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.