Monday, January 25, 2010

Closer (2004)

The love lives of two British men and two American women intersect again and again in Closer, a Mike Nichols film that recieved a lot of interest and buzz when it was released over 5 years ago (can that be right?!?) Dan (Jude Law) meets Alice (Natalie Portman), then kisses Anna (Julia Roberts), who rejects him, so he plays a practical joke on her by setting up a meet up with Larry (Clive Owen). The two couples intertwine, with various partners meeting up with various partners - couples split up, get back together, split up and get back together. All while talking a lot about fucking and what Jude Law's semen tastes like (apparently, it's sweet.)

The film is a series of paradoxes. It's beautifully drab, with it's use of tans, grays and blacks in the scenery and costumes, the actors are charmingly unlikeable, in particular Clive Owen, who you like, hate, then like again all in the course of about 20 minutes. He and Roberts have a great scene in the middle of the movie that is riveting to watch. And, while I have enjoyed Julia Roberts' performances in the past, I can see why she is considered one this generation's best actresses, as well as a movie star. She conveys feelings of guilt and humiliation with just a subtle glance or slight frown that lets you know what she is thinking. Still, you don't necessarily find yourself rooting for any particular character, and, unlike many of the movies of today (cough cough avatar cough cough), I truly didn't know where or how the film was going to end. All in all, a nice movie to watch on a cool Monday afternoon under a blanket with a pug.

I give Closer 3 pugs and a half eaten bag of popcorn.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Avatar (2009)


Only a few weeks in the movies and it has broken every record out there. The blockbuster hit Avatar is a big movie. How big? Big effects, big action, big themes….well you get the point. James Cameron keeps things big in the broad spectrum of things by borrowing on themes we’ve seen before….Can we say Pocahontas or Dances with Wolves? Yes, the words and story are recycled myths but that is what we find most appealing. This is what we call “appealing to the masses”.

Lets breakdown Avatar. It’s about paraplegic ex-marine (Jake), that is sent to a hostile alien world and takes his brothers place as an avatar. An Avatar is a human mind in an alien body. As the avatar he and a team of others avatars must find a way to communicate to the indigenous Na’vi. The Na‘vi is the alien race that can “connect“with the environment….Literally connect….see for yourself. The team has to first ask nicely to move from their home because of the very rare rock called Unobtainium that is right smack under where the Na’vi lives. Jake (The Avatar) is then torn between two worlds, between the alien woman he loves and his human companions…He must find away to save the Na’vi from the imperial humans.

The themes in the story are simple…Love, loyalty, heritage, The dark side of technology, greed, understanding the environment, family, imperialism….It’s all black and white. Hero vs. Villain. Good conquers all… get the picture. Yet, I knew what I was getting but I still enjoyed the story. Universal themes are what it’s all about in this film.

I really can’t say much about the acting….cause well….most of the film was the computers acting. I can tell you that the visuals made the “story on stock” film much more enjoyable. I forgot everything at that moment and was transported in that world. That’s what a movie is all about. Enjoying the sights sounds and themes of this BIG BIG movie. A fun rollercoaster ride. The imagination behind the scenes and/or visuals was impressive. A must watch on the big screen.

Now, I did it enjoy it and I recommend seeing it. But I have to say. A lot of critics or people are saying that this is the next big thing….the next “Star Wars“….um…..yeah no. Although I did very much enjoy the film. It did not leave that “oh so loving feeling” that some movies have. Universal themes or not…BIG effects or not….once the dust settles from this film…I think it will be forgotten.

One critic said something like...."It's like eating a fancy cheeseburger you paid $100 for in a fancy restaurant. $100 or's still a cheeseburger."

3.5 out of 5 pugs.

