Sunday, March 20, 2011

"To me you are perfect"- Love Actually

Alright, so I know I'm a little late on this one, but seeing as schoolwork left me too busy to see any new releases yet again, I chose a movie that I only saw for the first time very recently. I've been hearing about this movie for years, and for some reason have never had the opportunity to actually sit down and watch it. After mistakenly admitting I had never seen it, and being chastised by my friend Greg , I decided to finally give in and watch it. For the few who have yet to see it, the movie is a series of separate but intertwined stories of various people and their blooming, or fledgling, love lives.

It seems only fair to warn that I am a bit of a romantic. Movies that are obviously terrible, with poor writing and character development, have repeatedly reduced me to tears as long as there is some element of romance involved. However, I don't think many would argue with me that "Love Actually" is not an example of this. The majority of the stories are touching, well written and humorous. Whether it is the Prime Minister of England, played by Hugh Grant, struggling with his feelings for one of his staff, or Emma Thompsons' character struggling with her husband's potential affair, each story evokes some kind of emotional response. And who could ever forget the infamous cue card scene which is undoubtedly one of the best and most romantic scenes from any movie? (in case you have I will remind you).

Perhaps the best thing about about this movie is that it is realistic in the way that it approaches and presents the subject of love to its audience. Not every story ends in happily-ever-after, and nor should it. In 2003, when the movie was released, Statistics Canada showed that almost 16% of people going through a divorce had already had a least one divorce under their belt. Obviously, not everyone stays together and this theme is reiterated in the film making it realistic and relate-able.

Perhaps the only gripe I had with the movie is that there were a few unnecessary story-lines. Colin Firth's love affair with his Portuguese housekeeper doesn't seem to fit the rest of the movie. I just don't buy that he falls in love with her in three weeks without ever having a proper conversation with her (she doesn't speak English).  The scene's featuring the nude stand-ins also seem out of place, and honestly, just made me feel uncomfortable.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this movie. Women will love the heart wrenching story-lines, and even men will be entertained by the scenes featuring a young Brit attempting to find love in America, if not by the rest of the film.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Upcoming Releases

I won't lie to you, I haven't been to the movies in quite some time. With school and life getting busier by the second, it is getting harder and harder to find the time to get out and watch new releases to review for my blog. So rather than try to trick all you clever people into thinking I saw something recently, I am dedicating this week's blog to talking about upcoming releases that I am looking forward to. The spring and summer season is typically "blockbuster season", and with it comes a plethora of movies both good and bad. So lets get on with it.

Scream 4:
I can't really explain to you why I'm so excited for the fourth installment of the "Scream" series.  The first movie was great, the second was o.k and the third was downright awful. However, I have great faith that the fourth movie has the ability to be really good. With some of the original cast returning, such as Courteney Cox, David Arquette and of course Neve Campbell reprising her role as Sydney, this movie will be at the very least a fun watch. Release date: April 15

Red Riding Hood:
This haunting adaptation of the children's fairytale looks equally thrilling and creepy. The movie stars the supremely talented Amanda Seyfried as the title character, as she attempts to solve the mystery of who the big bad wolf really is. If I'm being entirely honest, I can't wrap my head around what this movie is really about after watching the trailer. However, I'm a huge fan of Amanda Seyfried and it can't be any worse than "Letters to Juliet".Release date: March 11

Your Highness
This movie looks like pure, unadulterated fun. I find it even more amusing that Natalie Portman, recent Academy Award winner and James Franco, recent Academy Award nominee, are two of the film's stars. This movie looks like a good bet if you are looking for some laughs. My only concern is that it will fall into the classic comedy pitfall where all the best jokes are in the trailer. Regardless, I can't wait to see it when it comes out. Release Date: April 8. Content warning: The trailer below has nudity and graphic language. Viewers, be warned.

There you have it. I promise, by next week I will have gotten myself to a theater for another review.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"You get to go find a new dream"- Tangled

I realize that I am a little late in the game on this one, but I could not pass up the opportunity to talk about Disney's latest animated feature "Tangled". Anyone who knows me knows how huge of a Disney fan I am, and is probably sick to death of hearing me rave about this movie. A little more isn't going to kill you. Now, I should probably add the disclaimer that when it comes to Disney, I am a little biased. I am hardwired to love everything that comes out of their studios. I can't help it, I think its genetic. Nevertheless, this film was such a great example of the magic Disney has left in them, aside of course from their Pixar films.

