Archive | July, 2010

Weekend Watchings: Inception, On Demand and HBO

25 Jul

This weekend was FULL of watchings! With the threat of rain hanging over the forecast, late nights on both Friday and Saturday and no real plans to speak of, this weekend was a perfect opportunity to catch up on movies and shows I’ve been meaning to see.

First up, Inception (which will be out on DVD and on demand on December 7!).  I got around to seeing this trippy thriller, which is at the top of the box office for the second week running now.  It’s been on the receiving end of A LOT of positive buzz, and I have to say, I think it’s well deserved!  I really enjoyed Inception, for a few reasons: a really intricate, detailed storyline, which we’re seeing less and less of from the studios these days; an excellent cast, including Leo (obv), Joseph Gordan-Levitt (he’s come a long way from 3rd Rock from the Sun!), Ellen Paige and Marion Cottilard; and that Inception is a new, original concept film, not a sequal or comic book or foreign remake or anything but pure imagination from Christopher Nolan. If you’ve seen Inception, you know what I mean when I say I’ve never had this kind of fantastical imagination to even come close to dreaming up something like Inception.

I think Inception has strong Oscar potential; possibly a Best Picture and Best Director nod for Nolan (likely to both honor Inception and to make up for 2008’s slight of The Dark Knight). I’d also be surprised if we didn’t see Inception in the running for several visual effects categories.

Next up, on demand watchings, or: how streaming Netflx has changed my life. Ever since we signed up for Netflix, which also includes streaming movies via our Wii, we have been on serious show back watch. Nick and I are 5 seasons into Showtimes’s Weeds, which is my new crack (no drug pun intended). We’ve averaged a season a weekend, that’s how good this show is. Next on tap for streaming is The Tudors, Lost and old seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Phenom.

And finally, two awesome cable shows on tap for a Sunday night! Tonight marks the halfway point for HBO’s True Blood, one of my favorite shows. Based on Charlaine Harris’ series of Southern Vampire mysteries, True Blood is a mix of supernatural action, sex, violence and straight up fluff. I consider it a grown up Twilight, complete with vampires and werewolves!

Following True Blood is the season premier of Mad Men on AMC. This is the start of season 4 of life at a 60’s ad agency, and I am SO EXCITED FOR THIS. Last season left off on an awesome cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to see where this season goes!

Any other Mad Men fans out there? Or True Blood? Any thoughts on Inception? What was up with that ending? Mildly confusing, but still a worthy flick!

Chicago (Winner, 2002/75th Annual Academy Awards)

22 Jul

First things first: I love this movie. Own it, have the soundtrack and sing along in the car and drop everything to watch it when it comes on tv, love it.  It has many of my favorite movie characteristics: Richard Gere (my favorite old guy crush), Taye Diggs, it’s (semi) historical, a musical and…well, that’s it really, but that’s enough for me!

Taking place in Chicago (obviously) in the roaring 20’s, the movie is actually based on the 1975 stage musical, which was an adaptation of a 1926 non-musical play. So Chicago has had an illustrious history, with the 1996 revival of the musical still on Broadway and touring today.

Starring Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones as “jazz killers” Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, respectively and “the silver tongued prince of the court room” Billy Flynn, played by an outstanding Richard Gere, the movie is all laughs and songs from start to finish.  Chicago was something of a longshot for Best Picture; the last time the Academy had honored a musical prior to 2002 was back in 1968, for Oliver!, and it’s safe to say that a great musical like this doesn’t come along very often.

Directed by Rob Marshall, Chicago is what I think every musical should strive to be for one reason: it seamlessly integrates the musical numbers into the plot, which is where many musicals fails (see: Nine).  If anything, the musical interludes elevate the plot!  Far from being distracting, the songs are a welcome interlude to an otherwise slightly above average storyline.

Example: the Cell Block Tango, featuring a small cameo by signer Mya.

HOW AWESOME WAS THAT?? OK, I know you didn’t really watch it, you totally should though, it will be worth it!

Anyways, before taking home the big prize, Catherine Zeta-Jones also took home the statue for Best Supporting Actress, bringing me another awesome aspect of Chicago: the stellar cast. Coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of either female leads, the whole ensemble (including supporting roles from Christine Baranski, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly), is great. Not to mention that all the actors did their own singing and dancing too!

If you haven’t seen Chicago, well, what are you waiting for?!? It’s a nice, fluffy movie with awesome songs like Rent, but without the heavy subject/sadness.  And it has Richard Gere. Nuff said.