Taylor: Avatar is the equivalent of getting a box of underwear at your 10th birthday party, but the wrapping paper is all Shiny and has tons of cool ribbons and streamers. You get super excited, you look at how neat and cool the ribbon and the foil make the package, but when you open it's just underwear. The same brand of underwear you've been wearing forever, so it's comfortable, but you are kinda upset you didn't get that TIE Fighter you were hoping for...but when you say you didn't care for the underwear, people look at you like you're crazy. And you don't get to eat cake. At your own birthday party.
Ok, I went off on a tangent there, but in short, Avatar sucked. One pug.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Imposters (1998)

Babaloo: In the tradition of Laurel and Hardy and the Marxx brothers, The Imposters is a slapstick comedy that has some stick but no slap.

The film takes place in the 1930’s. Two out of work actors, played by Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt, accidentally stowaway on a cruise liner to hide away from a dramatic drunkin lead actor who has sworn to kill them for belittling his talents. Once inside they meet other weird and colorful characters that intertwine their stories together. The stowaways must save the ship from blowing up as well as the other characters from getting killed.

The cast is wonderful, the writing was great BUT the actual film….well it felt flat. It just felt like a cheap and rushed project. The film had lots of wonderful moments….like the depressed comedian “Happy Franks” played by Steve Buscemi, Lili Taylor as the sweet cruise director, Alfred Molina as the dramatic actor, Billy Connolly the closeted Tennis Pro and many more. So….hmm…the acting was not a problem. So what was it? Well the script didn’t seem like a problem. The one liners and quick witty. The dialogue was superb. So what was my problem……?

OH, now I see. It looked cheap. Yes, I kept reminding myself that I am seeing a set. That killed it for me. The forth wall was down and I saw the wizard at the controls. I kept seeing the same set over and over again….I know they are in a ship but really do something different. I even saw editing mistakes that made me do a double take. I saw moments in the beginning of the scene that looked like they were running out of time….so they told the actors to do dance or something. The transition from scene to scene was rough. EVEN!! In the end credits, they reminded me it was a movie. No…stop….why? Why!?

I give it 2 pugs and half a box of popcorn out of 5

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rachael Getting Married (2008)

Taylor: I had high hopes about this movie, I really did.

I had heard all the critics talk last year of Anne Hathaway's performance as Kym in Rachael Getting Married and figured with me tending to like the smaller family dramas, I thought how could it go wrong. Kym comes home from a nine month stay in rehab just in time for her sister Rachael's pending nuptuals. Of course, hilarity ensues! We also learn bits and pieces of a family tragedy that pulled the family apart years ago, and how that plays into many of the relationships in the film.

The standout here definitely is Hathaway. This role is a far cry from many of the other "princess" rolls she's played in the past. It's a dark role, and with a few exceptions, she plays the part well, sometimes a victim, sometimes a bully, sometimes an armchair therapist. As a viewer (and to a lesser degree than Kym, a familial black sheep myself), I felt you could see the goings on in her head, and understand a bit where she was coming from. Another strong actor with a smaller part was Mather Zickel who played the best man of the movie, as well as a member of Kym's AA group. Zickel performed well, bringing a calming presence to the screen every time he was on it. He felt....real to watch, like someone you would actually see at a wedding as the best man.

And that's where what I liked about the movie stopped. The wedding party (both the people in the party and the party itself) was the most ridiculous, pretentious, wanna be experience, and the director used this to be self-indulgent and at times. I think the UN has a less multi cultural group of people meeting regulary. The bride is white, the groom is black, they have asian friends, the wedding is Indian themed, and at the reception, Brazilian carnivale dancers show up for no reason. Add to that different WAY too long scenes of multiple people toasting the happy couple, or playing music, or reading poetry, and it gets very old very fast. Seriously, we get it, you have talented friends.

Speaking of talent wasted. Debra Winger plays Kym and Rachael's mother, and while I love Debra Winger, she fails in this film, choosing at times to play it too flat, and then at a pivitol scene to her character, shoots past reality and flies straight into melodrama. A shame really. I was really rooting for her. I was also rooting for this movie, too.
Rachael Getting Married gets 2 pugs.