For me, the film was a return to the way Disney should be. I absolutely love Disney/Pixar films, really I do, but for me Disney will always be about the classics. There is something about classic animation, story-lines and music that contemporary Pixar films cannot seem to match.While "Tangled" wasn't exactly "classic animation", it did make a valiant attempt to go back to the way things were. It is another "Disney princess movie", but one that doesn't exclude or alienate boys. The main character Rapunzel has sass, athleticism and so much sugary sweetness you can't help but root for her. Her male counterpart, Flynn, is charming and laugh-at-loud funny which helps balance out their roles nicely.

What really made this movie for me was the music. Alan Menken, responsible for the music in "The Little Mermaid", "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin", is back in this film and it shows. The music is witty, fun and often emotional, perfectly complimenting each scene it is featured in. Disney seemed to be backing away from movie-musicals, and I for one am so happy that they are making a return. Was the music as memorable as it was in the golden years? Probably not. But it sure is a start.

I am not a huge fan of 3D. I realize it is the way of the future, but I am having a hard time accepting that. "Tangled" just about made me a believer. One particular scene involving floating lanterns is so beautiful and captures a warmth that 3D is often missing. Critics have even gone so far as to say it is the most stunning example of 3D they have ever seen, and I would have to agree.

I would obviously recommend this for Disney and animation lovers alike. The movie is smart, funny, and engaging and gives a glimmer into the Disney of the past. Fun fact: Tangled is Disney's 50th animated feature. How cool is that?!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 Academy Awards

For this post, I am going to stray a little bit from reviewing films to reviewing this year's Academy Awards. I have a lot of issues about this year's Oscars, so bear with me. It may be a bumpy ride.

First of all, I love Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Really I do. Both are extremely talented actors with extensive acting ranges. Hosting talents? Not so much. I love historic events, and this year marked the first time in the Academy's history that a male/female duo hosted the show together. Pretty cool right? However, if you watched this year's Academy Awards and thought that the young actors did a good job, I apologize. Mostly for your questionable taste. I would go as far as to say that Anne did an o.k job. She tried really hard, and really looked like she wanted to be there. At times it came across as a bit desperate and awkward, but she gave it her all. Franco? Half of the time he looked like he barely wanted to be there as he stumbled awkwardly through his lines. When Billy Crystal came onstage, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Most likely out of desperation for him to stay there.

I am pleased that this year, the Academy brought back the live performances of the Best Original Song category. However, they cut them so short that the segment seems a little abrupt and out of place. Also, where was Corey Haim in the tribute to those we lost this year? Granted he wasn't exactly an Academy Award winning actor, but to include publicists and not him seemed a little odd and insensitive.

All the winners were entirely predictable. This was not the year of the upset by any means. I love the Academy Awards. To me, it is my Superbowl. This year, however, did not meet my expectations. The ratings seemed to reflect my feelings. According to Nielsen, this year's telecast was down 10 percent. Next year, bring back Billy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"You did a good job, so... I thought you deserved a balloon"- No Strings Attached

I actually saw this movie a few weeks ago, and have gone back and forth so many times about dedicating a blog post to it. It isn't that I don't think the movie merits one. As far as romantic comedies go, this is definitely a better one. However, I can't seem to decide whether I think it is genuinely edgy and funny, or whether it tries too hard to push the boundaries. The film stars Ashton Kutcher playing Adam, the same lovable goofball he is known for playing, and Natalie Portman trying her hand in a genre that she is not so accustomed in the role of Emma.

Don't get me wrong, the movie is funny. Sometimes so much so that catching your breath is a difficult feat. I am just perplexed on how a movie can have so many funny one liners and instances, and other times have jokes fall so flat you wonder how they even made it into the film at all. One particular scene featuring a young Adam and Emma at camp is less funny than horrendously awkward, and gives the audience an incorrect first impression on what to expect from the film. Later a scene featuring Emma, Adam and a "period mix" is so funny and clever you are reminded that the writers are decent after all. The humor is generally pretty raunchy. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

There isn't too much to say about the performances of the two main castmembers. It seems all Ashton Kutcher does is play romantic leads. The bigger surprise is Natalie Portman. After her incredible performance in Black Swan, it is stranger to see her excel in a fluffier role such as this, but she does. She has most of the funniest lines and easily carries this movie.

