A Star is Born – Again

I saw a Star is Born on Sunday but I waited a few days to write about it.  If I had written the review right after the movie, it would have been ungenerous and unkind.  In the theater where I saw the movie, there were people sobbing in their seats, audibly, and I was struck more by their emotion than by the movie.  With that kind of tangible evidence, I certainly can’t argue with the gut punch effect of the movie.  And, I can’t say anyone was manipulated into crocodile tears, because it certainly wasn’t a secret that this was going to be tragic love story told with all of the trappings of traditional melodrama.  People weren’t manipulated into emotional reactions – they went there for that sole purpose.  There’s a scene right in the beginning of the movie, where Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, dumps her boyfriend while she’s on a break from work.  She’s hiding in a bathroom stall having this difficult conversation with the guy, and after she abruptly hangs up on him, she walks out of the stall, stares into the mirror, drops her head, stomps her feet, and let’s out a primal scream, followed by “fucking men!”  Go ahead and scream, and cry and let it all out, friends, Lady Gaga has not only given you permission, she has shown you the way.

So, why didn’t I take her hand, just go with it, into the cathartic tears and the emotional release that the movie guaranteed?  I certainly did in the second remake of  A Star is Born, with Judy Garland and James Mason.  When James Mason walks into the ocean, and the music swells, and later Judy is sobbing over her lipstick on the wall at Gruman’s Chinese Theater, I sat in my bed crumpling tissue after tissue.  It’s the same story, after all, it should have gotten me.  And, it wasn’t the fact that I knew how it was going to end – I’ve seen the Judy Star is Born at least five times, and I react the same way every time.  It’s certainly not a talent thing – Lady Gaga has the pipes, and she’s a talented song writer.    And this A Star is Born has been updated, as it’s certainly a more accurate portrayal of addiction.  It should have spoken to me, right?

And, I think that it’s for those very reasons, that it doesn’t work for me.  First, Ally is a more modern woman than the previous stars’ incarnations, but at the end of the movie, I still don’t know if she sold out by becoming a pop star, having been manipulated by her slimey manager, or if she is exercising her own agency, this pop star is the star she wants to be.  I just don’t know. And, based on the set up of Ally’s character, the foot stomping in the bathroom, the punching of an off duty cop to protect Bradley Cooper’s famous rock star character, Jackson Maine, from an intrusion into his private time, the impulsive quitting of her job to not just run after a rock star, but run after something better for herself, I could only believe that a girl who’s going to belt a cop is not a girl who is going to be like, yeah, ok, you drink, I’m not going to try to change you, except to say once in awhile “that’s not ok,” and “this is the last time.”  It’s more than hinted that her character has dealt with alcoholism before with her father, and therefore, she, unlike Judy Garland’s Esther Blodgett, absolutely knows that her love alone is not going to make him better. When she visits him in rehab towards the end of the film, and she tells him that his actions aren’t embarrassing, that he has a disease, she has known that this is a disease all along, yet, all we see her do to confront this illness is tell him, I won’t get on a bike with you when you’ve been drinking, I won’t come get you from the side of the road again.  And, after she makes that little speech, she marries him – not even an hour later.  He’s had a good talking to by Dave Chappelle so he’s cured?  I don’t believe her character is that naïve.

And, I don’t think she’s that much in love either.  Jackson Maine is an asshole.  He’s disgusting.  The first time she goes back to his hotel room, they’re making out, and he’s wasted, sweaty and  the thought of the smell of him was enough to ruin my popcorn.  He passes out, and his brother emerges out of nowhere to put him to bed.  And then, after the brother leaves, Ally gets into bed with him – and waits for him to wake up so they can consummate this whatever it is.  This is not romance, or love.  This is just fear – she’s afraid of what will happen if she leaves.  She just ditched her job, everything, to be with this guy, and now what?  And that fear dictates her behavior the rest of the movie.  She doesn’t trust her voice, she doesn’t trust her beauty, and she doesn’t trust she can make it without her creepy manager, and her verbally abusive, downright mean husband.  And, she certainly doesn’t love him enough to try to help him.  There’s never a moment in this movie when she acknowledges just how sick he is, or that he needs serious mental health treatment, and a lifetime of therapy.  And the last thing she does do is lie to him, and she doesn’t even recognize what the lie is – the truth is, her creepy manager was never going to let her cancel that tour, and she didn’t really know what their future was going to be.

And in giving Jackson Maine a back story to his addiction, and making his drinking more about self-medication than over indulging in the rock and roll life style and the trappings of stardom, the movie introduces a mental health component to his addiction beyond alcoholism as a DSM V disease.   This guy is not just suffering from alcoholism; he is clinically depressed, perhaps bi-polar, and he definitely has PTSD.  His first suicide attempt was at 13.  Suicidal ideation doesn’t just go away.  He suffers from tinnitus – he’s not just trying to escape the noise of the crowd – he lives with a deafening noise in his head all the time.  Everyone in the film kind of shrugs and says, he drinks too much.  But, that’s not really what’s at the heart of this guy – it’s the agony he’s suffered since he was child – a child who tried to string himself up just to get the attention of an abusive father.  So, when his brother, at the end of the movie, tells Ally that it was no one’s fault but Jackson’s, I think, well, yeah, but . . . instead of telling him “you drink too much,” you could have said, “I think medication and therapy might go a long way here.” Look, I don’t think anyone owed this Jackson Maine anything, but maybe I would have felt more if she had tried to help him before he ruined her Grammy night.

