The Oscar Experiment

 For the first time in a long time, I’ve been so busy that movie-watching hasn’t been in the cards. As a result, I haven’t seen a single one of the films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards. I spoke with my friend Crint about our annual wager, and had offered to concede. Crint, of course, has seen all the films.  He would not accept my withdrawal from this year’s wager so….the wager stands.

Here’s the plan. We’ve decided to try a little experiment. Again, Crint has seen all the films. I have decided to not even try to see any while there’s still time. Instead, he will make his picks based on his informed viewings. I, in turn, will make my picks based on pure gut and historical know-how. 

We have until the end of this month to complete and compare our makeshift ballots. I’ll report back with my picks and review of the ceremony.

Let the games begin!

The Crazy Jumping Man of Mars

So I finally got around to watching John Carter. This was supposed to be a HUGE summer blockbuster in 2012 and instead was a critical and financial failure. That said, a few friends insisted that the movie wasn’t that terrible and that I ought to give it a try. 

The movie felt like a mixture of Flash Gordon, Stargate, and prequel-era Star Wars (with a dash of Fringe‘s Observers thrown in). Sort of. Also, our hero leaps around Mars like a flea. A better description would be a flea in a bouncy castle. 

My favorite character is this lizard-dog called Woola that’s just freakin adorable. It sort of has Jabba the Hutt’s face had Jabba been a baby. I know I just used “Jabba the Hutt” and “adorable” in close proximity. It will never happen again.

Anyways, effects-wise, the movie looks really good. Story-wise (and yes, I know this was based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel) it’s a little predictable. At the same time, since I know Star Wars and Flash Gordon  and all the adventure serials spawned from the Burroughs novels, I can’t help but wonder what is echoing what?

During one scene, the green Martian Tharks are in some kind of arena to punish Carter and some other Tharks who helped him. The whole scene reminds me of the big arena climax on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. I half expected a barrage of lightsabers to appear at one point. Did this scene occur in one of Burroughs’ novels? If so, did Lucas base that whole scene after Burroughs or did the moviemakers look to Clones? Chicken or Egg? 

That’s my deep thought for this film which I did mostly enjoy. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again, but I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Afterthought: Both Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy are in this movie. Anytime they were near each other, I kept thinking about how Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were going to get the band back together.  I see it as a sign to re-watch Rome

 

 

 

Baby, it’s warm outside

Dear makers of cheesy holiday films:

I’ve watched a lot of your made-for-tv films this season. Something has been bothering me. It’s not the acting or the totally predictable plotlines. It’s not the constant reuse of plot devices such as “small town saves itself from ruin” or “troubled family comes together” or even “rivals fall in love.” Nope. This is the issue that’s been getting under my skin of late:

Green grass on the ground! Green leaves in the trees! Leaves in the trees at all, actually! 

I know these films are probably shot during the summer months, but come on! This is not Edward Scissorhands!  I felt the need to bring this to your attention after watching the cheerful and very corny All She Wants for Christmas. I won’t go into the plot other than to say it uses the “small town comes together” story route.

The film takes place in Forest City, USA. We are never told the actual state but there are references made to Pigeon Forge, TN and to Athens, GA, so I’m going to assume somewhere in the South.  No one has a southern accent, though. Being from the South myself, I appreciate it when folks just don’t try to mimic one. I’m sure my colleagues in the North and from across the pond have the same appreciation about portrayals of their dialects as well.

Anyways, the setting is between late November and Christmas day. The grass in this movie is really green. The trees are full and leafy. BUT…people are wearing coats and hats and the like.  I know it’s a little warmer in these here parts, but if I look out my window I can see that the grass is brown and all of our deciduous trees are fairly naked.

At one point in the movie, the lead female character actually mentions that it just doesn’t even snow there anymore. By the end of the movie, it’s snowing on that nice June-looking set. It looks so wrong. Did your fellow filmmakers insert that line about no snow as a way to point out the elephant in the room? I wonder…

Anyways, that’s my new beef with these films. Usually the springtime surroundings aren’t quite so noticeable, but in All She Wants…it’s just there. That’s my rant to you for today. Future-going, maybe you should film in a different month or least try to shoot away from pretty parks and trees.

