23 February 2011

21 Feb - "You really think I'm punk!? I mean, it's not as cool as new wave, but it's a lot better than pre-teen!"

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (1985) 
dir. Alan Metter (Back to School, 1986)

Sarah Jessica Parker (The First Wives Club, 1996)
Helen Hunt (Pay it Forward, 2000)
Shannen Doherty (Heathers, 1988)

Here's an asinine, formulaic movie about the 1980s. It's not quite bad enough to be good, but it's close. Frustratingly, infuriatingly close.

Skip the obvious riff on SJP - she's only a teenager here, gang, and cute in a whiny sort of way.

The plot is that the new girl in town (SJP) befriends the fun-loving class clown (Helen Hunt, or as I like to say, poor-man's Kathleen Turner) The pair then decides to enter a dance competition for the grand prize of winning a spot on DanceTV - which is like the big TV show everyone's into. But the dad is a retired military guy and he's really strict and doesn't think SJP should be competing in a dance contest so she's gotta practice on the sly. There's an obnoxious rich girl who's also trying to win the contest, who hates SJP for no obvious reason than to be antagonistic. And the love interest is SJP's dance partner, who is from public school (gasps!)

Lots of: leotards, lasers, backflips, montages

Not so many: People of color, actual dancing, plot twists

20 February 2011

19 Feb - "Sometimes, if things are closed, you just open them up"

Eastern Promises (2007)
dir. David Cronenberg

Naomi Watts (I Heart Huckabees, 2004)
Viggo Mortensen (The Road, 2009)
Vincent Cassel (Elizabeth, 1998)
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Tamer Hassan (Batman Begins, 2005)

Eastern Promises confronts uncomfortable issues like human trafficking, slavery, rape. But while the ending isn't exactly upbeat, it doesn't all end in tragedy either, so that's good.

I like happy endings. Hold that against me if you want.

So a Russian girl dies giving birth and the doctor (Watts) sets out to find out the mysteries contained in her diary, getting entangled with the Russian Mafia, who have no desire to have their dirty laundry aired out, in the process. Viggo plays a not-very-villainous Russian climbing through the ranks of the insidious organization.

This was a good movie, don't get me wrong, it was gritty in the right places and the performances, I think particularly Vincent Cassel's, who acted with astonishing depth, were spot on. My major hangup is that Watts and Viggo kiss at the end, that's stupid. Sure, there was a little sexual tension throughout their interactions, but honestly, there's no need to shove a romance down my throat just because you've got 2 relatively attractive people in a movie. This movie would have worked so much better without that kiss, and just the subtle implication of romance that will never be realized.

Here is how it could have been even better: Get rid of Naomi Watts' character. Seriously, I don't think she was integral to the plot and mostly just dragged down everyone else.

I submit this plot alteration: Viggo, an informant in the Russian mafia attempts to unravel a human trafficking operation while the villanious antagonists are trying to kill the little baby, living evidence of their insidious crimes. No chicks.

I think it would be better. Now someone go write it.

18 February 2011

17 Feb - "It was hot, and strange, and lonely in India"

The Secret Garden (1993)
dir. Agnieszka Holland

Kate Maberly (Finding Neverland, 2004)
Andrew Knott (Black Beauty, 1994)
Maggie Smith (Hook, 1991)
John Lynch (The Secret of Roan Inish, 1994)

This movie is based on the beloved book by Francis Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote A Little Princess. I think both books are critical for young girls to read. I know I didn't watch A Little Princess (I prefer the 1995 version over the 1939 one with Shirley Temple) but the point is that courage and kindness are what make that little girl a princess, and that's a goddamn beautiful moral.

The Secret Garden is a movie I like to watch when I'm bummed out because the metaphor here is that, like a garden, hearts need to be tended and cared for in order to flourish (awww). Little Mary Lennox starts out as a nasty and annoying little brat, but you see, it's only because nobody ever loved her. When her parents die, she's shipped off to her uncle's lonely manor on the moor, where her situation hardly improves. Lord Craven has hardly spoken to anyone and spends little time at home ever since his wife, Mary's mother's twin sister, died in an accident. He's so heartbroken that he's hardly met his own son, Colin, who has never left his bedroom since everyone seems to be convinced that he'll drop dead any second.

There's a happy ending though! Colin is fine, and he learns to walk, Mary gets a knack for pulling weeds, and Lord Craven comes home to discover that the garden he tried to lock up forever is in full bloom, and everyone can be happy forever.

Don't you feel better now??? I do.

17 February 2011

16 Feb - "Maybe it works with carrots"

Outsourced (2006)
dir. John Jeffcoat
Josh Hamilton (Away We Go, 2009)
Ayesha Dharker (The Mistress of Spices, 2005)

So I guess they made this into a sitcom and, I dunno, I saw one episode and didn't think it was so funny, maybe you have to get into though, like The Office. Maybe there are Outsourced (TV series) fans out there?

