Ok, enough about me.

I now feel compelled to share with you the top 25 Horror movies. I wonder how many I was actually able to sit through...

25. Friday the 13th (1980)
24. Scream
23. Dracula (1931)
22. The Haunting
21. The Blair Witch Project
20. Suspira
19. Let the Right One In
18. An American Werewolf in London
17. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
16. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
15. The Thing
14. The Fly (1986)
13. Poltergeist
12. The Ring
11. Halloween
10. Night of the Living Dead
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
8. Rosemary's Baby
7. Bride of Frankenstein
6. The Shining
5. Silence of the Lambs
4. Alien
3. Jaws
2. Psycho
1. The Exorcist

After reading this list I discovered something - the fact that I saw a lot of these when I was way too young might be my problem. Also, so many of these have altered my many...yep, big chicken - that is me!

I found this list at IGN movies

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Preview: The Woman in Black

Since I am not posting a review of Another Earth today, I thought I would share with you a teaser trailer for a movie coming out soon: The Woman in Black. Now I saw this in back in 1991 at Fortune Theatre in London's West End. It is the ONLY play that has ever scared me - EVER. I am a little nervous to see it on the big screen. Oh well. Enjoy!!

The Change-Up - well, sort of...

Question: Have you ever walked into see a movie and then walked out? Well, I just had to this morning.

No, it wasn't The Change-Up - it should have been. I was actually at the movie theatre today to see Another Earth - a movie I have been dying to see. I was waiting patiently in the middle of the theatre in my seat with one other couple. Previews were ending and I was happy. Then something odd happened - a man walked into the theatre with a suitcase - A SUITCASE! He walked right past everyone and took a seat two rows behind me. Here is where it gets really interesting...he then takes all the arm rests in the row in front of him and flipped them back up so as to "hide" whatever he was doing. Paranoia set in. I bolted.

I ended up telling security and was ready to get my money back. The manager offered to see another movie - the only one I hadn't seen that was starting then was The Change-up...I should have known better.

No review, no rating and I wish that I could wipe away my memory of the last 2 hours.

Don't worry, I will see Another Earth.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

25 Greatest Unscripted Scenes in Films

I have to share this video - 2 people sent it to me today and I can't believe how many lines, that we all know from these movies, were improvised. I think I like every one of these movies - yes, even #12 & #16.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Help

Genre: Drama

Question:  Do you feel stuck or made to feel like your life can't get better? You think if you even try to and improve your life you will just be beaten down and told "NO, you aren't allowed to do that", right?  Everyone should have one thing in this world that allows them to feel there is a chance at change. It's called hope - a powerful emotion. And once you have hope change can begin. Well, the movie, The Help, showed that if you have the courage to share your story, no matter how scared you are, or oppressed, you will eventually be free and happy. As the tagline goes, "Change begins with a whisper."

In The Help the women of Jackson, Mississippi, specifically the black women, can't pursue their dreams; actually they can't pursue anything due to the racism that was so prevalent in this country in the early 60's in the South. I will tell you not many things make me angry but racism disturbs me so that this movie was particularly hard for me to watch without getting overly emotional. (I really need to carry around more tissues.) The movie represented the harsh reality these women faced on a daily basis by society. There were parts that were light in nature but as soon as you let your guard down the story smacked you with another blow. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.

The story starts with Aibileen (played brilliantly by Viola Davis), a black maid, working for a white family. She basically does everything for them: the shopping, the cleaning, the cooking and raising their daughter. This type of job is something she has always done - since she was a teenager. She had no choice. Her mother was a maid and her grandmother was a house slave. She wasn't allowed to pursue an alternative employment. However, she loves the little girl and knows that her mother can't raise her properly. You will witness as to why.

Then Eugenia 'Skeeter' Phelan comes home from college. Emma Stone plays Skeeter. She is the only woman in town who isn't married with children and she doesn't mind, much to her mother's dismay. She wants to become a writer (yay!). She returns to witness the rampant racism that seems to plague her town, her friends and family. She is then inspired to write about it - specifically from the maid's point of view(s). However, no one will talk to her about it. They were too afraid.

I don't want to go into too much detail as usual but the women portrayed some of the strongest characters and a couple of the most hideous human beings I have ever seen on film. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer played the two main maids in this story and their performances were stellar. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they were both nominated for many awards.