Your devoted viewer, Andrea.

PS: Happy Winter Solstice!

Legolas’ funky eyes and other mysteries of Middle Earth

I went to the movies last night to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  I must say that I greatly enjoyed this installment more than I did its predecessor, An Unexpected Journey. I’m not sure if it’s because we were knee-deep in plotline or because my favorite character, Smaug, was finally around (wonderfully voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Regardless, I had a great time watching this film. The spiders were a problem. I hate them and an only take comfort in the fact that at least I didn’t see the movie in 3D where the spiders would have been too close for comfort.

My main beef with the film was that every time Orlando Bloom was on the screen, I would be pulled out of the movie  spell. Have you ever seen The First Wives Club? There’s a scene when Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn are all having drinks after the funeral of a mutual friend. Midler keeps staring at Hawn and finally asks her how much plastic surgery she’s actually had. I felt that way with Bloom in the movie. I kept mentally picking apart everything that didn’t look right with him as Legolas.

I know it’s been 10 years since The Return of the King.  However, it looks like they used come computer technology to either de-age him, or redo his face somehow. His face seems much more filled out that normal.   And his eyes…. Legolas had some kind of crazy, cloudy eyes going on. These were clearly not the same types of lenses they used in Lord of the Rings.  In the LotR films, his eyes are way darker. Or maybe his pupils are just way dilated.  In this movie, he had like crazy Underworld vampire eyes going on. It took so much away, that I couldn’t pay much attention to any of his scenes. Pity…

While we are on the subject of Legolas, why was he in the movie in the first place? WHY did Peter Jackson pull a George Lucas and start tinkering with the story? Adding the elf storyline (and original character of Tauriel–who was pretty cool, btw) felt like a disservice to the original text. Whatever. I’ve voiced my opinion. I still enjoyed the movie.

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On a side note that is completely and wholly unrelated:

Bulletproof Monk is on the television right now. It’s not that great of a movie. This was Chow Yun-fat’s follow-up to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Seann William Scott was in the middle of his American Pie bro movie era. He might still be in that era. I’m not sure. I like him and feel he could do more. We’ll see. What makes Bulletproof Monk a noticeable movie to me is that it features a character with the delightful name of Mister Funktastic. The character is some East End street thug who remains shirtless so all can admire his chest tattoo which says…..wait for it…. “MisterFunktastic.” He’s a pointless character, yet the name is so ridiculous that I always stop to watch this movie just to catch his few scenes.

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The Worst Christmas Special Ever

Among the plethora of holiday movies there is a vast collection of animated specials. These, like the movies, range in quality from most festive (i.e. A Charlie Brown Christmas) to most horrible.  I think I’ve found the worst of the bunch to date.  May I please warn you against 1996’s animated special, The Story of Santa Claus.

Featuring the voices of Ed Asner, Betty White, and Tim Curry, this feature tells the origin story of how a poor but generous toymaker became everyone’s favorite gift-giver.  I’m sure the writers had an innocent and sweet story all planned out. I’m totally positive that was their intention! But as I was made myself watch this program, I couldn’t help but use my Grinchy skills to remove all the joy and pick everything apart. Allow me to explain:

When Santa and the Mrs. accidentally arrive at the North Pole (there was a storm) they save the life of a precocious elf boy. In doing so Santa is granted his fondest wish. He wishes to be able to deliver a toy to each child on Earth every Christmas. Because the elves are magically bound to granting this wish, they put themselves into a position of indentured servitude to the Clauses. This results in the following:

  • The adult elves don’t help out. So Santa enlists help from the children to gather materials and actually build the workshop and later the toys. This introduces unpaid child labor and deforestation (oh and animal labor) to the North Pole. 
  • The elf children (aside from the 2 main kids) might be on something. They all have big, beady black eyes.
  • Does Santa ever build any toys or pitch in on his workshop? He um…designs it. Might as well give the man a Hardees cup so he can stand around and supervise. Because that’s all I see him do. The elves do the rest of the work.
  • Santa spent his youth growing up in an orphanage. It’s one of his stops on Christmas Eve which is really quite sweet. I don’t think this is an orphanage you’d want any children to stay in. Who puts an orphanage out on a lonely island? It looks more like a prison. Kind of bleak for a children’s special.