Fun facts (courtesy of IMDB and Wikipedia)

  • Renée Zellweger had no singing or dancing training prior to this film.
  • John Travolta, Kevin Spacey, John Cusack, Steve Martin and Hugh Jackman were all considered for the role of Billy Flynn, and Angelina Jolie auditioned for the role of Velma Kelly.
  • Richard Gere took tap dance lessons for three months for his role in Chicago
  • Became Miramax’s highest grossing film when its domestic box office hit $171,000,000.
  • Budget: $45 Million, gross revenue: $306 million+

In closing, I pose you two questions: Musicals: love ‘em or hate ‘em? And, more importantly, does anyone else have a creepy old guy (or girl) crush, or am I alone? If not for the fact of Pretty Woman, I’d think I was alone, but come on! That’s really the

Buh Bye Blockbuster

20 Jul

…and another one bites the dust! On my way to work the other day, I saw this:

The Blockbuster in my town is officially closing. Surprising, right? Yeah, not exactly. Where I live, there’s not one but two Blockbuster’s in the immediate vicinity.  What is mildly surprising is that both of these are still open at all.  I can’t even think of a Blockbuster in/near my hometown that is still open, but I can think of several locations that used to be home to a Blockbuster location.

Let’s face it: Blockbuster is a hot mess. With Netflix and Redbox thriving (maybe Blockbuster should change its name to Blocxbuster?), Blockbuster is on the way out. I’ve seen one of its Redbox-esque kiosks in a 7-11. One. Talk about being a day late and a dollar short.

With stores closing left and right and the recent delisting of Blockbuster on the NYSE, it’s really only a matter of time until Blockbuster declares bankruptcy and all 6,000+ stores close for good. Personally, I don’t think I’ll miss it. Though I can remember hitting a store for a new release on a Friday night back in the day, the idea of having to pay upwards of $5 for a movie when I could a) get it for a dollar from Redbox, b) get it from Netflix, through instant streaming (which has changed my life, but that’s for a different post) or in 3 days from my $9 a month unlimited plan or c) order in on demand via Comcast for the same price, without leaving my house to get and return it, is frankly ridiculous.

Sorry Blockbuster; you had a good run as the Wal-mart of video stores, but I think the end is near.

Anyone still frequent Blockbuster? Or do you only know where one used to be, since they’ve all practically closed?  What’s your preferred way of getting movies?

In Theater: The Kids Are All Right

17 Jul

Woah, 2 in theater’s in one week? Yeah, I’m a baller like that. So last week, I saw a notice on’s Love Letter’s blog about a screening of The Kids Are All Right, a new movie with Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska.  Hosted by Meredith Goldstein, the blog’s author, the screening was held at Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge—and it was totally free.  Free is my favorite.  Of course I got my name of the list (along with my friend and coworker Ciri) and we headed off to Cambridge for a delightful Thursday night!

This movie was already on my radar before I found out about the screening for its Oscar potential (more on that below), and this was my first time at the Kendall Square Cinema.  Here’s what I thought:

The Setting: The Kendall Square Cinema is a great place to see a movie. It’s easy to get to and it has an attached garage.  With a validated ticket from the theater, parking is $3 for 4 hours, plenty of time to see the movie and get a drink nearby (which we did, with the Love Letter’s after party at Flat Top Johnny’s). The theater plays an eclectic mix of independent films, foreign language cinema, restored classics and documentaries. And the popcorn was really good. AND Ciri spotted Stephen King in the lobby while buying popcorn. A celeb sighting and a free movie?  Two thumbs up.

The Movie: In my opinion, the movie was EXCELLENT. Quick storyline review: Annette and Julianne play a lesbian couple, Nic and Jules, with 2 kids, Joni and Laser (Mia and Josh Hutcherson, respectively). The kids were created with the same anonymous sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo as Paul, an adorably scruffy organic farmer/restaurateur), and as a 15 year old with 2 moms, Laser persuades Joni to look him up. Obviously, his emergence into their lives isn’t without issue, and the movie (who’s tagline is “Nic and Jules had the perfect family, until they met the man who made it all possible.”) explores the different relationships Paul starts with the family. I really liked that this movie looked at an average family (albeit with 2 moms), and explored real issues that are easy to identify with. You can really put yourself in any of these character’s shoes, and empathize with what they’re going through. Another plus for me was how well developed each character was, which was really augmented by the extremely talented cast.

Check out the trailer (Thanks YouTube!)