So, they cling to each other, she rises, he falls.   She calls his cellphone a lot. And in between?  There’s just no joy in this relationship, ever. I never for a second in this movie ever felt any happiness between the two of them.  Nor did I ever enjoy being with them.  Sure, there’s magic onstage, but that’s performance, not intimacy.  When James Mason walks into the ocean, I felt like he was taking Judy with him.  When Jackson commits suicide, I felt bad for the dog.

I started off by saying, that if I had written this right after I had seen the movie, I would have been ungenerous and unkind, and now that I’ve read this over, maybe I have been anyway, but I only meant my criticisms towards the movie itself.  I certainly don’t want to be ungenerous and unkind to the people who were moved when they saw this movie.  Just because I had problems with this movie, I can understand why someone else wouldn’t.  A tragedy is a tragedy, who cares if it’s tragedy a or tragedy b.  It was better than the Barbra Streisand version, so there is that. There are a lot of good things about this movie – I believed Bradley Cooper as a rock star, I liked Lady Gaga, the music is great, as are the concert scenes.  I just wish they had just gone on tour together, instead of remaking one of my favorite movies of all time.

So, if you too go to a Star is Born looking for that promised emotional release, and instead you get disappointing popcorn because you can’t stop thinking about stinky Bradley Cooper, I’ll give you an alternative- Tracy Dogs Adoption Day.  Tracy Dogs is an dog rescue in Texas, that saves dogs from high kill border shelters.  After an online adoption process, the dogs board a bus, and go off to their new forever homes, that begin in a PetSmart parking lot.  The bus parks, the new dog parents anxiously wait, and one by one, they bring the dogs off the bus, and into the arms of their new doggie parents.  Every month there’s a live video.  Sometimes like on Saturday, I caught it live, sometimes I watch the replay.  And boy, do I cry those big crocodile tears of joy for these sweet puts.  Time well spent, definitely!

Movie Review – Inception

How hard do you want to work to like a movie? In other words, how long do you want to spend thinking about it after it’s over – and I don’t mean think about it in terms of, “That was thought provoking!  It really made me think about x (race, adoption, love, marriage, etc).” I mean, thinking things like, “wtf? What happened at the end?”  And then, after you spend hours analyzing, twisting, trying to remember clues in the movie, determining that you have to see it again, see it again, and then, still, no answer . . .

Do you find that satisfying?

Even if the answer is yes, wait – don’t jump on the Inception bandwagon just yet –

Because even if you come up with an answer, you might just not care, because there’s no reason to care about any of these characters, their manufactured dreams or their futures.

Don’t worry about reading this review and being “spoiled” – I can’t tell you what happened at the end, because I have no idea, and I really don’t care.

Inception is about a thief – a thief who can enter your dreams, steal your most precious industrial commodity in a shoot-em-up action packed dream, and sell it to the corporation who hired him to pilfer the “information,” whatever that is.  These dreams don’t look like any dream I’ve ever had.  I have the same dream over and over – it’s a panic dream.  I’m late, or maybe I’ve missed a test on the eve of graduation, and I might not graduate.  Maybe I’m not that imaginative, maybe I don’t dream in cinemascope – but my dreams never involve car chases, AK-47’s, or hand grenades.  And these dreams have no dream like quality to them – everything is in focus, the action in the sequences are linear, and really, the whole concept just makes very little sense.

When you think about it.

So do you want to think about it?

Because if you want to think about it, you will be very disappointed.  If you don’t want to think about it, and just go in and watch the stunning cinematography in glorious IMAX, go.

A couple of summers ago, I read a review of the at the time new Michael Ondaatje book, Divisadero.  The review was glowing, but as an aside, it mentioned that it might just be a book you have to read twice.   I’d heard that before, and I threw caution to the wind.  The book was nonlinear.  The characters did not seem to connect.  It wasn’t until the last chapter you understood how all of the pieces fit together, and the narrative became cohesive.  Huh, I thought, I’d actually understand it if I read it again.  But, I didn’t, because I got it, and I’m lazy.  But, a second reading definitely would have provided a payoff, and made the reading of it a deeper, richer experience.

And, if I had to read Divisadero again, that would have been ok – because the second read is free.   Second time of IMAX – not so free.  And then, you’d have to spend time with these not very likable characters again.  Leonardo DiCaprio’s thief is supposed wracked by guilt, yet, there’s no real redemptive moment in this movie.  And the plot – that in order to be able to return to his family, Leo’s thief must implant an idea in the mind of a corporate scion who is on the eve of inheriting his father’s massive empire, that he really wants to break up his father’s life’s work, and start all over again . . . because . . . or else . . . I don’t really know – world domination?  A monopoly?  Who cares.  The other characters?  I know so little about them, that I don’t even remember their names, and I just saw the movie on Sunday.