And maybe I’m just being over picky, but I could not stop finding problems with the special. There’s a little kid in Santa’s town (pre-North Pole) who has a head wound. He looks like he could use a meal and some medical attention. He looks this way the whole special. This is never addressed. 

I just didn’t like it.  If I’m watching a holiday special (especially an animated one) I want to watch something fun. It’s for the kids! Let’s just watch Rudolph or better yet, The Snowman

Sap: No longer limited to Christmas trees.

 Halloween’s body isn’t even cold yet, but that hasn’t stopped the retailers and networks from reminding you that December 25 is practically upon us. In fact, why not start celebrating now? Poor Mr. Turkey. He never gets his moment to shine.

I had half hoped that last year’s cheesy holiday movie addiction was a temporary thing. I thought my short-lived summer holiday movie relapse was perhaps a wee setback. Nope. All it took was a Hallmark Channel announcement of marathon movies to get my inner elf leaping and fa-la-la-ing away. I won’t decorate until after the turkey is in my belly and the crazy people go shopping. I won’t put Christmas with the Rat Pack into heavy music rotation until December. But movies?

Movie are fair game, and I’m going to watch them all!!! Mwa-hahahahahahaha….. I’ve already made a significant dent. Here’s a few to watch and/or avoid. Or you can be like me and just watch them all. 

Once Upon a Christmas: Kathy Ireland shows off her KMart collection whilst playing Santa’s “nice” daughter Kristin. Kristin goes to the mortal world to save one family from being on the naughty list. In doing so, she falls in love, saves said family and also saves Christmas from being ruined by her naughty sister, Rudolpha.  This was followed-up by Twice Upon a Christmas which unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch as I had to run errands. I’ll be sure to catch it again. From what I gleaned from the first few minutes, Kristin has lost her memory. Suspense!!!! [Honestly, Once was a ridiculous waste of my time. If you want silly, go for this movie. Otherwise, avoid.]

All I Want for Christmas: Gail O’Grady (why isn’t she in more things??) plays a widowed mother whose well-meaning son enters and wins a toy contest for Chistmas. What does he tell the contest sponsors he wants this year? Answer: a husband for his mom. Yeah.  While all the bigwigs and tv folks play The Bachelor with Ms. O’Grady, love turns out to be closer to home. Maybe even next door.  [Predictable? Of course! Sappy? Si. Kind of sweet and worth watching at least once? Go for it.]

Snow Bride: This movie premiered this past Saturday night. A tabloid reporter chases down the story of a possible engagement for some politician’s son and through a series of mistaken identities and spontaneous traditional family/town events, oh you know the drill…. [The whole “snow bride” part of the story was a stretch and really silly. However, despite the cheese, I kept watching. I had to see it through. Yes the sap flowed, but Patricia Richardson from Home Improvement was in this as well as the most wonderful Tom Lenk (sporting a rather perplexing yet fetching stache).  The heartwarming and humor far outweighed the cheese and sap. Therefore, this one goes on the approved to view list.]

More to come folks….more to come. Consider yourselves warned.

 

Sports on Film

So I took September off. Sorry about that. Actually, I take that back. I’m not sorry. If I had posted anything last month, it would have been half-assed and uninspired. You deserve better than that. So it’s good quality posts or nothing at all. Also, I’ve been spending lots of non-work free time playing Dragon Age II. So there’s that too. *cough*

Anyways, I was searching for a topic when my friend Kirk suggested I write about why Rudy  is the best sports movie ever.  Sadly, I disagree. Okay, maybe it is on some list somewheres, but I’ve never really cared for it. Sports isn’t really my game. I follow some men’s tennis. I sort of pay attention with the football and when it’s World Cup season, I’m watching the soccer. I also enjoy watching winter olympics events. Otherwise, I spend most of my time doing other things. I’m more of an indoorsy type.

