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Archive for April 2011

July 15th, baby

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So. Freaking. Excited. #cannotwait. #iloveharrypotter.

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 27, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Posted in 2010s, adventure, fantasy, movies

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Insidious (2010)

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Scary movies are the best in the theater.  Always.

Insidious is about a family who moves into a creepy house, hears creepy noises, and then their son winds up in an unexpected three-month coma.  Evil, possessing demon spirits get involved, turns out the kid is at the brink of being possessed and drawn into a land called The Further (terrrrrible title, I know).  Apparently he’s been making it a hobby to escape from the real world lately, he can fly and stuff.  Too bad those hell-creatures caught up with him.

Mom does a lot of crying, Dad does a lot of disbelieving.  But then Daddy gets to revisit his childhood psyche after a crazy lady talks to them, jumps onboard and decides to help bring their kid back into the real world, alive and stuff.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a horror movie kinda person.  Granted, this is much, MUCH tamer than anything else James Wan ever created but I just don’t do the jumpy stuff.  Probably because my first reaction is to laugh rather than scream, I’ve just never been that girl.  I concede, however, that I can declare this a pretty good movie.  I mean, I still had problems with it, but considering how low my expectations were walking into it, it ended up being more than just a haunted house movie.  It helped that I was endlessly entertained by the screaming DUDES in the building.

Here’s what’s up.  We’ve got two main characters, parents to our demon-boy Dalton (Ty Simpkins) – Renai and Josh Lambert (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson).  They’ve got two other kids besides Dalton.  At the beginning, Renai may be scared out of her pants at the freakish noises and ghost-like shapes that taunt and follow her, but she’s still in charge of what goes on.  She’s telling her husband what to do, reprimanding him for his lack of existence.  Josh is just that – nonexistent.  My friend and I BOTH thought that he had to be having an affair when he was staying late for no reason in his classroom.  When really it was nothing more than a dumb plot device to keep her alone in the house more often.

Then in the second half of the movie, things COMPLETELY turn around.  Josh finally figures out that Renai and the crazy lady (named Elise – played by Lin Shaye) might actually be right about their son’s ability to teleport, and he finally realizes that he’s the one that’s got to save him.  So he becomes all macho, overcomes his childhood nightmares and becomes likable.  Renai, on the other hand, becomes passive, afraid, and submissive.  I HATE that kind of woman.  I hate it when a woman cannot think for herself and does nothing but wait around for her man to help her out of the sticky situation.  It was a bizarre flip-flop.

On the bright side, while the first half was laughable, the second half was borderline terrifying and definitely unsettling.  I’m a rough judge because I just don’t get scared very easily – but by the end, though I had yet to jump, scream, spit out my drink, or pee my pants, I was a little perturbed.  The cinematographers and cameramen do everything right.  Seeing things as the characters see them, while typical of a scary movie, was perfectly synched in Insidious.  And the loud noises are that much more shocking in surround sound.

True, there are holes and improbabilities.  First of all, where in HELL did the other children disappear to?  “Their Grandma’s” is the script’s answer, but then Grandma (Barbara Hershey) shows up at their house… without kids?  And no explanation to where they’ve gone?  What an awful mother.  That baby was darn cute, too.  I also loved the part where, when the mother was attacked by a man in her room, she and hubby sit there sobbing on the floor rather than go check on their SCREAMING CHILD.

Second, can a six year old kid REALLY outrun a demon running on all fours?  I think not…

Another, perhaps personal, thing that’s bothersome is how this film tries to be scary and creepy from the get-go.  I mean, really?  Are we going to jump out of our pants during the scrolling credits?  I’m afraid of surprise, I’m afraid of things that could actually happen.  Setting the creepy tone that early does nothing but separate the bridge between movie and real-life fear.