Anyway, this review is becoming almost as incomprehensible as the movie.  If you’re looking for beautifully filmed action movie, go.  If you think you’re going to become enthralled with a dream world, and become wrapped up in the levels upon levels of dreams, and begin to also question what is reality, what isn’t and what is the reality of the end of the film, spare yourself.  You’re never going to get that second time around payoff.

Movie Review – Knight and Day – Endless Endless Darkness

I’m sure at some point, when you were a child, your mother told you – if you continue to make that face, your face will freeze that way.

You know what face I’m talking about – that puckered face, that unnatural, eyes-wide open, my face is contorted in pain face – yes that face.

And, you heeded your mother’s advice – you stopped making that face, your face developed normally, and you didn’t need any medical intervention upon face freeze.

Cameron Diaz failed to listen to her mother.

Mrs. Diaz – you failed, your daughter’s face froze – it froze in horror, panic – that look, on her, that says – eek!

For 90% of the movie, Cameron Diaz’s face is frozen in a perpetual state of what I can only assume is supposed to pass for acting.

It wasn’t acting when I was 3 — I made that face to be funny, but it wasn’t funny, it was annoying, and my mother knew it.  And, some things don’t change — it’s still annoying.

The other 10% of the movie, her character is drugged.

Yes, that’s right, drugged.

The writer’s of this movie were so incredibly lazy that when they couldn’t figure out exactly what to do with her in a scene, or how they would develop her character in way the character could cope (uh, maybe you ought to take your finger off the trigger, that’s it. . .), they have Tom Cruise’s character stick a needle in her.

This movie is a complete offense to women.  Period. 

At one point, in her drugged state, Tom Cruise’s character undresses her and puts her in a bikini.  This turns into a big laugh by the end of the movie.

Please, tell me, I know I’m a stick in the mud about these things – but can someone tell me what is so funny about drugging a woman and undressing her?  Har har?  Please.  Frankly, I was horrified that we took my 12 year old stepson to this movie, that presents this woman character as a ditz brain, lunatic, who the male lead can drug at will, and who, when she is supposedly finally “taking charge” – the only bright idea she can come up with to find the guy and win him over, is to set herself up as a damsel in distress who once again needs rescuing.

Woman of the world – unite – do not see this movie.  Do not let your sons see this movie.  Do not let anyone see this movie.

Definitely, the worst movie of the year so far.

Carrie Bradshaw, We’re So Over

So, here it is – my promised review of Sex and the City II.

But, before I review the movie, let me review why I went to the movie.  Yes, I saw the uninspiring trailer.  Yes, I read the scathing reviews.  But, when your friend puts on a show, you go to the show.  And for many years now, I have thought of Carrie Bradshaw as a friend – at times, more than a friend – something closer to a soul sister.  She called her book Sex and the City, I named my blog Knit and the City.  She referred to her man as Big, I referred to mine as Tall (and that was even after the show went off the air).  I really related to her, and her struggles as a single girl in the big city, looking for love and the One.

But, after this movie, our friendship is over.  Carrie Bradshow, you have irrevocably damaged our friendship, and I cannot forgive you. 

Two years or so have passed since Carrie married Big, and she’s bored.  She’s afraid that they’re becoming an old boring married couple, more wedded to the perfect prized couch they purchased than to each other.  And, her fears are compounded by Big’s anniversary gift – a flat screen t.v. supposedly so they can watch old movies in bed together, but really so that Big can relax after work and watch something like The Greatest Catch, or whatever that fishing show is called.  For some reason, she feels that their relationship is validated by late nights on the town, glamourous movie premieres, and dinners at the hottest new spot in town — because don’t think for a second the Carrie Bradshaw is going to learn to cook.  All Carrie can do is shop, and allegedly write – however, since her laptop lives at her old apartment, it’s unclear how often she really does that either.  So, since she has no interests, and nothing else to do, she creates problems, treats her husband pretty callously, and becomes a character that you would might meet on Housewives of New Jersey instead of Sex and the City.

What always made Carrie so appealing was although she was so like me – she wasn’t – she had all of these fantasty elements to her life that could only make someone like me sigh – the fabulous apartment in New York, the dream job of writing a column for the NY Times, the job that only required her to work in the beginning of the show and the very end, and the Clothes and the Shoes – and the money.  But, take away all of the fantasy, and she was still very much like me, and my other single, struggling friends.

But, now the fantasy has jumped the shark, and the girl underneath is an asshole.

Wearing a ballgown to a spice market in Abu Dhabi does not make me embrace the fantasy – it makes me think you’re an idiot. 

