Friday, August 17, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom- a Gem

I recently saw Moonrise Kingdom.... the weekend "Batman Rises" was released.  One can imagine that the theater going experience that weekend was a bit different.  The quick little video about where the exits were, the brighter lights along the aisles.....

The best antidote for this is Moonrise Kingdom.  What a lovely gem of a movie.  Of course, if one gathers such a group of actors, one is expected to deliver.  And Wes Anderson, as director and co-writer, certainly did that.  I haven't seen many of Mr. Anderson's films.  I do like The Royal Tenenbaums.  Even if both Wilson brothers are in it.  (They are offset by the brilliant performances of Gene Hackman, Bill Murray and the incomparable Anjelica Houston.)  But I have, once more, left the path of this topic.

The movie is set in 1964/1965 on an island in New England.  The plot:  Sam (Jared Gilman), as a member of the Boy Scout troop attending summer camp, is attending the local production of the Noah story.  He has a compulsion to seek out someone backstage.  He finds Suzy (Kara Hayward), in a dressing room preparing for her role as one of the birds.  They have an instant connection.  Before Sam is tossed from the dressing room, Suzy and Sam manage to exchange addresses.  Over the course of the fall, winter and spring, they write to each other. 

Meanwhile, let me introduce the other characters:
Bruce Willis- the local constable.
Bill Murray- Suzy's dad and a lawyer.
Frances McDormand: Suzy's mom and lawyer.  (How much litigation can there be on an island?)
Edward Norton: Boy Scout Leader.
Bob Balaban: Narrator.
Tilda Swinton:  Social Services (yes, you read that right!)

Without spoiling the movie too much, Social Services in the form of Tilda Swinton, is called in as Sam is in their custody as a foster child.   She is brilliant in this role, even if it is not a major one.  All the acting is brilliant, understated and wonderful.

But the plot:  Suzy and Sam have decided to run off (or according to the Cohen Brothers in one my favorite movies runnoft) and be together.  This they accomplish being the intelligent youngster that they are.  Of course, they throw the entire community into an uproar.  It is so much fun to watch.  A delightful movie.  One caveat:  Due to subject matter, I would recommend it for ages 16 and above depending on the maturity level of those watching.

One of my very favorite movies in a long time!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Five Year Engagement:  At Long Last Love!

My friend Carol and I went to see The Five Year Engagement this past Thursday evening.  Why?  Because I really wanted to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  So how did we end up watching another movie?  It's simple really.  Marigold is in limited release.  The theatres in which it is playing are not accessible to my friend on a weeknight in Greater Boston.  It's the traffic.  There are some activities that we just don't do because of our health.  One of them is drive in rush hour traffic needlessly.  It's just not good for the blood pressure.  So, having agreed that we were both free to see a movie that evening, we chose another movie. 

The Five Year Engagement stars Jason Segel as Tom Solomon as a rising chef who meets Violet Barnes, played by Emily Blunt, a behavioral scientist student.  They live in San Francisco.  One year after they meet, Tom proposes to Violet.  Everyone is happy.  Then Violet is offered the opportunity to further her career in Michigan.  It's a two year commitment.  Tom willingly goes along with this, it's only two years, right? 

My impression was that the plot of this movie would have a series of setbacks for this couple along the lines of someone in a body cast for six months, someone would be exposed to a toxin and have to be quarantined for three months, someone would have to nurse a relative back to health out of state or in another country thus delaying the wedding,  or perhaps someone would get stranded in Indonesia and be unable to leave because there is no airstrip and the docks were destroyed.  At least, this is way I would have written it. 

But no.  Tom ends up a worker bee in a deli while Violet has her dream job.  Then she gets a promotion and her job is extended.  There are some interesting characters along the way.  There are funny moments.  It is a humorous film.  Just not what I expected.  I expected a bit more slapstick.  I don't want to have write spoiler alert so you will just have to trust me when I say there is a lot to this film.  It does touch on many different points in a relationship.  However, it is not a chick flick.  It is a comedy.  So, I give this one a C.