Bryce Dallas Howard was brilliant in this film as Hilly Hollbrook, one of the most racist people in the film. She played it so well that when she came on-screen my heart sank because I knew she would say or do something so hideous - and she usually did. But don't worry - karma takes a hand in this story - a brilliant hand.

Emma Stone (Skeeter) also did a fantastic job as the one who started the wave of change. Through her questions, writing and her own story she allowed the black woman of Jackson to have a voice - something they never had before. Her whisper sparked a revolution.

I have to admit towards the end of the movie the story got a little choppy; and I have feeling the book this movie was based on (by Kathryn Stockett) went in further into detail about the racism, the relationship between these women and the change that took place. Many recommended this book to me last summer but never got around to it. I might just have to read it now.

Have you started your whisper yet? Change can happen.

My favorite thing: The inspiration this movie gave me and to remind me to fight for what I want.

My least favorite thing: Knowing that racism was that bad in this country.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 137 minutes

Review: 8 out of 10

Watch film instantly:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Soundtrack: Local Hero

Coming in at #81 on the (Entertainment Weekly's) top 100 Soundtracks is Local Hero (1983). I will admit I don't think I saw this one. I might have but it came out when I was a young teenager and if it wasn't a John Hughes film I probably skipped it.

Apparently it is about an American who is sent to Scotland to buy up an entire town so his company can build an oil refinery. This stars Burt Lancaster and Peter Reigert. Don't recognize the last name? Well, do you know Boon from Animal House? Yep, that's Peter Reigert.

Now to the music - Mark Knophler, of Dire Straights, wrote the music for Local Hero. Here he mixed Celtic folk, fusion and New Age. Sounds like an odd combination but I am sure it worked since it is at #81. Enjoy!

Download here:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Preview: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I saw this preview before a movie I saw yesterday. It was a real teaser - I like that. Yes, this is a remake of the Danish 2009 movie. These both are based on the novel by Steig Larsson. But I wanted to share this because I really like how they put this preview together.

I have not read the books nor have I seen the original movie. Many have told me I should. I am actually in a dilemma here as what to do first - read the book, see the first movie or wait until this version comes out. What to do?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Directed by Rupert Wyatt, Chernin Entertainment, 2011. Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Andy Serkis.

Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller.

Question: Do you find it difficult to think about animal testing? Rise of the Planet of the Apes will probably make you ponder it whether you like it or not.

When I think about it there is a part of me that shudders. I am such a huge animal lover that it makes me ill to even think that it exists. However, I know back in the 1940's if Dr. Alfred Blalock from Johns Hopkins University didn't experiment on animals (dogs specifically) to help figure out the blue baby issue, I wouldn't be here today. You see, Dr. Blalock was the first surgeon to perform heart surgery and before that time it was thought of as impossible to operate on the heart. He was a pioneer. Two years ago I required heart surgery and am forever grateful for that research because it saved my life.

However, even with my own personal history, I still find it difficult to think about what we humans do to animals to better our lives. This issue is at the core of what Rise of the Planet of the Apes is about.  Will Rodman, played by James Franco, is a researcher trying to cure Alzheimer's disease and the lab he works for uses chimps for their research.

There are plenty of scenes with chimps being used to test experimental drugs and many of the technicians were tender and kind. However, there was one scene that was towards the beginning that slapped me hard with emotions. I wasn't expecting it but it just makes me think we humans are too quick to react when animals do what comes naturally.

The rest of the story is going to remain a mystery - yes, people that's how I write my reviews. You know that but I will talk a bit about some of the details.

First, let's discuss the acting. The best actor in the whole film was Andy Serkis. He was the actor behind the mask - so to speak. Ceaser, the main chimp in this movie, had all his facial expressions performed by Andy Serkis. This wasn't the first time this happened on film. Andy Serkis was also the face behind Gollum in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. It was unbelievable special effects. Really!

Now I have talked about James Franco before and I was thoroughly pleased with him in 127 Hours, but in Rise of the Planet of the Apes I didn't really buy that he was this brilliant researcher desperately wanting to cure Alzheimer's for his own personal reasons. He also seemed a little young to be playing the part. It wasn't a distraction but he wouldn't have been my first choice.

There were other actors but much of the film shows chimps, apes and orangutan communicating that many of the human actors weren't on screen as much as they normally would have been. There are two actors in this film that I have to mention, a couple of my favorites were in this movie: John Lithgow and Brian Cox. However, both of them really weren't given a lot to work with for their characters - whether it was the writing or just not enough time on the screen.