This movie, on the other hand, is a delightful culture-shock comedy wherein snarky USA telephone salesman Todd has to train his Indian replacement...cue diarrhea joke! tack on a reference to the Kama Sutra! oh my gosh it's a movie about India.

Sorry I don't have more to add, but I just finished watching The Secret Garden (1993), and so that's the mood I'm in now.

15 February 2011

Feb 14 - "You were ready to do it. That's what counts"

Time of the Wolf (2003)

dir. Michael Haneke

Isabelle Huppert (I Heart Huckabees, 2004)
Patrice Chereau
Anaïs Demoustier
Lucas Biscombe

Here's a terrible choice for Saint Valentine's day, but otherwise a very powerful movie. If any of you saw The Road (2009), you might enjoy this movie as the premise as well as the tone is very similar. That being said, Time of the Wolf is not a plot-driven movie, but leans upon the emotional reactions of the characters to keep the story going. It is about a mother and her two children struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of sorts. Like The Road, we are never informed about the nature of the disaster or the extent of its impact. We learn that all of the water has become contaminated, but it also seems like there is some hope for reconstruction, the promise of supplies always about to be delivered from the South, and the wait for a train that will take our heroes someplace better.

As for the name, I'm not sure. There aren't any wolves in the movie. There's a bit of a motif with the wild dogs however, and one particular poignant scene where the daughter, Eva, is talking with a boy about her own age, and he says that he tried to befriend one of the dogs, but when they ran short of food the dog bit him, and so he killed it. In another scene, Eva and the boy hide together after he steals one of the milk-goats from the village, when the goat begins to struggle and bleat, he kills it. Eva admonishes him then, saying, "I thought you would help me, but you just ruin everything."

06 February 2011

5 Feb - "Jesus drank wine every chance he got"

From Within (2008)
dir. Phedon Papamichael

Elizabeth Rice
Thomas Dekker (Heroes (TV), 2006-2007)
Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused, 1993)
Jared Harris (Lost in Space, 1998)

This movie is about a small, intensely Christian town which becomes subject to a series of apparent suicides. It is soon revealed, however, that the true cause is a curse cast by the vengeful sons of a pagan woman who was lynched for a crime she did not commit. The protagonist is a girl who is dating the pastor's son, but dumps him for the sensitive bad-boy. There's a race to undo the curse before the angry townsfolk kill the cute boy, while our Heroine races to save her new BF and her town, and not strangle herself death in the process.

No character was more irritating in this movie than the pastor's son, who, as the token best friend points out, "is the closest thing to royalty in this town." His radical turnover from a pleasant, trust-in-God's-will, sort of Christian to a kill-all-infidels sort of zealot is alarming and unexplained. By the end, he has replaced his father as the leader of the community and is willing to kill anyone and break any rule in the pursuit of his goal, which is to destroy the sensitive bad-boy who practices an alternative religion.

I can't help but point out that of the six possessions that occurred in this movie, only one of them was a man, and his "suicide" wasn't even an articulated scene, just a cutaway to a pair of hanging feet. I guess I won't go further into that because apparently some people get a little uncomfortable when I discuss the representation of gender in horror movies, and I'd hate for anyone to start thinking I was one of those "uppity" sorts of women that points out totally obvious patterns such as this and asks, why? Why is it so much more fascinating to see a girl covered in blood? Why does it seem so much more insidious when a girl is penetrated by a dark, uncontrollable force?

But we're not going to worry about those uncomfortable ideas, even though there's barely a point in blogging about movies if we aren't going to acknowledge such a blatant recurring theme.

It's a shame that I got all passive-aggressive here. I had some points to make about the title's metaphor. How the destruction manifested by the curse was actually a reflection of the town's dark secret, the murder of pagan woman referred to earlier, and the truth behind the murder she was killed for. She was scapegoated, sacrificed so the town, as an entity, could persevere in the face of irreconcilable iniquity. In turn, the nature of curse is that can only drive you to destroy yourself, it has no power beyond that. So the townsfolk are forced to turn their destruction back upon themselves in order to atone for the violence that came from within. Bang! I figured it out.

02 February 2011

2 Feb - "a thousand people freezing their butts off to worship a rat"

Groundhog Day (1993)
dir. Harold Ramis (Year One, 2009)
Bill Murray (Scrooged, 1988)
Andie MacDowell (Bad Girls, 1994)
Chris Elliot (There's Something About Mary, 1998)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Memento, 2000)
Brian Doyle-Murray (Caddyshack, 1980)

Ah! Holiday appropriate movie! I'm so glad I had time to watch you today :)
This is not the picture from the DVD cover, but it's better, so you're welcome. Everyone says they love Bill Murray, but his movies are consistently underrated. Especially Groundhog Day. I love this movie! But a lot of people forget that it gets very dark around the hour mark. Poor Phil here kills himself a number of times in desperation. The trick is that he has to live the same over and over until he gets it right. And when he gets it right the girl falls in love with him, but in order to do so he has to stop worrying about himself, about the girl, and he has to be good and considerate to everybody in Puxatawny. He has to be perfect, if only for one day.