Safe! But from what?

Yes, another movie post.  I'm getting caught up here.  The ladies went to the movies a few weeks ago.  It had been ages since we'd all got together.  All four of us at the same time.  It was a miracle.  However, the selection of films wasn't the most compelling so we ended up viewing Safe.  This is the Jason Statham action/adventure movie.  We usually don't opt for this type of film but pickings were slim.

(Did you know that Jason Statham was a British Olympic diver before he became an actor?  I didn't.  Just a little trivia for the day.)

The plot premise involves a "black ops super cop" named Luke Wright, played by Jason Statham, who had been hired by the NYC mayor, played by Chris Sarandon, to clean up the streets.  Luke Wright, being disgusted by the corrupt government officials, becomes a cage-fighter.  Having ideals, Wright refuses to "throw" a fight.  This causes the head of the Russian mafia, Docheski- played by Sandor Tecsy, to lose a great deal of money.  It's not good to anger Docheski as this causes Docheski to murder your wife and then threaten to murder anyone you become close to.  So, Wright ends up living in a homeless shelter barely existing.  He finds himself seriously contemplating suicide when he becomes aware of Mei, played by Catherine Chan, as she works her way through a subway station avoiding several men who are obviously searching for someone.  This snaps Wright out of his mental haze and puts him into "protector mode".  From this moment on, we're in action adventure heaven.  It turns out that Mei has escaped from being abducted by the Russian mob (Docheski's people) who took her from the Chinese Triads who had absconded with her from China where she had been forcibly removed without her consent from her family.  Mei is a math prodigy with an eidetic memory and is being used to keep the bookies in NYC honest without a paper trail.  At least, that's the story cooked up on which to base the movie.  But hey, we're not looking for Oscar material, just a reason to have guns, fists and car chases.  The Triads are headed by Han Jiao (James Wong).  Mei has had to memorize a really, really, really long number that turns out to be the combination of a safe that holds millions of dollars......

Anyway, you get the point.  There is a lot going on.  There is more going on than originally meets the eye.  It's not just the Russian Mob and Chinese Triads because corrupt politicians are around and the mayor once hired Luke Wright.  It's an action adventure movie so there will be lots of you know what.  Mercifully, it's short, only 94 minutes.  So I give it an A- because it hit all the right notes.  Plus, in the previews, we found out there will be a sequel to The Expendables!
Hungry for a new post!

Hello everyone!

I'm back!  Yes, I've been gone awhile.  Sorry about that.  I apologize for the neglect.  I did actually see three movies and was too lazy to post right away.  So, here we go.  On April 6, 2012, I had the pleasure of viewing The Hunger Games with three lovely ladies to celebrate their birthdays.  As you may know, I take my nieces out to celebrate.  It's so much more fun to have an outing than simply hand over some store bought item.  We'd rather make a memory.  I wish I had had this opportunity to spend time with my older relatives having one-on-one times now that I think back.  But life was different "in the old days".  It's a new century, we get to do things our way.  Yay!  Since the day we chose happened to be my sister-in-law's birthday, we included her!  A trifecta!  We went to see The Hunger Games as we had all read the first book.

Let me start with the cast and crew:
Suzanne Collins:  Author of the book
Gary Ross:  Director of movie
Jennifer Lawrence:  Katniss Everdeen
Elizabeth Banks: Effie Trinket
Woody Harrelson: Haymitch Abernathy
Stanley Tucci: Caesar Flickerman
Donald Sutherland: President Snow
Josh Hutcherson: Peeta Mallark
Liam Hemsworth:  Gale Hawthorne
Lenny Kravitz:  Cinna
Wes Bentley:  Seneca Crane
Willow Shields:  Primrose Everdeen
Amandla Stenberg:  Rue
Music:  T Bone Burnett and James Newton Howard
Costume:  Judianna Makorsky

Fans of the book are Fans.  And, I guess, I am one of them.  I enjoyed reading the series and found the story well done with a good message for the young adult market.  The theme is political and involves making choices.  Morality is certainly a big factor here.  Darker than the Harry Potter series.  I didn't read the Twilight series as other nieces (we're a large family) had said not to bother.  The movie stayed true to the book as much as possible.  Small changes made to move the story along didn't affect the overall theme but cut the running time to 2 1/2 hours.  I imagine it was a different experience for those who hadn't read the book.  It comes down to having the background knowledge and therefore able to fill in the blanks and make connections.  It's a great film for the fans of the book.  Oh, damned with faint praise.