The special effects were pretty spectacular. I could not tell - at all - if the animals were real or not. I am usually very particular and extremely critical of those details but this one did a pretty good job looking completely real.

The last part that I found credible is the overall story. The writers did a fantastic job putting together a scenario of why the movie is called Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Plus, for you fans of the Planet of the Apes series - you will really like the ending and the homage to one of the other movies.

My favorite thing: The special effects. Oh, and the kitchen in James Franco's character's house was to die for!

My least favorite thing: That John Lithgow and Brian Cox didn't have larger parts.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 105 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10

Watch instantly:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preview: The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Now I am sharing a preview with you for one reason and one reason only: The person who wrote the novel and the screenplay for What's Eating Gilbert Grape and the screenplay for About a Boy - Peter Hedges - has another film coming out.

I don't know much about The Odd Life of Timothy Green but because of who wrote it I am interested in finding out more. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Directed by Wayne Wang, IDG China Media & Fox Searchlight Productions, 2011. Starring Bingbing LiGianna Jun and Hugh Jackman.

Genre: Drama, History

Question: Do you share a lifelong friendship with someone - a friendship that makes your life better, helps you through the dark times and shares the good times? Beaches showed a lifelong bond between two women and it told a nice tale, however, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan just wiped Beaches away with one flick of the fan. This may have been one of the greatest friendships stories I have ever witnessed on film. Lovely, just lovely.

We have all had friendships when we were little, some even lasting into our early adulthood or beyond. You are lucky if you find a friendship like that. I had a friend when I was young and I loved her like a sister. Unfortunately, that friendship ended.. A few years later I tried again with another when I got to high school. In fact, I even saw Beaches with my "best friend", which is what you did when it came out in 1988. We laughed together and we cried together and said "That was so us." However, she ended the friendship a few years later and I have had difficulty ever since trusting others.

So, I am always leery to see anything about a strong friendship between two women, but I am trying to expand my movie genres and decided upon Snow Flower and the Secret Fan since it was a foreign film. I hadn't reviewed a foreign film yet. I am happy to say I am glad I put my personal concerns aside.

There are two stories told within this movie about a friendship between two women: one in modern-day China and one in 19th century China. Each story mirrors the other when trying to describe the love these two women had for each other. Both stories used the same actresses to tell the tales: Lily/Nina, (Bingbing Li)and Snow Flower/Sophia (Gianna Jun).

In modern-day China, the girls are school friends. One helps the other learn better mandarin since she is Korean. They are inseparable despite the disapproval of Sophia's stepmother. However, her aunt knows of their strong friendship and tells them the story of the laotong girls or "old sames". This is an ancient way of how girls were bound together for eternity in friendship. These friendships were necessary due to the horrific obligatory life they had with men. It was an ultimate support system.

Something happens to one of the modern girls and then the ancient story starts about Snow Flower and Lily - another pair of laotong girls. Their story paralleled the modern one and wove in and out seamlessly.

Their story started in 19th century China as little girls (age 7) both had their feet bound on the same day. Yes, this was something they used to do to make sure their feet wouldn't grow. Their feet were not supposed get bigger than a few inches - in their world that was "perfection". This was to insure them worthy enough for a man. There were a few scenes about this torturous method that were very hard to watch.

However, the young girls were then made to live together and then sworn to each other as laotong girls. This made them very happy. Then they learned a secret language to help them communicate where men could not see. This would be written on fans and passed back and forth as they grew up, married off and tried to have sons - since they weren't considered fit wives or decent women if they had only girls.

I will admit the ancient story of the bound feet, the abuse they had to endure, the control men had over women, and something that everyone went along with, had me sick to my stomach. There was even one scene, although most of it was only heard, had me in tears with certain amount of anger only because I know things like that happened and still can happen today. However, the next scene was between Snow Flower and Lily and I think I cried even harder. Not a word spoken by either of them but the love, the kindness, the friendship portrayed was breathtaking.

I have not revealed much of the plot with this review - just a few facts and some parts that made a powerful impact on me. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was a beautiful movie about a friendship that will last 10,000 years. To witness something like that on film was a gift. I hope you get a chance to see this film; and I hope you are fortunate to see it with your best friend.

My favorite thing: The scene I mentioned earlier with Snow Flower and Lily.