The highlight was definitely centered around the Ghostbusters (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) that accompany Elise on their first visit with the Lamberts.  Good comic relief.  A bigger flashlight is all you need…

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I probably sound pretty naïve with this review.  You’re right, I am not a frequenter of the horror genre so I really don’t know what I’m saying.  Maybe this was the worst scary movie ever written (and, bee tee dubs, the script was pretty bad.  Whoever came up with “the further” in the first place should be fired).  But based on whatever I do know, I thought this movie was decent.  It’s the old-fashioned tension that gets me.  Worth a watch, if scary movies are your thing then definitely so.  And let’s not pay too close of attention to the pictures that are taken of me anymore, huh?  6/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 23, 2011 at 6:27 am

Source Code (2011)

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This didn’t blow me out of the water like Inception did, but it was pretty close.

What would you do if you had only 8 minutes left to live?  What would you do if you had 8 minutes left to live… ten times?  Source Code is the government’s latest invention for intervention.  Military pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up one day on a train, in a body that is not his own and sitting across from an attractive woman who apparently knows him.  The last thing he remembers is flying over Afghanistan.  8 minutes later, the train blows up.

He doesn’t die, though.  He winds up in a small isolation chamber – being awoken by a woman’s voice.  Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), after issuing some basic memory tests, explains that he is part of a government operation and that his experience on the train is nothing but a simulation called source code.  Earlier that day, a bomb exploded on the train, and Colter’s mission is to locate the bomb and the bomber to prevent a subsequent terrorist attack later that afternoon that would wipe out the entire population of Chicago.  Every time he lands in the same place with 8 minutes to find out more information about the attack, as well as more information about himself.

Phew!  That was an intense summary.  Don’t worry about it.  I applaud Duncan Jones for repeating an 8 minute situation ten timesish and have it STILL be original and legit.  We can’t always have Bill Murray to entertain us every single repeated Groundhog Day.  I was never once bored.  It’s fast-paced, exciting, but insightful and deep, too.  I loved the trippiness of it, the question of how much saving he can actually do without being limited to changing the future only.

It also manages to throw in some great character development without being overbearingly mushy or distracting from the excitement.  Colter Stevens can’t remember what happened to him, he doesn’t know how he wound up in the Source Code, he hasn’t even made amends with his father since before he went to war.  Apparently he’s on a mission, but he doesn’t know at all what’s up.  On another note, I never thought I could hear the phrase “everything’s going to be okay” as many times as Colter said it without tasting the oozing cheese.  But it works as an emotional backbone to the thrill.

Even with movies like Inception out and popular, this is still a great, original story and gives thrillers a good name again.  It’s also a great mysery, though I’ll admit I wasn’t too surprised with every twist and turn, save the ending of course.  But that doesn’t mean it’s worthless – in fact if I can compare it to Unknown, which I recently saw as well, it doesn’t make the same mistake of trying to confuse the audience TOO much for the sake of being confusing.  In that regard, the suspenseful plot and theme are perfect.  Then again, I could watch these cerebral fantasies all day.  I love Minority Report, Inception and The Matrix.  I love this.  I knew that I was onboard the second Jake Gyllenhaal looked at himself in the mirror and saw another guy looking back at him, then confusedly looking through his wallet to find an alternate identity in a History teacher named Sean.  [And yes, for the record, Inception is definitely my go-to comparison these days.  Man do I love that movie.  I promise to review it soon.  Anyway.]

I warn you, there are questions.  Who’s Sean?  Who’s Christina for that matter? (the attractive girl sitting across from him – played by Michelle Monaghan).  What’s he doing, when is this happening, what is going on… Just don’t worry about the science.  Suspend your disbelief.  Love the ride.  I adored the almost end – Colter pays off a comedian to lighten up everyone’s faces right before they die for the last time.  Perfect touch.

Jake Gyllenhaal is really good as our leading man (oh the charmer he is), as well as the supporting cast.  I particularly enjoyed Vera Farmiga’s performance, though Michelle Monaghan, and Jeffrey Wright are also good.  But I’m applauding Duncan Jones more than anyone.  I’ll get around to seeing Moon one of these days, I’m definitely a fan.  The editing is also excellent.