And that is the problem with Sex and the City 2 – Carrie Bradshaw is no longer someone I want to hang out with, she is no longer someone I relate to, and she is certainly not someone I would call if I had a problem – because she would immediately say, “Oh, really, well let me tell you what happened to me . . .”  This Carrie is selfish, self-centered, shallow, and frankly boring.  And she has no apparent interests other than herself.  In one scene, she’s on a plane, and she says, “And, while I was sitting there, I began to think about relationships.”  Began to think?  Honey, that’s all you think about – and really, ya gotta stop.  There’s a whole big wide world of stuff going on out there beyond your relationship, and a few interests here and there would help.  What always held the show together, and the second movie, was the relationship among these four women – but Carrie has abandoned that relationship – she’s a shitty friend to all of them.  She snaps at Charlotte, she ignores Miranda’s job qualms, and she rolls her eyes at Samantha’s menapause struggles.  And now that she’s a shitty friend, she’s a shitty character, and the franchise, for me, is over.

And, if the franchise could survive Carrie’s fall from fantasy grace, it couldn’t survive the horrendous writing — this movie was embarrasing to watch.  When Liza Minnelli sings All the Single Ladies at Standford and Anthony’s wedding (Stanford and Anthony?  Really?  It had to be because they were the only single characters left on the show, and they married each other by default, because they never had one iota of chemistry together before on the show), I just wanted to tell her to put her pants on, sheesh.  The dialogue is forced, the zingers don’t zing, and Samantha has become such a caricature of herself, I was embarrassed watching her – watching her air out her vagina in her office, and looking like a raving lunatic, waving condoms in the face of an angry mob of Middle Eastern men in Abu Dhabi – and Abu Dhabi – really?  Wrong city.  The whole thing was like a bad Abbott and Costello movie.

So, Carrie, you and I are breaking up, and next time you throw a party, don’t invite me, because I’m not coming.

Orange Flower 

So, what’s this – eh, a flower I shot last night – I just didn’t want to leave you with such negativity on a Friday. 

Have a great weekend everyone!  Tonight, I am lucky enough to have my husband home at a decent hour (he usually works until 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday), and we are going to the movies.  Since my picking privileges are revoked (and no, I didn’t get to pick Sex and the City – I went with a girlfriend, Joe was spared), we’re going to see Get Him to the Greek – I am so punished.  But, it’s ok, because at least I get to eat popcorn, and hold hands with my handsome husband.  And, after the movie, when we return to our home, and cuddle in bed, watching our flat screen t.v. and whatever my husband wants to watch because he just worked a 10 hour day, and was still wonderful enough to take me to the movies, I will think what a lucky girl I am.  Even if it is the Mecon Car Auction. 

How about them apples Carrie Bradshaw?

Movie Review – Letters to Juliet

Joe and I go to the movies probably twice a month – sometimes, if there’s a child appropriate movie, maybe we squeeze in a third.  So, movie nights are limited; choices must be made carefully.  If you choose unwisely, your picking privileges may be revoked.

My picking days are over – for a while, at least.

I picked Letters to Juliet.

About 20 minutes into the movie, Joe declared, “this movie has no male value.”  His legs began twitching, he threw his hands up in disgust several times, he uttered, “get out a here,” and “wtf” more than once, before eventually adding,  “this movie is not fit for man.”  By the end of the movie, I had to agree – the movie was not fit for mankind.

Letters to Juliet is about a bright eyed, almost dewey Brown graduate, who’s biding her time being a fact checker at the New Yorker, until she finally abandons her perfectionism (her excuse for not actually finishing anything) and actually completes one of the fantastically well written stories she started in her cutesy notebook, in her school girl handwriting.  She and her fiancee go on a pre-Honeymoon to Verona, where said fiancee, a self-absorded jerk who is required to be so over the top in his self absorption that we think it’s ok that she ends up falling for her fated “right” guy at  the end, abandons her for wine tastings at picturesque vineyards, cheese tastings in rustic cellars, and a wine auction in Livorna.  Alas, this is not what Sophie wants to do on her vacation – because?????  tasting fabulous wine, eating fabulous food, and attending lavish wine parties is soooooooo boring.  Really? 

So, Sophie is left to her own devices while fiancee has the most “boring” time of it – and wanders into Juliet’s, the Juliet of Romeo and Juliet, famed courtyard, and a watches as women scratch away at their notebooks, cry inconsolably, and tape Letters to Juliet under the balcony wall.  She then observes a woman collect those letters, and a lightbulb goes off – you can actually see her blondy blond hair start to glow – a fanastic opportunity for a story.  You see, all of these letters are actually answered, by a group of local Italian women who could star in the Italian version of How to Make an American Quilt, or perhaps Steel Magnolias.  Indeed, while this movie’s only redeeming aspect is its lush and beautiful travelogue like footage of Verona and the surrounding countryside, this movie is as American as American can be – even the perky background music is not the music of Italy – its the Monkey’s in Italian.

Anyway, Juliet, er, I mean Sophie, ends up answering a letter written 50 years ago, to a woman living in England who, at 15, had wanted to know if she should run off with her true love, or return to school in England.  15????  Really – honey, you made the right choice returning to England.   But whatever, drawn by this letter, and her desire to find to her one true love, Clare, the now 65 year old author of the letter, returns to Verona in a heartbeat (that European post is fabulous!!!!) with her handsome, obnoxious (but obnoxious for a reason, of course), grandson – and it doesn’t take much guesswork to figure out how the movie ends.