My least favorite thing: Witnessing the control and abuse women had to endure.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes

Review: 9 out of 10

The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Lisa See.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monthly Wrap-Up July 2011

Now that we are in August (can't believe it) it's time for Monthly Wrap-up. Here is July's list of reviews:

Flashbacks of a Fool - 8 out of 10
Winnie the Pooh - 9 out of 10
The Deposition - 7 out of 10
I Like Killing Flies - Documentary
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - 10 out of 10
Charlie St. Cloud - 5 out of 10
Horrible Bosses - 7 out of 10
Beginners - 7 out of 10
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - 6 out of 10

WOW! I didn't realize I reviewed so little that month. Sorry everyone. Was a little distracted but rest assured I am slowly getting back to viewing more movies for you all!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Previews: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

I just got back from seeing a wonderful film: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. My review won't be out until Tuesday but check out the preview and see if this film is in one of your local theaters. I don't when this was released and I don't know how long it will be in the theaters. Don't miss this one!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Soundtrack: Cold Mountain

I was off somewhere walking today and songs kept coming up on my IPod and I noticed that most of them came from a movie. Go figure. When I got back home I noticed the soundtrack was not on the top 100 soundtrack list I talk about. So, I am going to share with you all one of my favorite soundtracks: Cold Mountain.

When this movie came out in 2003 I did not see it. I can't really say why. I did hear that it was a romance, and I do like a good one. Someone told me the two lovers fell in love based on a few glances and one kiss so I was a little skeptical. However, someone told me later that part of it was filmed at my old college, so I eventually rented it.

I will tell you I kicked myself for not seeing it in the movie theatre after I watched it one day alone. Although I was grateful for the privacy because I usually don't like people seeing me cry. Yes, it was a romance - a big one and a sad one. Anyway, I was blown away by this movie. I got totally sucked into the romance, all the characters and the scenery. There was one character who was a complete treat to watch and unlike any other she had played before: Renee Zellweger's. I think she was even nominated actually for that performance.

In addition to the wonderful romantic story line of  Cold Mountain  it was the music in it that kept me even more engaged. Alison Krauss, who may have one of the best voices on the planet, sings a couple of songs on the soundtrack: "The Scarlet Tide" and "You Will Be My Ain True Love" and they were also nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar. The latter song makes my heart sing. It may be one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Plus, Sting sings on it as well - not a bad combinations of voices.

I actually loved hearing every single song in the movie but I really enjoyed watching the movie when I saw Jack White act and sing in Cold Mountain. I love him! I ended up running to the music store to buy the CD about thirty minutes after it ended (and I had collected myself). Yes, Jack White from The White Stripes.  He sang some older songs on the album/movie but he wrote one specifically for the movie: "Never Far Away". However, it is his version of  "Wayfaring Stranger" that made me pay close attention.

I am not sure I can say enough good things about this soundtrack. Perhaps my love for old-timey or Appalachian Mountain music is why I love this soundtrack so much. I listen to, at least, one or two songs from it everyday. Oh, I also love the a capella song "Lady Margaret". Okay, sorry, I just had to squeeze one more in.

I hope you take a gander at the movie and the soundtrack. You won't regret it.

Cold Mountain (Music from the Motion Picture) - Various Artists

Friday, August 5, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa, Carousel Productions  2011. Starring Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Question: What are some of the words you use to describe love? I can think of many but that would take up this entire blog post. I just came back from seeing a movie that may have put some definitions in perfect order and more succinctly than I could: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

I am still undecided if I liked this movie or not. I liked all the actors in it; I laughed (no, I did not cry); I got a little bored and even rolled my eyes a couple of times. So I am unsure but by the time I finish typing this review I will have figured it out.

First, let me tell you I love Steve Carell. He is just one of those actors that can make me laugh, sympathize with and want to just hang out and chat. He can do funny, sweet, uncomfortable, sad and vulnerable all with one look. Did you not see Little Miss Sunshine? Well, he did that there. He is a man whose wife, played by Julianne Moore, asks for a divorce and he ends up turning the situation into figuring out who he is and have a little fun while doing it.

That's where Ryan Gosling's character comes in to save Steve Carell's character from his dorkiness. Oh, I love Ryan Gosling too. Sure, he is good looking but I think he is one of the best young actors out there today. Usually he plays dramatic roles (Blue Valentine), overly romantic roles (The Notebook) or psychological dramas (Fracture & Stay - yes, with Ewan McGregor). However, in Crazy, Stupid, Love. he plays up on his comedic talents. He isn't as over the top with the laughs as Steve Carell but he had some good ones that cracked a smile on this face.