It’s like a video game on steroids.  This intellectual thriller is worth full price, folks.  8/10

The Accidental Tourist (1988)

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I really wanted to like this movie.  It’s got two of my favorite things in it: dogs and travel.  It also has a man who hardly cares for either.  I gave an involuntary shiver at him searching for American cuisine in foreign countries – I mean eating Burger King in PARIS?  Sinful.  That hurt me just a little bit.

Anyway, William Hurt stars as Macon Leary (what kind of a name is that anyway?) and he dispassionately writes travel guides for people who hate traveling.  A travesty, yet I guess someone’s gotta do it, so it should probably be Macon Leary.  We meet him at the beginning of the movie in an ICU gazing over his son’s dead body. He and his wife Sarah (Kathleen Turner) take it hard, but they’re having difficulty coming together over it.  So she leaves him.  And leaves the dog.  Macon falls down some stairs, screwing his mobility and goes to stay with his weird siblings.  They play funny games.  His editor, Julian (Bill Pullman) comes to see him sometimes.  He likes his sister.

Then he meets Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis).  She’s kind of awesome, but also kind of eccentric and definitely quirky.  She’s talkative and forward, and knows a lot about dogs.  He hires her to help him train his own dog.  Then they fall in love, or whatever.  Then everything comes to a big wha-bam in Paris, of course.  The end.

Before you write me off completely, I emphasize that my low opinion has NOTHING to do with it being slow.  On the contrary, I love slow, quiet films (84 Charing Cross Road for example).  What I didn’t like had nothing to do with the story.  It’s like I could see, even almost taste, the beauty and potential of an emotional connection but I was just never truly moved.  The letdown was even more potent with that in mind.

I’ve always loved William Hurt, but the man disappointed me with this one.  It didn’t feel like a story of a hurt man who needs a little attention and lovin’ to make his way to recovery.  No, he was static, he was expressionless.  How could the fiery Muriel even dream of falling in love with him?  His personal journey seemed superficial at best.  He doesn’t even like his own dog…

Geena Davis, on the other hand, was great.  She manages to play the wacky woman with just enough umph yet still grounded in reality to make her likable and not overbearing.  She’s a realistic mother, looking after her son with great care and love.  She’s also realistic in her relationship with Macon.

I’ll admit, the writing is excellent.  Kasdan and Frank Galati know how to run things, and on paper it portrays the beauty that could not be captured on screen.  Something is missing.  I found myself searching for emotion, something that only Davis gave to me.  Okay scratch that, the other actors were also pretty solid (though I don’t care for Kathleen Turner too much), but I did love Macon’s crazy family surroundings and the family dynamic.  As well as Bill Pullman.

The Accidental Tourist was a disappointment.  I wouldn’t go so far as to give up on it forever, but it’d take a lot of will power to get myself to sit through Macon’s monotonous personality for an additional hour and a half.  4/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 15, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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Wow, those folks have routier parties than I do.  And I’m the one that’s in college…

Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf? Virginia Woolf… Virginia Woolf… Okay, who IS Virginia Woolf?  She’s not really a part of the actual movie.  She was a writer – that much I know from working in a bookstore.  Upon learning a little more about her, she was known for her stream of consciousness style and psychological themes.  To say “who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” as though she was Disney’s big, bad wolf, is to suggest that you might be afraid of those things that you can’t accept.

Kind of wish I’d understood that before I watched the movie.

Martha and George (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), a couple with some serious tongue issues, have returned late from a dinner party at Martha’s father’s home – the president of  some local New England college.  George is a history professor.  He speaks very well.  Martha drinks a lot.  She also thinks it’s cool to invite a young couple over for drinks at two am without informing the husband.