Letters to Juliet wants to settle the question, “What if . . .” but it’s a question that can’t be settled – and a movie like the Wrestler, that tries to go about it in a realistic, ambiguous way leads to a good movie, and a movie like Letters to Juliet that goes about in a total contrite, triffling, preposterous way makes a bad movie.  There’s no question – this is a bad movie.  And of course, to top it all off, that song I hate, that cloying Taylor Swift song, plays in our heroines head , spurs her to action, sending her back to Verona to seize the day, and her true love.  Whatever – why does everyone want to rewrite Romeo and Juliet?

Yeah, there are a lot of what if’s in Romeo and Juliet – What if the Capulets and the Montagues had just sat down, cracked a case of mead, and settled there differences over a greasy bird and drink?  What if the Friar had managed to get it all right?  What if they hadn’t died?

Well, I’ll tell you what if – there would have been a happy ending, and you never would have read the play.   It would have fallen into the bin with Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, and all Shakespeare’s other comedies that unless Kenneth Branagh made a movie of it, you didn’t have to read in high school.  Romeo and Juliet is compelling because its tragic.  Period. 

Everyone – Taylor, listen up!  – Shakespeare got it right.  Leave it alone.

So, why am I ending with a poster from Room with a View – because if you want to be overwhelmed with Italian countryside, and pondering the meaning of true love, watch this movie, not Letters to Juliet.  Its a much better investment.

Smackdown! Ironman v. Robin Hood

Last weekend, Joe and I saw Ironman II.  This week we saw Robin Hood.

Joe loved Ironman II.

Joe hated Robin Hood.  He said it was unrealistic.

Hmmmm . . . a man flying around in a red metal suit, who invents his own atomic particle to ensure that he doesn’t die from blood poisoning stemming from the energy thingamig that lives in his chest is realistic?  I see.

Ironman II is standard comic book fare.  A cocky hero, a funky toothed villain, and a waifish heroine masquerading as a corporate CEO — and I say masquerading not because this is her super hero disguise, but Pepper Pots is no Donald Trump, nor is she Mary Kaye, but rather she is a simpering pouter, who occasionally gets a good line here or there, but spends most of her time fretting about her boss and love of her life, Tony Stark.  And, a superhero movie really is only as good as it’s villain, and while Mickey Rourke is always a bit whacked, he wasn’t really a compelling villain.  A compelling villain in a comic book needs to be a bit over the top, and for all of his gadgets, and all of his metal teeth, and his snake like laser weapon thingies, Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash is kind of blah.  I wasn’t really moved by the history behind his desire for revenge, and really, what’s a mad scientist without one “Mwah ha ha!”  Mickey Rourke is just not a “Mwah ha ha!” kind of guy.  He’s a quiet, reflective villain, who you know would cut your toes off and have them for dinner, but since its not a scary movie, and you’re never really concerned that’s going to happen, Whiplash is just a bit too flat. 

So, I guess to beef up the villainy, there’s another villain, in the form of a rival weapon’s manufacturer, Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, who breaks Whiplash out of jail in order to use his scientific brilliance to replicate the Iron Man suit, and therefore help him win a gazillion dollar defense contract with the government.  Hammer is not evil, he’s just annoying.  He’s not a villain, he’s a boob.  And every time he’s on screen, all you can think is, “not that guy again!” 

And Tony Stark?  I’m always happy to see Robert Downey, Jr. do well – he’s like a client who succeeded on parole (because he is someone’s client who succeeded on parole), but again, it’s the villain that drives a super hero movie, and Downey’s Tony Stark is competent enough – the appropriate quips, the inner angst, the creativity of a master inventor – but in the end, he’s not cool – not really, he’s a goofball. 

Cool is Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood. 

But, coolness aside – since Crowe’s Robin Hood is just another version of his Gladiator,  again, a superhero movie – and have no doubt, Robin Hood is just as much a superhero as Iron Man, but with an engraved sword, and a trusty bow and arrow – is only as good as its villains.  And the villains in Robin Hood are snearingly delightful.  Evil Godfrey, the traitor, a scarred, marked man, pillages, plunders, burns and mwah ha ha’s his way through England.  Ok, so we don’t know why he is a Frenchie, even though he was nursed at the same bosom as Evil King John, but who cares!  And Evil King John, very evil indeed, excellent. 

And heroines?  No contest – Cate Blanchett’s Marion could smack down Gwyneth’s Pepper Potts with a fly swatter.  Blanchett’s Marion is fiece, and even though her appearance towards the end of the movie in the climactic battle scene was what killed it for Joe (not that she was fighting, but rather how she got there and who she got there with) – I can say no more without a spoiler – I was just as ok with her in that scene, as I was with Scarlett Johannson in her teeny tiny leather outfit clobbering 25 armed men without anything other than her slick moves and finishing “hi-yas!” in Iron Man.