I know folks who sacrifice whole weekends to sitting in front of the tv for marathons of football or basketball and the like. I have neither the patience nor the time. But sports in movies?  Sports in movies only gives you the highlights. You don’t have to sit through a 3-4 hour football game with all it’s starts, stops and advertisements for erectile dysfunction meds. Sports in movies takes you into the personal struggles of the players, coaches and fans. It’s the best!

Here’s what I have done. Listed below by sport are the sports movies I will watch which veer more towards the lighter, comedic side of sports movies. There’s no weeping in this list:

 Football:  The Replacements because you can get through most of a season in less than two hours. Because the team is made up of misfits. Because Rhys Ifans makes me smile (because he’s “wiry”).  Because Keanu is my quarterback.

Ice Hockey The Mighty Ducks. What can I say? It was fun and the final game was pretty intense.

Racing (cars):  Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo because it’s a self-aware car in a European rally race. Also, Herbie falls in love. It’s cute.

Racing (people): Walk, Don’t Run because it’s a fun movie set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Because the highlighted event is racewalking.  And Cary Grant is in it.

 Martial Arts The Karate Kid (original 1984) because it was cool. Duh.

Soccer:  Bend it Like Beckham because it was cute and humorous and exciting and a little dramatic and never ceased to be anything other than entertaining.

Baseball:  The Sandlot because it’s not only about love of the game, but it’s about having fun too—something that’s way out of focus in sports these days. This movie will live on FOREVER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer’s End

Wow. I just did a count of all the movies I’ve seen this summer. We’ve hit a new record low, folks. I’ve only seen 3 films. But you know what? I’m totally cool with that.

In the days of yore before I had, you know, bills and a car payment, rent, etc., I would see almost every film released during the summer season. I used to collect the ticket stubs and marvel at their number.

Mind you, this was also when matinée showings were around $3 and evening films were $5-ish. Today’s matinée showing of The World’s End (I’ll get to that in a bit) was $8 freaking dollars!!! WTF!

My overdue point here is that I can no longer afford to go to every release as that really adds up. Instead of marveling at my stub stack, I’d be marveling as how quickly my bank balance plummeted. Ha!

Anyways, things being what they are, I’ve become a little particular when it comes to what I see over the summer months. I check out the releases and make a list of (a) what I’d like to see and then out of that (b) what I must, by all means, see. The rest go straight to the Netflix queue. Needless to say, my queue is a bit crowded right now.

So..what trifecta of films made the grade?

  1. Star Trek Into Darkness
  2. Pacific Rim
  3. The World’s End.

Just looking at that list made me realize that my genre of choice must be science fiction. Again, totally cool with that. Most of my favorite movies fall into that bucket, and really, why else do we go to the movies but to escape? There’s no further escape than sci-fi.

I’ve raved about Pacific Rim already, so you don’t need my thoughts on that. Star Trek? All I need to tell you is this: Cumberbatch. Nuff said. But The World’s End? Ahh…I’ve decided it’s the perfect film to watch for this summer’s end.

The World’s End is the final film of the “Three Flavors of Cornetto” trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and directed by Edgar Wright. The other two films are Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  TWE follows a group of friends as they attempt to recreate a pub crawl from their youth. During the crawl they discover their hometown has been taken over by aliens. The premise is a little zany but it totally works.

I’m a HUGE Simon Pegg fan so it’s hard for me to find anything wrong with the film other than that it had a bit of a slow start. Aside from that, it was awesome. There were several cameos from folks who were in the other two films as well as a couple from the Pegg/Frost/Wright TV show, Spaced  (if you haven’t seen this, shame on you).

Oh, also this movie was damn funny. I laughed and laughed. People in the theater laughed too. It wasn’t just me!! Anyways, that’s about it. I just wanted to note the few films I saw and say that I’m glad I saw them.

Did you see any stand-out films over the summer? Are you having to be choosy too? Let me know.

Holy Hollywood, Batman!