Gripes: However, I do have a few gripes. First, it really plays up the stereotypes. Nic takes more of the male gender role of the pair, the breadwinner and the strict parent, while Jules is clearly more the female—she stayed at home with the kids and is more earthy crunchy of the two. Second, I thought there was a bias in the way the intimate scenes were portrayed, with hetero sex getting the graphic treatment, and Nic and Jule’s intimacy limited to some kissing and a comic scene involving them watching gay male porno. Reading reviews and comments, it seems some in the gay community don’t feel enough was done to make Nic and Jule’s relationship as legitimate sexually as a hetero relationship.

Finally, what’s up with Laser? Who names a kid Laser and then fails to explain where/why/what that’s about? Weird.

The Oscar potential: High. With a Best Picture field of 10 films, I think there’s a good chance The Kids Are All Right will grab one of those spots. I can also see acting nods for Ruffalo, Bening and Moore and maybe a director nod for director/writer Lisa Cholodenko.

Final verdict: This move is more than all right, go see it! It’s currently in limited release; see where it’s playing here.

Have you seen TKAAR yet? What’d you think?

In Theater: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

13 Jul

Finally, my long awaited first foray into the wide, wonderful world of foreign films! I just got around to seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (in Swedish with subtitles) and let me tell you, it was really good! The movie stayed very true to the book and it was something of a novelty seeing a movie with subtitles.

For a little background: the movie is based on the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy of the same name.  Followed by The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastic book and great start to a really fascinating mystery.  The three books almost read as one, and I guarantee you won’t be able to put these down once you start reading.

But, I digress.  As Swedish novels with a Swedish author, all three movies have been made in Swedish, with English-language adaptations on the way starting in 2012.  The second movie in the series is now out in limited release (it’s currently showing in Cambridge at the Kendall Square Cinema.)

As a foreign film not in wide release, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wasn’t shown at Showcase Cinemas or AMC. I had to head to Arlington’s Capitol Theatre, my first time seeing a movie there.  This six-screen theater was first opened in November 1925 and it was a FANTASTIC place to see this. Though the movie is now out on iTunes and on Netflix, part of the reason I wanted to see it on the big screen was because of the theater I’d be seeing it in (and it was much easier to read the subtitles, as they were so large!)

A little history of the Capitol (taken from its website): The Capitol Theatre opened on November 25, 1925. It was built by the Locatelli family, who built other area theaters like the Ball Square Theatre and Central Theatre, both in Somerville. The original auditorium had a mural above the proscenium arch that incorporated the town seal of Arlington into its design, and an amazing pipe organ. Originally seating almost 1600 patrons between the expansive orchestra section and balcony, the Capitol had a full stage with dressing rooms to accommodate the occasional vaudeville or novelty act that would be presented with the movies on screen.

Known to Arlington residents as “Your Home Theatre”, the Capitol was the largest and most luxurious of the neighborhood theaters in the area. After the Locatelli’s sold the theater in the late 30’s, it was leased by various local cinema chains until Arthur Viano of Viano’s Theatres took over for many years. Along with other Viano’s locations like the nearby Regent Theatre, and the Somerville and Broadway theatres in Somerville, the Capitol became well known for its fresh popcorn and friendly atmosphere. While the theatre was under Viano’s management, the entire Capitol Theatre Building was sold to Chatham Light Realty of Cambridge. When Arthur Viano tired of running the theatre, Chatham Light Realty’s owners, the Fraiman family, decided to operate the movie house themselves, rather than see the old palace close. During renovations, much of the original décor was uncovered in the lobby. Behind 1960’s-era faux-wood paneling were granite columns and gold leaf! The entire lobby was restored to its original glory, and a new concessions stand was built. Trying to draw audiences with only one screen was nearly impossible, however, and in order to save the theatre, it was multiplexed; most recently, a sixth screen was added in 1990.

And, they sell Richardson’s ice cream. Awesome? I think so. Not only would I recommend seeing a movie at the Capitol, I would definitely recommend seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (AFTER you read the book though!) Who knows, maybe I’ll become one of those foreign film buffs! Warning: there are some scenes of graphic violence and disturbing images.

What’s your favorite foreign film?  Do people even have favorite foreign films? Enlighten me!

5 Must-See Summer Movies

7 Jul

Everyone knows that seeing a movie is a great summer-y activity. Anything that combines air conditioning AND entertainment is always going to be high up on my list! Thinking along those same lines, Colleen at The Daily Craic graciously asked if I would guest post and tell her readers what I see as this summer’s  5 must-see movies. Hence, this was originally posted at The Daily Craic; see it here!*

*Disclaimer: this list is by no means definitive and could indeed not be *your* cup of tea! Leave alternatives in the comments!