 Better friends?  Merry Men and Friar Tuck or War Machine – I’ll take the mead drinking lads over the guy who steals your weapon suit any day.  Better weapon – hmm, bow and arrow v. super duper collosal weapon suit, ok, we’ll give it to the suit.  Better villain – no questions, Godfrey, King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham kick Whiplashes and the boob’s derriere.  Heroine?  Cate, who wields swords, plants fields, manages a 5000 acre estate, stays true to her missing husband for 10 long years, avenges her dead father in law, and has great dogs versus Gwyneth, who, um, does nothing. 

Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t really like either movie very much – but if you only have time to hit up one, I’d go with Robin Hood.

Not a Date Night Movie

Is Date Night a date night movie?

To me, a “date night” movie is a movie that stimulates conversation, because if it doesn’t, the post-movie part of the date will suffer terribly. 

So, a date night movie doesn’t have to be a great movie, or even a good movie – it just needs to give you something to talk about – something more than what you would have talked about if you had stayed home and watched t.v. – i.e., wtf was Buzz Aldrin doing on Dancing with the Stars except copping a cheap feel of a young girl’s ass before he dies, wtf is Tiger Woods thinking with those horrifically uncomfortable new Nike commercials with his dead father’s hypocritical diatribe on wtf was he thinking, because he’s certainly not thinking about selling sneakers, or applauding wildly as Donovan holds up a Redskins uniform – see ya!

Talking points, that’s a good date night movie, that are worth around $10 a topic.

So, for instance, if on date night, you see Shutter Island, which wasn’t such a great movie, or even a good movie but had a lot of talking points, the conversation after the movie will go like this:


“I know.”

“So was he or wasn’t he?”

“He was.” (Then you get to talk about the plot, which was pretty convoluted, and I don’t want to spoil anything – you can fill in the conversation)

Later – “What was Scorsese thinking?”

“Well, the movie looked fantastic – it definitely had the 1950’s film noir feel.”

“All it needed was Jon Hamm.”  (Then you can talk about the costumes, the cinematography, and the incredible amount of smoking that went on in the movie.)

You get the idea – all of the above is springboard to further conversation – what was the plot about, Scorsese, Mad Men, etc, and, importantly, this is conversation that doesn’t make you feel bad about your life, your body, your attitude, your reading habits — fine, I’m happy I got off the couch, spent my $10 bucks, and cheated on my diet eating popcorn and milk duds.

But Date Night, the movie?  Here’s the conversation:


“Yeah, huh.”

“I still hate Steve Carrell.”

“Yeah. Huh.”


“Ok – just say it!”

“His abs . . .”

“Ok, ok – he’s got abs . . .”

That’s all there is to talk about – Mark Wahlberg’s abs – and then you feel bad  you got off the couch, bad you ate the popcorn, bad you ate the milk duds, and stupid for plunking down $10 bucks to see Tina Fey and Steve Carrell do something unthinkable with a stripper pole, complain about their ordinary lives that resemble your own ordinary life, and come to the conclusion, gosh there’s no place like home, and we’ve got to stop wasting our time trying to be the intellectuals that we’re not reading books about young girls in the Sudan getting their periods in the desert.

I hate to be negative about Tina, but this movie just wasn’t good.  There’s just so much you can say about Mark Wahlberg’s abs, and then that’s it – go home, watch the dvr’d 30 Rock from last week.  I guess it’s a renter, but then, you’d watch it at home, where you were probably going back and forth to the fridge during the entire movie instead of being confined to what you bought at the concession stand, and then you’re really going to feel bad about Mark Wahlberg’s abs.

In other news – my brother has joined the bloggedy — if you hate Chris Wheeler, are leading the band leading Donovan out of town, or need a wedding band any time in your future, give him a look see at Howard of Mainline Affair.

Don’t Put Your Planet in the Microwave – Movie Round Up III – 2012

2012The sky is falling! Oh, that was Meteor.  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s – aliens?  Independence Day.  No, in 2012 there’s no meteor shower, space ships, or drilling on the moon.  This time, there are tsunami’s, earthquakes, and planet alignment.  In 2012, this year’s The World is Ending movie, the Earth’s core is heating up, baking the earth from the inside out like a microwave, causing the Earth’s crust to shift (I guess I shouldn’t be complaining so much about cinema verite in law films – scientists definitely have a bone to pick with this movie), the Washington Monument to crumble, and Yellowstone National Park to turn into a bubbling, exploding volcano.  Scrambling car escape? Check.   Nearly missed by a flying train while escaping in a biplane?  Check.  National monument wreckage – of course.  All of the classic disaster elements are there – sigh, the Earth is ending again.


The only reason this movie worked at all for me is John Cusackjohncusack, playing a science fiction writer who “gets it.”  I liked him, I liked his family, and I wanted them to live.  Of course, since he’s a writer who “gets it,” he wasn’t “there” for his family, who leave him, and move in with mom’s new boyfriend, the likable, but not cool Gordon, a doctor who happens to be taking flying lessons.  At the end of the movie, you know that both John and Gordon can’t both survive, because the family could not be reunited with likable guy Gordon in the way.  I also liked the dog, a pretty ugly dog, but a dog nonetheless, and I was happy that the dog managed to live as well. 