And it takes a long time for him to figure it out. In the interim, he learns how to play piano, and reads a whole lot of books, and learns the life history of everyone in the town. Does that mean it's impossible for us, the one-day-at-a-time populace, to ever get it right?

It's a strange idea for a movie. Why Groundhog day? The plot would lend itself well to Christmas, maybe even better for Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve. Maybe it's because Groundhog day is inherently dual-natured. On one day the potential for spring and winter are equal. Until today we don't know how long the winter is going to last, and our Hero, however long it takes him, gets to learn how to live in the moment. Or maybe the point is that it doesn't matter what the groundhog says, because spring is going to come whether he sees his shadow or not. It doesn't change anything, what the prognosticator says, and nothing that Phil does on his endless day: murder, suicide, sex, love. It doesn't matter, the only change can happen within himself.

February Movie Wishlist!!!

1) Even the Rain dir. Iciar Bollain)
This movie is about Christopher Columbus being mischievous in the New World. I LOVElove movies about Spaniards behaving badly (even though we all know Chris C. was Italian), so this looks cool.

2) London Boulevard (dir. William Monahan)
This one pairs my ambivalence for Colin Farrell with my resolute disdain for Keira Knightly, but she CAN do a British accent well enough, and as long as Colin Farrell's not trying to act American I am cool with him. He plays a reformed criminal trying to make it clean by working as a repairman for a reclusive young actress. Doesn't that sound like a perfect Colin Farrell role?

3)The Scenesters (dir. Todd Berger)
An avante-garde directer turns crime-scene videographer and attempts to catch a serial-killer targeting hipsters (it's a comedy)

4) I Am Number Four (dir. D.J. Caruso)
Ok - this might be REALLY bad: Aliens hide on earth disguised as teenagers, wasn't that the plot of Roswell? Also, if the alien metaphor is about xenophobia, what does it mean when the aliens are attractive white kids? I'm gonna put it on my list anyway because I like alien movies. I like them best when the aliens are killing people, but we'll see how it goes.

5) Of Gods and Men (dir. Xavier Beauvois)
This movie is about my favorite kind of monk, the Trappists (they make that jam I like). Threatened by Algerian terrorists, the monks must decide whether to flee under the threat of annihilation or stay with the community they have swore to serve. Sounds a bit like The Mission, right?

01 February 2011

1 Feb: "I wear a dress like this!"

Elizabeth (1998)
dir. Shekhar Kapur

Cate Blanchett (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 2008)
Geoffrey Rush (Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (voice) , 2010)
Christopher Eccleston (28 Days Later..., 2002)
Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love, 1998)
Richard Attenborough (Jurassic Park, 1993)
Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, 2010)
James Frain (Where the Heart is, 2009)
Daniel Craig (The Quantum of Solace, 2008)

Whoosh! Long cast list! TWO references to the archives, no less! Someday I hope all the movie names I refer to will be hyperlinked, except Shakespeare in Love, because that sucked.

I chose Elizabeth in honor of finishing The Tudors, but actually I still have two episodes left, and I moved Lizzy up in my netflix queue because ten days without a posting is a bit much. I could upgrade my account to have more than one DVD at a time, but I'm not made of money, and I don't have enough time to be watching all these movies anyway. I wish the "watch instantly" option had better choices.

You guys, I'm not sure this movie was so great. In fact, I wasn't quite sure what it was about, lacking a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end, and I was never quite sure if Lord Robert was a good guy or not. Here is the synopsis, as I gathered:

Bloody Mary is the Queen of England but she's old and ugly and not pregnant and nobody likes her. She's mean to Elizabeth who denies having plotted to overthrow Mary and I guess we, the audience, are meant to take her word for it. And Catholic priests are evil and burnt a friendly-looking lady, but Mary dies of cancer and Lizzy gets to be Queen anyway. In the meantime Liz is entertaining a relationship with one Lord Robert, and I'm sure if he's on the up-and-up, since he's married already and she is the Queen. The ambassadors of France and Spain are pressuring her to marry someone from their respective countries, but the French guy is a cross-dresser and the Spanish guy isn't interested is actually co-habitating. A coup attempt by Lord Norfolk is intended to raise some sort of conflict or drama, but is quickly resolved and Liz decides to marry nobody but paints her face white and acts all dramatic.

I guess I'm supposed to think: Gee, it's tough being a powerful woman and choosing between having a man or having autonomy.

Stop telling me what to feel, Hollywood.