There were some funny scenes with the 2 male lead characters that I can't divulge but some of the previews already did. So, let's switch it over the the ladies of this movie. Julianne Moore, as I mentioned before, is Steve Carell's wife. I think her character was a bit weak but necessary to the story so I can't really fault the writers. Then there was Emma Stone's character. In the beginning you aren't sure why she is part of this yet. Just wait.

Now, by time it got to the middle of the movie almost every character's dilemmas were in place then I became more interested. This is where Emma Stone's character comes back in the story and her issue with the thing they call love. Hannah, (Emma Stone) after having a huge disappointment, did something that I think every girl has always wanted to do but never had the guts. I won't say what but it's good. I also enjoyed the next scene as well because it was so real, funny and it referenced movies. (Okay, maybe I did like this movie a little.)

There were a few children in Crazy, Stupid, Love. and sometimes we adults forget that they fall in love too. There was the son of Steve Carrel's character in love with an older "woman". It was a great addition to all the adult love dilemmas. Also, he may have had one of the best scenes of the movie with giving the best summary of a book we all read in high school. (Okay, maybe I liked this movie a little more.)

I have to admit that there was probably one of the best compliments a man could give to a women in this movie. I won't reveal what it is but if you see the movie you'll see what I mean. (Yep, I liked this movie.)

All-in-all this was a sweet movie. I don't say that a lot about films but this one deserves that definition. Also, isn't love sweet sometimes?

My favorite thing: What Emma Stone did in the bar in the middle of the movie.

My least favorite thing: The graduation speech.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes

Review: 6 out of 10

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Preview: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Now I only share previews with you all when I see something that I really want to see and I think they have put a good trailer together to whet your appetite. Here is my latest find: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

For those who follow me you might notice one actor that I have mentioned once or twice is in this movie: Mark Strong. YAY! But, seriously, look at the other actors in this. That alone will make me see this film. Oh, and look it comes out right around my birthday. ;-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eye of the Beholder

Directed by Stephen Elliott, Destination Films, 1999, Ewan McGregor, Ashley Judd, Patrick Bergin k.d. Lang and Genevieve Bujold.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller.

Question: Can a man fall in love with a woman that he's never met, spoken to or doesn't even know her real name? Well, in the Eye of the Beholder, they try and answer that question.

A friend who knows I adore Ewan McGregor told me about this movie. I hadn't heard of it before and was curious to see it. Alright, I see everything he is in, you all know that by now, right? Anyway, I put it on my Netflix queue a few weeks ago and it arrived on Tuesday. I didn't get a chance to see it that night - although I really, really wanted to. So today before I had to pick up the kids from camp I popped it in.

This is a story about redemption, a thriller, and a love story but not necessarily in that order. Yes, I know what it says above but this is what I saw in this film (Eye of the Beholder, people). I saw a man and a woman who are both so alone, scared and with thoughts of such tremendous loss that they might be a little insane. Okay, one might be more insane than the other. But as the story unfolds I don't think either are really crazy - just lonely and trying to gain some stability in their lives.

When people see themselves in someone else who has experienced similar tragedies/heartaches/loss it can be a very powerful attraction. Is that love? Perhaps. Or is it something else completely? And can it have a happy ending? Well, I am not going to answer that - you'll just have to see for yourself.

I really don't want to give anything away about this movie because it was lovely to see a film that I knew nothing about. But I have to entice you guys, right? Ewan looks cute, of course, and Ashley Judd is quite attractive but what impressed me the most were their performances. How does one portray such sadness, desperation to find something secure or recapture what they lost especially when there isn't a tremendous amount of dialogue? Well, both of the actors did - and did it quite well.

Another reason to see this film is that it is untainted with a typical Hollywood ending. That alone would make me see any movie.

Lastly, to me, Eye of the Beholder said something about real life - not so much what the characters said but they way they behaved. Behavior is thought to be a reaction of or to something. In acting reaction is the essence of the medium but can be written totally out of whack of real life. They say: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And for the two characters, played by Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd, the force between them, even though they hardly shared many moments together, evoked that law of physics stunningly.

There was one song that played when they first met, so to speak, that gave me goosebumps - It is sung by Chrissie Hynde. "I Wish You Love" - and that pretty much sums it all up for me. Here is the song and a really, really good way to do a trailer!