The movie has a lot impassioned speeches from the President, and his scientific advisor – the moral centers of the film.  They talk like we would want politicians to talk – admitting wrong, taking the blame, “owning it,” and in the end, doing the right thing – more of  a fantasy than the earth ending I suppose.  Civilization be damned – we are going to do the right thing!  And of course, it all comes down to John Cusack saving the day – but first, he has to reunite with his estranged wife – and there’s a long kissy cooey scene where the seconds are ticking away, and he’s supposed to be saving the world. 


The movie is long – really really long – and editing out the romance would have been a nice way to speed things up a bit.  I guess the producers thought that the marriage between Indpendence Day and Titanic would sell more tickets to women – I don’t know why movie folks think that to get women to go to the movies there had better be a romance with a satisfying ending.  I don’t know – maybe they’re right – but this woman just wants to go to a good movie.

Crash – Movie Round Up Part II – Amelia

Yes, the blog has been having a bit of split personality disorder lately.  Or maybe it’s not the blog, maybe it’s me.  Hmm, I’ll have to think on that one. 


After Joe picked Law Abiding Citizen, it was my turn to roll the cinematic dice – we’re diplomatic that way – if you blow it, you lose picking privileges until forgiven.  So, I picked Amelia, which I thought would be a fascinating story of how a woman of her era became such a feminist, a pioneer for women in the field of aviation at a time when women driving cars was frowned upon.  No such luck.  The film opens with Ms. Earhart’s first trip to New York to essentially auditition for  George Putnam,  he would later become her husband, for the prize spot of becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic – as part of the crew, but really as a celebrated passenger.  Where’d she come from?  Unclear.  Why does she fly?  Who knows.  Family?  General information about her father having problems with alcohol.  Instead of getting to the heart of Earhart, the movie chooses to center around the relationship between her and George, with a side trip to Vidal land – which because we know nothing about her other than she is a freewheeling free thinker not to be tied down, or earthbound, but artificial constructs such as marriage, makes very little sense.


So, what should be an enlightening biopic turns into essentially Titanic in the air – a rather boring, trite romance, with Richard Gere looking all misty eyed — and you know behind his glazed over eyes, he’s just counting the money that he’ll make from this movie, and how much he’ll be able to give to the Dalai Lama, laughing at everyone who bought a ticket to this Oscar contender in sheeps clothing – ha ha, fooled ya!  And, I guess in order to perpetuate the fraud that this is actually a good biography and a serious film, it is critical of Earhart – how many times can it tell us that in actuality, she wasn’t a very good pilot, had little training, and probably shouldn’t have been soloing across the globe in the first place?  And, because we have no back story, no insight into Amelia aside from her relationship with George, it’s hard to come away from the movie without thinking – silly woman, what was she thinking? 



And, Hilary Swank really doesn’t help matters.  Sure, she could be Amelia’s twin, yeah, she’s got that strange androgyny thing going – but all of this really serves as a distraction.  Like her teeth – I find it hard to watch Swank because of her teeth – just a little aside.  Here, Swank affects what I suppose is a Kansas accent – puts on masculine, boyish clothes, and has her eyes permanently affixed straight ahead, in a wide eyed stare, I guess signifying honesty, and a rose colored glasses way of looking at the world.  Just doesn’t work for me.  And, I don’t believe it – I look at pictures of Amelia Earhart, and the one thing you know from those pictures is that she was a player – and everything she did, she did full throttle – those pictures show hard living – and you get none of that from Swank.  The accent, the strange speech patterns, the clothes – she wears them like a Halloween costume – it all seemed very unnatural – she didn’t become the character, she just wore her.


So, will the Academy be fooled – accents are biggies at award time, along with gaining weight, and playing Nazis.  Heck, Richard Gere could be nominated for best support actor his “subtle” (he mailed it in) performance, could be a nice enough performance for the Academy to throw him a body of work bone.  And her – if she gets nominated, it’s definitely what I’ve called in the past, the Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome – this wasn’t a great performance, but she has all the trappings to fool a fool – accent, teeth, clothes.  We’ll have to see.

Foxx Does Philly – Movie Round Up Part I

While I still have several posts written in my head about San Diego, they’ve failed to go live due to technical difficulties – I lost my USB cord for my camera, and need to buy a card reader, I accidently deleted the pictures I meant to upload from work from my flash drive, just bonehead stuff.  So, still more San Diego to come!

In the meantime, I figured I do a movie review round – up.  Because, yes, even on our honeymoon, we went to the movies.

lawabidingcitFirst up, Law Abiding Citizen with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler.  Perhaps, this movie was a little too close to home for me – literally and figuratively.  Filmed in Philadelphia, and at times, almost in my own backyard, Law Abiding Citizen is dark, oh so dark – with ominous clouds, gloomy weather, and with so little color, that the movie could have been shot in black and white.  While appropriate for the story, I suppose, it does nothing for the Philadelpha aesthetic — or city could not have looked uglier.  I guess you couldn’t possible film a taut thriller on a sunny day in Fairmount Park, that would have been too much to ask.