So…Ben Affleck is the new Batman. My brain has been whirring with thoughts on this ever since I found out yesterday morning, but I thought it would be safe to sleep on it before I made any comments. Sleep achieved. Here we go, kids…

Let me first bring out the disclaimer that I really like Ben Affleck. I think he’s an excellent filmmaker and a pretty good actor. Argo  was my favorite movie from last year, so I was overjoyed when it won the Oscar for Best Picture. Despite what I’m calling a “rough patch” of acting choices in the early 2000’s, Affleck’s work of late has been pretty remarkable. 

All that said, I’m having a really tough time wrapping my head around the idea that he’s going to be donning the pointy cowl. Some of you regular readers are already aware of my undying love for the Batman. I think part of the problem here is that I just can’t picture Affleck in the suit. I can see him as a Bruce Wayne type, but that’s as far as I can mentally go at this early stage.

Maybe we’ve been ruined by the perfect casting of Christian Bale as the previous incarnation of our hero. That Christopher Nolan storyline (and the 3 movies) lived in its own separate universe as opposed to the previous Batman films which all sort of latched on to one another. Bale was Batman! 

I think we’re so embedded in Nolan’s universe, that it’s hard to see the other potential Bat universes that are out there. I love the Nolan universe! I really don’t want to leave. But I know that I have to in order to move on.

 I’ve decided that I’m probably underestimating Affleck. After all, when Michael Keaton was cast as the Bat for the 1989 Tim Burton production, people freaked out. Mr. Mom / Beetlejuice was going to be Bruce Wayne??!! It didn’t even compute. And guess who is my favorite Batman after Christian Bale? Yep, Keaton. Maybe we are in the same boat here with Affleck. So, after much thought, I’ve decided that I won’t be one of the naysayers. I’ll lend my meagre support to Mr. Affleck. Good luck to you, sir!

 Besides, this casting decision isn’t for a stand-alone Batman flick. It’s a Batman and Superman movie that will act as the sequel to this summer’s Man of Steel. I confess that I have yet to see MoS. It’s on my Netflix queue. That counts for something, right? I digress.

If Batman and Superman team up in the movie, then okay, cool. That will be interesting to see how the smartest man in the world works with the strongest. However, if they clash…if they find themselves at odds with one another, oh boy! I’ll be the girl cheering for Batman. If Affleck’s the one in the suit, I’ve still got his back.

Television Suicide (Don’t Do It)

I was browsing the interwebs the other day and a headline caught my eye. I can’t remember the exact wording, but let’s just say it was a remark about how Heathers (the TV show) wasn’t going happen.  My understanding is that it would be a sequel of sorts.

Why on earth would anyone want to turn Heathers (the movie) into a television series? Let me count all that goes wrong with that idea. Seriously, TV executives! What’s your damage?

1. Aside from rarities such as M*A*S*H and Friday Night Lights, movies turned TV shows lose something in the translation. They almost always fail. Let’s all remember warnings such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  and My Big Fat Greek Life. The only other time movies to TV seem to work is when the movie was a box office flop or turned into an animated series–thus allowing the show to reinvent the story. I don’t know if this would work for Heathers since the proposed sequel uses the original for its backstory. It’s not a reinvention.

2. Heathers is very much a cult classic. I think any adaptation of it would kill the very thing that made it so special. What if someone announced they wanted to do a TV version of The Breakfast Club? The beauty of movies is that the time and story captured between the credits is all there is. It’s a moment. 

3. I worry that unless Showtime or HBO got hold of the show, it would very much be a CW item and thus all the fun and originality would be sucked out of the show leaving a husk of advertisements for clothing lines and what music one heard in the just-aired episode. I believe Bravo had hold of this project and passed on it. Bravo worries me more than the CW since it seems to spend all its time documenting the lives of spoiled “housewives.” I honest don’t care, Bravo. I wish you understood that.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but come on! Here’s an idea. How about networks try for some original programming! Yes, it’s riskier than bringing something along with a built-in audience. But if it works, they’ve got something truly unique. The risk of a built-in audience comes to play when you offend them. Heathers the TV show? I’m already offended.