The good-looking Nick and his mousey wife Honey (George Segal and Sandy Dennis), a recently hired biology professor and a naïve blonde, aren’t sure how to react to the volatile atmosphere that is their host’s home.  The rest of the film details the events of the evening.  On the menu: Martha lewdly flirting with Nick, George testing Nick’s verbal skills, the whole party tip-toeing around conversing about Martha and George’s oddly absent son – whose birthday is the following day, Honey getting sick and super drunk, playing fun games such as Humiliate the Host followed by Get the Guests, and basically everybody getting more drunk and crying and shouting and stuff.

My honest reaction upon the revealing ending was, “huh, it’d probably be good to watch that again with a better vision of what went on there.  …  Actually, I think I’d rather never watch it again.”  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is certainly an incredible tale.  But it’s a downer.  Not that I’m judging anyone who does drink, I must admit I have never been more grateful that I don’t.  I can’t say that I comprehend exactly the what’s up of, you know, intoxication, but I’ll admit that this situation is NOT my idea of fun.  This is what AA is for guys.  The entire film is mesmerizing, but not necessarily enjoyable.

The best thing here is the performances.  Our four leads (so, the whole cast?) were all nominated for Oscars with the two ladies taking the cake.  All four were deserving of the acclaim – Richard Burton was definitely my favorite performance, but I can’t argue with Paul Scofield winning that one for A Man for All Seasons.  The writing is, of course, impeccable but Burton’s delivery is witty and even entertaining.  Like any person with a gifted tongue would be able to, he hides his own torment and anguish through his insulting monologues.

Elizabeth Taylor can act, guys.  She put on around 30 pounds for the role, and abandoned her famous beauty for this role of a slob.  Her foul mouth and obnoxious mannerisms are fascinating.  She embodies the monstrous character in such a way that gives her life – you can see the potential that Martha had to be tender and kind.  George Segal and Sandy Dennis are also incredible, their ups and downs and insecurities are perfectly emulated.

Through those performances, we get to study the relationships between each couple and as an entire group.  Why Martha and George were married in the first place, who knows.  It’s nothing but put-downs, insults, humiliation, cussing, and zero mutual respect.  Casting Burton and Taylor was genius – you’ve always got that notion in the back of your mind about their real-life relationship=fascination to a whole ‘nother level.  Nick and Honey, seemingly in love at first aren’t quite so peachy-keen with each other it turns out.  He married her because he thought she was pregnant, and for her money.  I guess that’s cool, she’s pretty high-strung I’m not sure who would marry her out of love.  No offense.

Mike Nichols directs this very well – his first film crazy enough.  Again, the casting choices were awesome.  The story, based off the Tony-award winning play, is well played out and greatly paced.

I must admit, there are very few things wrong with this movie, as you may have gathered with all this good stuff i’m talking about.  But it’s so dark and awful, it’s hard to enjoy so much hate and without any real resolution to happiness.  It’s certainly worth watching for the feat that it is, but it, by no means, will ever be a favorite of mine.  “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “I am.” 6/10

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm

quote-of-the-week #10

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I pride myself in being a great listener, but whenever I meet somebody new I find I’m doing all the talking.

Maybe you’re not really such a great listener.

Hmm?

Maybe you’re not such a great listener.

No, that’s not it, I’m a great listener.

~Carter Webb & Sarah Hardwicke, In the Land of Women (2007)

 

Written by laurenthejukebox17

April 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

Posted in drama, movies, romance

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Romeo + Juliet (1996)

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Next time someone hates on gangs dancing in West Side Story, I’ll be asking whether they’ve seen gangs fighting while speaking in Shakespearean dialect…

Yep.  I’m a hater.  But big disclaimer: I’ve always detested those idiot star cross’d lovers.  I’ve read the play, seen it three times, only once have I even remotely enjoyed it – and that was because they were kind of making fun of all those things I hate.  We’ll disregard for the moment that my ninth grade boyfriend played Romeo so it drove me nuts that he was kissing another girl and that every other girl in the junior high was head over heels for him…. totally unrelated.