I would definitely recommend this movie, especially to romantic comedy lovers. Although entirely predictable, it is well worth the laughs. A recent Australian survey showed that 500 out of 1000 people polled blamed romantic comedies on destroying their own relationship. So...don't bring a date.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"This rock has been waiting for me my entire life"- 127 Hours

127 Hours is an astonishing and true tale of mountain climber Aron Ralston, and the 127 hours he spent with his arm trapped between a canyon wall and a boulder. Excellently played by James Franco, the film is both horrific and uplifting as it tackles the difficult journey Aron must take to ensure his survival.

There is really not all that much you can say about a movie that spends most of it's time with one character, in one place. Just from that description you can tell that the movie has every opportunity to be boring. Somehow, director Danny Boyle manages keep viewers interested and entertained to the point where we forget that the movie rarely moves from this one spot. When it does move, it jumps expertly between the reality of Aron's situation, to hallucinations that involve past relationships, acts of nature and even glimpses into his future. These jumps are rarely confusing to the viewer, and serves to add variety to Aron's situation. The film also makes great use of sound effects, adding vivid detail to every situation and scene where mere visuals just won't do.

James Franco's resume includes everything from the Academy Award winning "Milk", to guest starring on General Hospital as villain Franco. To call him versatile is an understatement, and he has long since proven himself as an actor. Franco's performance as an adventurous, and sometimes foolhardy climber, is spot on. When his attitude must change to keep surviving, he tackles each issue with enough emotion, and sometimes humor, that he is incredibly believable. The real Aron Ralston has an impressive resume, being the first person to climb all 53 of Colorado's mountains despite his obvious physical deficiency. He also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro six years after his terrible accident. Evidently, Franco filled some very big shoes which is evident by his nomination for Best Actor by the Academy Awards.

The movie is not for the faint at heart. Without ruining the plot, if you know the story of Aron Ralston, you know what he had to do to survive. The film does get incredibly gory and graphic, and there has been multiple reports in the news about film-goers actually passing out.  Indeed, when I saw the film a woman fainted during the graphic scene (although I can't be sure it wasn't for other reasons).

I would definitely recommend this film for those who can stand a little gore but a lot of adventure.

Friday, February 4, 2011

"Love and fame can't live in the same place"- Country Strong

"Country Strong" is a movie I had been waiting months to see, especially after watching Gwyneth Paltrow perform the title song at the Country Music Awards. After much reluctance from the Niagara region to play the film in any of it's theaters, I finally had the pleasure of watching it.The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Kelly Canter, a recently rehabbed country star looking to reclaim her past success. Tim McGraw stars as her manager husband, while Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester star as Beau Hutton and Chiles Stanton, Kelly's opening acts for her comeback tour.

The trailers leading up to the film paint Gwyneth as the star of this film, but the real star here is the young Garrett Hedlund. The film is less about Kelly's struggle to rise to her former glory, than it is about Hedlund's struggle to remain grounded amid his own rise to fame and feelings for his mentor Kelly. Hedlund spent a month living and performing in Nashville and it shows. He could easily pass for a legitimate country singer, with his signature low voice and slight twang. He injects so much emotion in every song and every scene, that you cannot help but align yourself with his character. Hedlund never over acts, his charm and wit always subtle, and is immensely relatable to anyone who has every been confused about love or life. And o.k he might be attractive if you're into that ruggedly gorgeous, fantastic voice and charming swagger kind of thing. Obviously I'm immune.

It is no surprise that Paltrow is also great in her role. She takes a risk in something that is obviously out of her element, but she makes it believable.Unfortunately the film throws so much emotionally at her that it is hard to keep up. The story winds up seeming underdeveloped as it jumps from each intensely emotional situation to the next without ever fully concentrating on each situation to the fullest. Paltrow does what she can with the material, and what she does is seamless.

The real strength of the film is the music. The song "Coming Home" was recently nominated for an Academy Award for best original song, and it is certainly deserving of the honor. The song beautifully captures the bittersweet tone of the film, and showcases how truly talented a singer Paltrow really is. Other songs such as "Timing is Everything" and the title song "Country Strong" are just so good you can't help but sing along even if you aren't a country fan.

Overall I would recommend this movie and would urge non-country fans to give the film a chance. You just might find yourself tapping your foot along to the music like I did.