But city love aside, Law Abiding Citizen was just too preposterous for me to bare.  I must have knocked Joe a half a dozen times as I squirmed in my chair, restless with annoyance.   When a District Attorney actually stepped foot in a prison, he got an elbow to the side.  When a capital murder defendant had a bail hearing, he got my foot to his knee.  I just couldn’t take it.

Why does cinema verite not apply to the law?  Why does no one care if they get it right if they’re making a “legal” thriller?  From the moment this film begins, it gets it all wrong.  The movie’s premise is the following – Gerard Butler’s character’s family is slaughtered in a home invasion/sexual assault by two sceevy looking thugs.  The perpetrators are caught, and arrested.  Somehow, the more culpable of the two manages to cut a deal with the prosecutor to testify against the less guilty guy for a hugely reduced sentence.  When the prosecutor explains this to the grieving father Butler, he says things like “there’s a technicality.  We can’t use the DNA found at the scene – the defense was able to suppress it because it was tainted.”  Blah blah blah.  First of all, suppression hearings happen in open court, generally right before the trial starts.  They are not back room maneuvers.  Secondly, this DNA was supposedly DNA found on the little girl, in the house – not DNA recovered from the perpetrators.  An attorney could not suppress it because his client has no privacy interest in the evidence recovered from the crime scene.  I suppose it could have been “tainted” upon collection, but that doesn’t get you suppression, that gets you an argument at trial.  Whatever – why get it right eh?   And there’s Gerard Butler, crying, begging him not to cut a deal, because he was there, and he can identify the perpetrators.  Eh, the Assistant District Attorney Jamie Foxx says, you blacked out, no one will believe you.  I blacked out after, says Butler, I saw everything.  Not good enough.  Not good enough?  Eyewitness testimony to the slaughter of his family is not good enough?  Hmmm — I wish the jury knew that during the last case I lost, where there was no DNA and only eyewitness testimony.

Obviously, I could go on and on about the inaccuracies in the movie.  And, I won’t – go on and on and on – but I will go on a bit more – here’s a for instance:

Jamie Foxx, a star Assistant District Attorney,  interrogates Butler’s character in a state prison facility, in a kind of star chamber, equipped with one way glass and a sound system, in what looks like Eastern State Penitentiary.  A.  Assistant DA’s do not go to prison, unless it’s for line-ups or detainer hearings.  In fact, I’ve met many a DA in the parking lot, completely lost, and befuddled about how to actually get into the prison.  Instead, if a DA needs to talk to an incarcerated individual (a witnesss, not the actual defendant – that’s next), they have their DA Detectives go up to the prison, put them in a van, and either bring them down to the Criminal Justice Center (not City Hall, because DA’s do not work in City Hall) or their office (again, the DA’s off ice is not in City Hall).  Law-Abiding-Citizen-And that’s not because they’re not doing their jobs – on the contrary – C. an Assistant District Attorney is not allowed to speak to a charged murderer, or any charged defendant for that matter.  I guess in this movie, since he was acting as his own attorney, I suppose communication would have been possible, but Police question suspects, not DA’s. There are so many reasons why this is this case, so just trust me on this one.  And, this star chamber, apparently housed at Eastern State Penitentiary, exists no where in Philadelphia.  Murder suspects are brought to the Roundhouse, an incredibly ugly building, rotting from the inside out, in the heart of the historic district, where they are placed in a small interview room, equipped with cameras that are only turned on if the suspect decides he wants to recreate the crime for the camera.  Suspects, during interrogation, are often given hoagies or chinese food, but not Craft-o-Matic beds, or steak dinners from Del Frisco’s. 


There I’m done – I could go on – like I said – and on . . . but let me just finish with a word for the nonlegal minded, those of you who just want to go to a good movie.  This isn’t it.  Even if you know nothing of the law, this movie just doesn’t do it.  The plot, involving high levels of gratuitous gore, is uninspiring, and frankly unoriginal.  Vigilante justice is nothing new, and Butler’s character doesn’t bring anything to the table.  In the beginning you are lead to believe that he’s an ordinary law abiding citizen, but you come to learn he’s actually a government terminator, with a brain so sophisticated only Jamie Foxx and his army of one detective can diffuse it.  Whatever.  If I had any sympathy for the guy – an ordinary shlub taken advantage of and betrayed by the criminal justice system – it was gone once I found out what hypocrite he was.  Here he is, raging against the criminal justice machine, yet he himself was employed as a lethal execution – judge, jury, the works – did his victims get to negotiate – was justice ever served? 


There’s no suspense in this movie.  Of course, Jamie Foxx will find redemption, rise in the ranks, and learn to appreciate his family, his long ignored wife and children.  Whatever. 


Next:  Amelia