Needless to say, I didn’t start off on good footing with this.  And I must admit that I have never detested this more.  It isn’t that I’m not used to the extravagant style of Baz Luhrmann – I’m a Moulin Rouge! fan.  It’s… that it doesn’t WORK the same way that it does in Moulin Rouge! In fact, it fails.  It’s a disastrous combination of Hollywood action and Shakespearean themes and dialect.  “Swords” are guns manufactured by ‘Sword?’  Funny.  But dumb more than clever.

It’s set in Verona Beach – but what they mean is stereotypical surfer California.  Pretty sure everyone knows what’s up with this story, but here’s a brief rundown of the mess.  The Montagues and the Capulets are in a turf-battle/family feud dating back to who knows when.  Romeo (Leonardo DiCapprio), a Montague, is depressed and in love with Rosaline.  Then he lays eyes on Juliet (Claire Danes), a Capulet and falls in {deeper?} love.  Ah, the beauty of the forbidden.  Then they frolic in a swimming pool, declare their undying love, Romeo’s good buddy Mercutio (Harold Perrineau – LOST!) gets murdered, Romeo kills the dude responsible, Juliet fakes her death to try and still rock it with Romeo in the end, Romeo believes she’s dead and kills himself, so then she kills herself too and they live happily ever after…. while dead?

On the subject of the plot – what was with that swimming pool crap anyway?  Dra-freaking-matic (don’t judge on the word).

It’s SO overly-colorful, it’s obnoxious.  I again compare to Moulin Rouge. It isn’t artistic and beautiful.  It’s distracting and insulting – like a crappy Tim Burton ripoff.  They’re wearing Hawaiian shirts for heaven’s sake – it’s a punk version of a SHAKESPEARE PLAY.  Seriously?  Luhrmann even has the nerve to show Mercutio as a drag queen at one point.  WTF.  The overtly provocative and modern-day clothing displayed at the masquerade is terribly out of place and, again, obnoxious.  The music is also unrelated and inconsistent.

I’m not against modern-day adaptations of Shakespeare plays.  I think that 10 Things I Hate About You is very clever and entertaining.  Even She’s the Man is kind of funny.  West Side Story is my personal favorite, and that’s dealing with this very story.  I think the main thing that fails here is the awful mismatch of sounding like Shakespeare and looking like The Beach Boys.  Had there been modern-day dialogue to match 20th century feel, it wouldn’t have sucked half as much.  FIrst of all, Leo and C-Danes have no idea how to speak Shakespeare effectively, they’re in way over their heads.  Pete Postlethwaite (the priest) and Miriam Margolyes (the nurse) seemed to be the only two who were even half-realistic.  But really, “art thou mad,” doesn’t work in Cali last time I checked.

The acting actually isn’t that bad, with the exception of Claire Danes.  I’m a huge Little Women fan, and I love her as the meek and quiet Beth March.  Not as the fiery Juliet.  I felt no connection to her, nor in their relationship really.  Leo’s my man, but even he isn’t at his top game – though he’s still probably my favorite part.  Pete Postlethwaite and Miriam Margolyes are definitely the most capable of the bunch, and quite enjoyable to watch.  [Side note, I saw Miriam Margolyes on stage in 2006 as Madam Morrible in Wicked. Cool.]  Everyone else is just background noise.  Paul Rudd (who I love in Friends and Clueless) doesn’t add much, neither does John Leguizamo, Paul Sorvino, nor Harold Perrineau (I actually didn’t like him much at all).

Overall, Romeo + Juliet is a dreadful adaptation to a Shakespearean classic.  I may not even like the original material, but Shakespeare at least knew what he was doing and I respect the man for everything he was capable of.  And this is where crap like Twilight comes from… 2/10