Without further ado…

First up is Going the Distance, starring real-life on and off again couple Drew Barrymore and Justine Long (AKA the Mac Guy). Out on August 27, this romcom looks at the long-distance relationship between Drew’s character Erin and Justin’s Garrett, complete with its ups and downs. If the trailer is any indication, expect to laugh and cry in this late summer arrival!

Next up is a movie I know many people (ok, mostly women!) are psyched to see: Eclipse. The third movie in the Twilight Saga is out June 30, and unless you’ve been living under a rock the last 2 years, you know what Team Edward and Team Jacob mean! Having seen Eclipse this past weekend, it’s definitely better than the two Twilight movies before it!

Eat, Pray, Love, starring the always-wonderful Julia Roberts is out on August 13 and directed by Glee creator Ryan Murphy. Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of the same name, Eat Pray, Love promised to deliver some seriously awesome settings, with portions of the movie taking place in Italy, Indonesia and India. This is Julia’s first starring role since last year’s Duplicity, which didn’t do very well; I anticipate this will be a big hit this August!

Directed by The Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception looks like this summer’s biggest thriller.  Out on July 16, word on the street is that this is one movie that you will really need to pay attention to, or else you’ll get lost, which doesn’t always make the best summer movie! IMDB’s synopsis on Inception is: “In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a single idea within one’s mind can be the most dangerous weapon or the most valuable asset.” Sounds cool, right?

And now, the absolute must-see movie of the summer is…Toy Story 3! Out since June 18th, Woody and Buzz’s third and final installment has been at the top of the box office and has been receiving great reviews from audiences and critics, with some early Oscar buzz too! Andy’s toys are donated to a daycare center when Andy goes off to college; expect to see lots of new characters and an awesome big screen experience for all ages!

Do you agree or disagree with any of these picks? Which movies are you looking most forward to seeing this summer?

The Hurt Locker (Winner, 2009/82nd Annual Academy Awards)

4 Jul

OK, I’ll come out and say it: war movies are not my favorite. They’re usually big and brassy and full of explosions.They glorify war and are usually panned by veterans and our service men and women as being unrealistic and ridiculous. Which is why I actually liked The Hurt Locker a lot. It is subtle and as understated a war movie I’ve ever seen.  When it won Best Picture back in March, it’s safe to say it hadn’t been seen by nearly as many people as Avatar or Up, and is in fact the lowest grossing Best Picture winner, as I mentioned in my last post.

The movie follows a three-man U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit in Iraq in 2004.  Starring Jeremy Renner (who was also nominated for Best Actor and was phenom), Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, the plot centers around this team in Bravo company as their tour of duty comes to an end.  Renner’s character Sergeant James is a replacement for the former team leader and primary bomb diffuser, having diffused 873 bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s something of a wild card and tensions rise among his team mates when he repeatedly puts them at risk.

As this is still a fairly new movie, I won’t spoil the whole thing here…but having watched it, I would absolutely recommend seeing it. Don’t expect a light hearted film that you can watch and forget minutes after, because it would be hard to. Check out the trailer here (which I hadn’t seen until just before I watched it!)

I know a lot of people were upset that The Hurt Locker beat out Avatar for Best Picture. But, it’s important to remember the category is BEST picture, not BIGGEST picture. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Avatar as much as the next person, but I don’t know that a reasonable argument can be made for calling it the best picture of the year. Avatar did well in the technical awards (Best Art Direction, Visual Effects and Cinematography) as expected, but no film has EVER won Best Picture without a nomination in one of the four acting categories or Best (adapted or original) screenplay. Avatar didn’t have any nominations in these categories, which is likely telling.

Also of note: the 2010 Oscars were the first since 1943 that had 10 nominees for best picture (with every event in between having 5), which certainly adds to the drama of the show and leads to higher ratings.

OK, got a little off track there, but back to my point: The Hurt Locker is not a big blockbuster,and doesn’t have serious star power, but was, I think, a good choice for best Picture. The performances are really good, and the way it was shot (on location and the camera work) really added to the authenticity.

Fun facts (courtesy of IMDB and Wikipedia)

  • The Hurt Locker became the first modern-war film since Platoon (1986) to win Best Picture.
  • The film was shot on location in Jordan.
  • With director Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Director win, The Hurt Locker became the first film to win Best Picture that was directed by a woman.
  • The expression “the hurt locker” is a preexisting slang term for a situation involving trouble or pain, which can be traced back to the Vietnam War. According to the movie’s website, it is soldier vernacular in Iraq to speak of explosions as sending you to “the hurt locker”. (Thanks IMDB!)
  • Budget: $15 Million, gross revenue: $40 million+

A big fourth of July thanks to those who are serving and have served our serve and protect country!  Hope everyone had a safe and fun day!