Favorite thing: Don't be shocked by this - Ashley Judd. Yes, I still thought he was good!

My least favorite thing: In some scenes the costumes for the extras looked like it was supposed to be 1972 not present day.

Rating: R
Length: 109 minutes

Review: 8 out of 10

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Soundtrack: Do The Right Thing

Well, I remember this movie and I did enjoy it, but I am not sure I recall the music in it. But after looking it up I see why this is on the top 100 list. Public Enemy "Fight the Power" mixed in with some jazz from Branford Marsalis might have done the trick. This comes in at #82. (Entertainment Weekly)

Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (1989) was a powerful movie with a strong message regarding racism. I remember watching this and being very quiet after it finished. I don't think I have seen it since it came out so I might have to queue this one up again.

Do the Right Thing (Original Score) - The Natural Spiritual Orchestra

Monday, August 1, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Directed by Joe Johnston, Marvel Enterprises, 2011. Starring Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci, and Hugo Weaving.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Question: Have you had your fill of superhero or comic book movies this summer? Between Thor, Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class and let's go ahead and throw in Transformers: Dark of the Moon all within the last three months, I think I have had my fill. However, since my son didn't say a peep - not one complaint - when I dragged him to Winnie the Pooh last week I had to take him to see Captain America: The First Avenger.

Alight, part of me didn't mind though. Two words: Chris Evans. I have enjoyed his performances over the last six or seven years - ever since Cellular. It was a movie I just happen to stumble upon one weekend and thought he was fantastic in that crime/thriller. Since that movie he has appeared in a dozen or so and I have caught quite a few of them. Yes, they were mainly the Fantastic Four movies. (Man, I really see a lot of comic book movies!)

The movie started with an interesting concept, I thought. A great superhero theme was really being developed: even if you are beaten down, abused by the world but you stand-up for what you believe in and you have a good heart - good things will come. I liked that and thought it was a good lesson for my kiddos.

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a youth from Brooklyn who probably weighes 90 lbs. soaking wet but desperately wants to join the army during the early 1040's to defend America from the evils of Nazis. He just doesn't want to give up no matter how many tells him he can't. During this part of the movie I have to admit the special effects were phenomenal. How they made a 6'0" tall and probably 200 lbs. of pure muscle man look like a scrawny, 5'5" weakling for many scenes is beyond me.

After that he becomes Captain America and let's just say from there they lost me. Now I am not saying everyone will agree with me here. My family went and I was the only one who didn't enjoy it as a whole. For me I just got bored. It turned into more of a military war movie more than a superhero movie. So I was perplexed and started to question the strength of the entire story. Also, the main theme or moral seemed to disappear. Sure Captain America was a good guy, a hero, defending America but there really wasn't much dilemma for the character once he became the superhero.

As for as the acting goes everyone did a fine job. I did like Tommy Lee Jones, as Colonel Chester Phillips, but when has he really done a bad job in anything? His demeanor, his way of delivering a speech is always so captivating that I kind of wished he was in this movie more. Stanley Tucci also had a minor appearance in this movie. He was some of the only comic relief but it was short lived. There was a newcomer: Hayley Atwell, as Peggy Carter, and she did a fine job as well. One of the only female parts in Captain America: The First Avenger and she was quite a strong character and I enjoyed that.

One last actor to mention: Hugo Weaving. Now some of you may know him from The Adventures of Priscella Queen of the Desert - ok, well maybe not. How about The Matrix? Yes, he was Neo's nemesis. He plays the main villain in Captain America. As always, I enjoyed his performance - with what he had to go on. I think they could have made him a lot more viscous or maniacal but that's just my opinion.

There is a lot of action, lots of fighting, an extreme amount of cool gadgets or weaponry used that made my son beam with joy. Trust me, I kept looking over at him and he always gave me the biggest smile and said "I love this!" or "This is so cool!" The film makers know their audience, don't they?

The film ended and everyone but us left. I remember seeing Thor a couple months back and hearing about the little short or scene at the end of the credits. Well, I am here to tell you if you see Captain America: The First Avenger - stay in your seat! This was the last movie I believe that is the basis for the next Marvel Comics movie regarding The Avengers. Now that one I will look forward to seeing especially since it comes out in 2012.

My favorite thing: The villain's car.

My least favorite thing: The overall plot.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 124 Minutes

Review: 4 out of 10