Archive | August, 2011

In Theater: Crazy, Stupid, Love.

30 Aug

Yes, I know this movie came out roughly a month ago, but you know what? It’s still playing, and I’m still going to blog about it. So there.

Still reading? Awesome!You will be handsomely rewarded. So Crazy,Stupid, Love. ? Is great. Do I think it’s a best picture contender? Sadly, that’s a negative. However, it is a FUN movie. The characters seem real and are funny, despite dealing with some depressing subjects. The main story revolves around Cal (Steve Carell) and his wife Emily (Julianne Moose), who, following an affair with a co-worker ( a delightful supporting role played by Kevin Bacon), has decided she wants out of their marriage. Enter Jacob (the <– always super foxy Ryan Gosling), who decides to help Cal get his mojo back by giving him a wardrobe makeover and tutoring him on the fine arts of getting women in bars to go home with you.

Emma Stone is also present as Hannah the law student who meets Jacob at the one bar all the characters in the movie apparently live right near, and isn’t immediately woo’d, thought I can’t for the life of me think how she wasn’t. She’s mostly seen with her douchey boyfriend, who may or may not have a name in the movie, but who is definitely played by Josh Grobin and is actually pretty funny.

There is a completely unnecessary side plot involving Cal and Emily’s son, who at thirteen is “in love” with the 17 year old babysitter who has a slightly creepy crush on Cal. I could’ve done without this whole inappro love triangle shenanigan, thankyouverymuch.

The movie was very venn diagram-ish to me, with Cal as the main character and most of the movie revolving around his relationships with Emily, Jacob and the little-in-love son. Later, (spoiler alert, but not really if you’ve seen any of the previews), we get to see Jacob and Hannah in action. Sadly, there’s not enough of them for my liking.

Love them both!

Besides my wish for there to be more Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in this movie, I thought the plot hummed along nicely and at a very satisfying pace. One plot point that potentially went over my head was the “oh look at this hot pickup artist who is miserable and too emotionally detached to foster a meaningful connection” was too subtle and frankly, a little unbelievable to me. It seemed like Jacob was really having a good time, until it turns out that…he wasn’t.

Crazy, Stupid Love. is still in theaters, but you probably want to get a move on seeing it if you haven’t already. It’s a good date movie (guys love Steve Carell, and there’s a nice bromance here) or girlfriend movie (hi, did you see the picture I so thoughtfully included. You’re welcome), and I found it to be a smart, funny summer flick. Whoever you see it with, get thee to a movie theater!

If you have seen it: what’d ya think? Worth the 10 clams?

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Read & Watch: The Help (2011)

23 Aug

Welcome to a new series on Oscartini on books and the movies that they become. Like most people, I’ve been burned by movies that didn’t live up to the expectations I had after reading a book (talking to you, Da Vinci Code). But I always keep going back for more. Why? Because I try to see book-based movies as complements to the book and an interpretation of the material. Instead of always being an exact replica, filmmakers usually adapt material to the medium of film, which may expand on some parts of a book and minimize others. With this view, I can usually avoid disappointment.

Now, on to the real first Read and Watch: The Help!

I am in a fantastical book club, comprised of friends and former co-workers. We’ve been in existence for about 5 months, and are going strong. As you can maybe guess, we recently read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, and this weekend, a few of us went to see the movie.

When The Help came out in 2009, there was a fair amount of controversy around the subject matter, which has also followed the movie. The story of a white southern woman writing the plight of the black maids that have raised her and her friends and kept their houses does rub people the wrong way, and I can see the merit behind the various perspectives. But as a movie, I think The Help was done very well. A strong female-dominated ensemble cast featuring Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janey, Bryce Dallas Howard and Sissy Spacek, I found The Help to be a delicious slice of awesome movie amongst a summer of big budget, 3D blockbusters.

The white girl in question is Skeeter (Emma Stone), who after graduating from Ol’ Miss, returns to Jackson, Mississippi and starts writing a “household maintenance” column for the local paper. As one who’s never cleaned a house before, she turns to her friend Elizabeth’s maid, Aibileen (Viola Davis). From their conversations, Skeeter is inspired to write the story of what it’s really like being a black maid in Jackson. After getting Aibileen and saucy Minny (Octavia Spencer) on board, the movie streams through Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny quest to try to get more maids on board so the book will be published and various scenes from life as a maid in Jackson and life as a white maid employer (notably, Skeeter’s terrible friend Hilly, played by Bryce Dallas Howard).

I liked this movie a lot; despite being familiar with the source material, the actors really brought the characters to life. Viola Davis in particular was WONDERFUL playing Aibileen. She displays a great range, from caretaker (to a particularly adorable little girl of her employer’s) to writer, mother and fed up activist looking to do a small part to change how things are. Bryce Dallas Howard, though playing a reprehensible character, makes Hilly the best mean girl we’ve seen since Regina George.

The movie stays pretty close to the heart of the book, making this an easy to watch film for those who have not read the book. I would call this a semi chick flick, though the issues The Help centers around aren’t women issues so much as human issues. The Help was #1 at the box office this past weekend, so maybe the positive word of mouth will help it spread to a wider audience. Hopefully, we’ll see some recognition for Viola Davis and her peers come award season!