Here's my issue:  the movie should be able to stand on its own.   I realized that I was able to enjoy the movie because I had read the book, knew the story and was subconsciously filling in the blanks with "prior knowledge".  For fans of the book, the movie did a great job.  But for everyone else, not so much.  I'm not sure how "not so much".  One friend of mine who saw the movie without reading the book wasn't enthused.  She saw the movie with someone who had read the book and liked the movie a lot more.  The movie failed to deliver to the non-readers.  Not a good thing.  This loses the audience for movies two and three.

Enough about the movie.... let's get down to performances.  Or at least the performances I enjoyed.  First, Jennifer Lawrence.  Fabulous.  I knew she would be.  Her performance in Winter's Bone made her a natural to play Katniss Everdeen.  Katniss is the same character as Ree, just a different story.  Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. - well of course.  Perfect.  Haymitch is a has-been alcoholic.  Woody Harrelson can pull off this role with one hand tied behind his back.  Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman.  Why does this man turn in performance after performance and not have an Oscar?  The  movie was well-cast.  Elizabeth Banks was fun as Effie Trinket though not quite as annoying as I'd expected her to be.  Lenny Kravitz was a good choice as Cinna, the stylist.

T Bone Burnett always delivers on music.  And he does here.  Costumes were designed by Judianna Makorsky.  She had a lot of work to do and she met the requirements.  I see an Oscar nomination and I think perhaps an award.  I know it is early but I think there's a winner here.  I was somewhat apprehensive about the stadium costumes but these lived up to the descriptions in the book and maybe even topped them.  Very impressive.

Overall, I give the movie a B, mostly for effort.  It was fan-pleasing.  The work that went into the movie was excellent but the movie itself doesn't stand alone.  That said, I look forward to the next one.  My recommendation for those who haven't read the books and are interested, please do read the books.  It will make the movies that much better.  For those who don't care, don't bother.  But it is worth the time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

And The Winner Is.......

First, it was quite a night.  Billy was back.  While it was a subdued show, the intro was nice and Cirque du Soleil gave a stunning performance.  Absolutely stunning.  I wish I had a bigger television just for that.  But on to the results.

Jane did not made too many predictions while Geri did the whole kit and kaboodle.  So, Jane's results first.

Jane managed to call it right on three out of four:  Best picture, director, actor (The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin) and blew it on Best Actress.  But, if we remember correctly, Jane noted that she did want Meryl Streep to win.  And Meryl did.

Geri predicted Best Picture, Director and Actor (The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin) as well as Art Direction (Hugo), Foreign Language Film (A Separation), Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer, The Help), Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (Hugo) Best Animated Feature (Rango), Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer, Beginner), Original Score (The Artist), Original Song (Muppet Movie), Adapted Screenplay (The Descendants), Original Screenplay (Midnight in Paris), Live Action Short (The Shore), Documentary Short (Saving Face), Animated Short )The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.  This means she only missed seven out of twenty-four which is impressive!

The remaining winners were:
Cinematography: Hugo
Costume Design: The Artist
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Film Editing: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Best Documentary (feature): Undefeated
Visual Effects: Hugo

The Artist and Hugo each won five Oscars.  I found this fitting as each of these films explored the early years of film.  Also, The Artist was markedly different from other films usually released as it was in black and white as well as (mostly) silent.  Hugo was also very different as it was in 3D and very well done.

Just another comment.  Christopher Plummer, who won Best Supporting Actor, is 82 years old.  Not bad, eh?  I wish two things, to look that good when I am 82, to get to 82, and to be that productive.  I guess that's three things.  I guess I wish four things because I also hope I can count when I get there.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jane's Oscar Picks

It's been a tough year and I haven't seen as many movies as I should have.  Only five of the nine best picture  nominees and a pitiful amount of the other categories.  It's shameful.  I deserve twenty lashes with a wet noodle as my late husband would say.

Of the best picture nominees, I missed Warhorse, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball and Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud.  Of those four, I am very disappointed  that I haven't managed to see Moneyball or Midnight in Paris.

The remaining five are Hugo, The Descendants, The Tree of Life, The Help and The Artist.  My favorites are Hugo and The Artist.  Both films have a common theme:  the early years in film.  Both were fun to watch and different.  Quite refreshing in the individual ways.

My pick for Best Picture is The Artist.
Best Director is Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist.
Best Actor is Jean Dujardin for The Artist.
Best Actress is Viola Davis for The Help.

I haven't seen enough movies to make informed choices for any other categories.

I am secretly hoping Meryl Streep wins Best Actress for her performance but I can't honestly choose her for this as I didn't see the movie.
I am predicting The Artist to take major categories due to the major buzz and its wins at the Golden Globes.  It is a delightful movie.

Best of luck to the nominees!
Geri and I will check back after the Oscars to recap and see how we did.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Geri weighs in on the 2012 Oscars

After a very long absence attributed to working way too hard in my real life, it's time for me to offer my humble opinions on the Oscars being televised this Sunday, 2/26/12.

The Best Picture nominees this year offer something for every moviegoer and include: the artsy discussion-provoking The Tree of Life, the film baseball biopic Moneyball, the child-friendly, wonderfully fantastic Hugo, a unique perspective on the 60's as viewed through the eyes of The Help, the outstanding tribute to early films as depicted in The Artist, the wonder of literary time travel as seen in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, and then there's George Clooney in The Descendants (need I say more?). I did not see War Horse or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. My favorites in this category include Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Help, and The Artist. I believe The Artist will win Best Picture and Michel Hazanavicius of The Artist will win Best Director.

The Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress categories include outstanding performances by some of the finest actors to grace the silver screen. I had the most difficulty choosing between George Clooney and Jean Dujardin's performances in the Best Actor category. Having said that, here are my predictions:

Best Actor - Jean Dujardin
Best Actress - Viola Davis
Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer

Woody Allen deserves the Original Screenplay Oscar for his delightful romp through the streets of past and present-day literary Paris in Moonlight In Paris. The creative team of Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Nash will win the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants.

This year, I finally feel qualified to give predictions in the Live Action Short, Animated Short, and Documentary Short films. My husband and I spent a full day last Saturday at the Independent Film Channel Center in NYC and saw all the nominated films in each category. If you are ever in NYC, please visit this wonderfully artsy movie house located in Greenwich Village (it has the most comfortable movie theater seats, including sofa-like seats with movable arm-rests, in case you feel like laying down to enjoy the movie).

Live Action Short: The Shore
Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Documetary Short: Saving Face

I have a far greater appreciation for these categories since my visit to IFC Center, and I applaud all the independent filmmakers who make movies because of their passion for film, not necessarily for monetary gain. Most of these cinematic gems are never seen by the general public and it is a shame that cinemas don't pay more attention to promoting these types of films.

Other Oscar category predictions include:

Animated Feature Film: Rango
Art Direction: Hugo
Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Costume Design: Jane Eyre (when has a period piece not won this category?)
Documentary Feature: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Film Editing: The Artist
Foreign Language Film: A Separation (Iran)
Makeup: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Music (Original Score): The Artist (even without music from Vertigo, this soundtrack is beautiful)
Music (Original Song): Man or Muppet
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing: Hugo
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

So sit back, enjoy the Oscars on Sunday night, and please keep supporting and enjoying the movies!