Have you seen The Help? Any plans to? What did you think as a book reader or as someone who hasn’t read the book? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

A Man for All Seasons (Winner, 1966/39th Annual Academy Awards

19 Aug

When I saw this movie, I immediately thought maybe it has inspired one of my favorite Grease 2 numbers, Girl for all Seasons. Alas, I believe I was mistaken. Actually, A Man for All Seasons, which won the Oscar back in 1966, is decidedly not a light hearted, if somewhat terrible sequel; it’s more like the big brother to this year’s best Picture winner, The King’s Speech, but without a core friendship (actually replaced by some core hatred) and without being anywhere near as fun to watch. So…maybe all they have in common is an Oscar, some British thespians and a King. Close enough!

The man for all seasons in the title is Sir Thomas Moore, the Chancellor of England under the delightful and kill-happy King Henry VIII (or eighth, for you non-roman numeral readers). Why is Sir Thomas, played by Best Actor Oscar winner Paul Scofield, a “man for all seasons,” you may ask? No, he is not a four season athlete, but rather, according to the man who wrote the play the film is based on (also called A Man for All Seasons), that Moore is “the ultimate man of conscience and as remaining true to his principles and religion under all circumstances and at all times.”

In this movie, Moore’s man of all seasons-ness is put to the test. As apparently the only dude with any kind of sense of right and wrong, he tells Henry that it’s a bad idea to divorce his wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon, for his mistress, Anne Boleyn, without the approval of the Pope. It’s pretty clear (as history will show), that the Pope is never going to have this, which leads to Henry’s break with the church and the establishment of the Church of England, which Henry conveniently names himself head of and can do whatever he wants. Must be nice to be king.

This raises the question: who cares? If Henry wants to toss out the old lady and get a new wife, why does he care what Sir Thomas thinks? As the chancellor and a member of the Privy Council, More is the only one to refuse to sign a letter to the Pope urging him to dissolve the marriage (that conscience thing coming into play again). Then, when Henry takes it upon himself to form a new church, everyone in England must swear loyalty and recognize the king’s new marriage. Again, Sir Thomas refuses.

If you know anything about Henry VIII, you can likely piece together how this played out for good ol’ Sir Thomas. Spoiler alert: not well. King Henry is played by Robert Shaw, and is a delightful bi-polaresque mixture of batshit crazy and over the top ecstatic. Exactly what one would want in a King and total ruler of their country.

Crazy King Henry, before he killed a bunch of his wives

There are a bunch of other miscellaneous subplots around More’s daughter and her heretic boyfriend, all the other Privy Council members that hate Sir Thomas for being such a righteous jerk and not signing the King’s letter and various monologues about how moral Sir Thomas is, by Sir Thomas himself. I’m not going to call this my favorite Oscar winner to date, but it wasn’t half bad. It was definitely no Amadeus, so that’s something, I guess?

Fun facts (courtesy of IMDB and Wikipedia)

  • One of only 4 productions to win both the Best Play Tony (1962) and the Best Picture Oscar (1966). The other 3 are My Fair Lady (1957/1964), The Sound of Music (1960/1965) and Amadeus (1981/1984)
  • Paul Scofield won the 1962 Tony Award (New York City) for Actor in a Drama for “A Man for All Seasons” and recreated his role in the filmed production
  • Budget: $3.9 Million (estimate) gross revenue: $25 million worldwide

In Theater: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

10 Aug

First things first: this movie creeped the bejesus out of  me. Rise of the Plane of the Apes was a big bag of unpleasent emotions. I was sad for the poor monkeys, then afraid that the apes (those rising in the title) would take over the world and we’d all die. Not a nice mix, personally. And despite my unpleasantness towards this movie, it still managed to take the weekend box office with $54 million

Now I wouldn’t say that this movie is redefining a genre. Even if you haven’t seen any of the other planet of the apes movies (of which there have been several), you get the gist: apes get smart and try to take over the world. In this movie specifically, the apes are an oppressed people, who get smart and rise up against their captors and tormentors, with the role of prominent tormentor going to an American accent wielding Draco Malfoy, or Tom Felton for you name sticklers.

But the animal lover in me was borderline depressed; the main monkey, Caesar, is adorable when he’s a little tiny monkey! When he’s a big ape who has to secretly live in James Franco’s attic, you feel sad for him. And when he’s an ape with a mean, cynical streak, you’re afraid of the damage he’ll do.

James Franco wasn’t terribly convincing; I like him better as a stoner on the run in Pineapple Express, personally. The thing with his character here is you don’t really know what his angle is. He’s a genecist trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, which, coincidentally, his father (played my John Lithgow) is suffering from. After an experiment gone wrong shuts down his research, he ends up with poor tiny Caesar, who has been exposed to the test drugs in utero. Caesar lives with Franco and JLith, and all is good–for a while. Then ish gets bad, someone finally realizes there’s a monkey living in Franco’s attic, and Caesar ends up with his motley crew of apes. You can guess what happens next: they try their hand at rising.

An obvious lesson one walks away from RotPofA with is this: maybe we shouldn’t mess around with genetics of apes/monkeys who might get really smart and take over the world, killing or imprisioning us along the way. Just a thought.

Is RotPotA the best movie you’ll ever see? That’d be a no. Is it terrible? Not exactly. It’s a pretty decent reboot, if you can get over the sad/scary parts. It’s also a solid action movie too. I don’t think James Franco will be getting another Oscar no for this, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

Have you seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes? What’d you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments!