Posts Tagged ‘hollywood’

Two Blondes Go To A Movie: Watchmen

March 10, 2009

Two Blondes (plus a guest “Blonde”) review a movie and mostly ramble about themselves:

We have something special for you folks today.  Today we have guest “Blonde,” Jim Campolongo, weighing in on Watchmen along with Alison and Jessica:

 

ALISON SAYS:

Jessica and I went to see Watchmen at the dome at Arclight Hollywood.  Before the movie started, Jessica turned to me and said: “I love movies.”  I agreed and we sat back contentedly (not sure if that’s a word) into our theater seats ready to watch a movie, even one that was 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

I had not read the comic book series before seeing this film. I didn’t have the same expectations that some of the diehard Watchmen fans might have.  All I really knew was what I had seen in the trailer and I heard there was going to be a lot of blue dong in the film.  I had warned Jessica that I might giggle when the naked blue man appeared on screen, but some semblance of maturity must have taken over, cause I watched the movie like a grown-up rather than the twelve-year-old girl who lives inside my heart.

I thought the film rocked.  My favorite part was the amazing opening sequence.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself for all 2 hours and 45 minutes of it.  I was blown away by the cinematography, the effects, the and by the sheer spectacle of it all.   There’s a part of me that wonders if I would have enjoyed watching this film as much as I did if I hadn’t seen it in a theater like the Arclight.  I’m not sure if it would have struck the same chord.  Despite my enjoyment, I don’t think every plot point would stand up under close scrutiny.  I wasn’t that into the ending, but was so happy to be watching a movie like this in a big, beautiful theater, that I didn’t care.  Also some of the music was a little heavy-handed, but once again I was still happy and thrilled to be along for the ride.

And now for some fun random trivia regarding the people who created Watchmen.  The director, Zack Snyder, turned down a chance to direct S.W.A.T., because it wouldn’t be rated R.  I gotta give the guy props for knowing what he wants to work in. The film 300 would not have been the same if he had been forced to make a PG-13 film out of it.  And one of the screenwriters, David Hayer, played a role on the show Major Dad.

LA Viewers: If you’re into violence and comic book movies, go see it at Arclight.

Translation for non-LA natives: It’s a really cool movie to see in the theaters, but it’s long, so don’t buy a large soda.

JESSICA SAYS:

I would like to start this review out with a warning to my mother:  Mom, this is not a movie for you.  You know how you don’t like any violence or sex in movies, much less gratuitous sex and violence?  Yeah, don’t see this.  It’s not your average PG-13 comic flick.  The costumes alone would make you blush.  I’m not even going to mention the full-frontal naked blue man because I’m sure Alison has.  She couldn’t stop talking about it before the film started.

I don’t know a whole lot about comics (or graphic novels).  Maybe that’s because I’m a girl, but I think I would probably enjoy them.  I was just never exposed.  I don’t know where you would have found comic books for sale in the tiny town I grew up in.  I sort of feel like there is a whole pop culture world out there of which I’m not a part, by not knowing comics.  So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t expect any, “It doesn’t match the glory of the comic,” kind of reviews from me.

I see most of the comic-based movies when they come out, and I must say, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen recently.  All of these heroes are dark, twisty, and above all flawed.  They are almost flawed to the point that it’s hard to root for any of them.  Almost.  I was pretty won over by Patrick Wilson’s Night Owl.    It didn’t hurt that he’s pretty, besides playing the lone nice guy.

Most of all, what won me over about this film was the visual look.  It somehow manages to be slick and gritty.  It was, in a nutshell, exciting.  It probably helped a little that Alison and I saw it in the Cinerama dome at the ArcLight in Hollywood.  For those of you who don’t live in LA, the Cinerama dome is awesome.  The experience there is how movies are made to be seen.  It feels like an event.  There are ushers who come out before the show to give a little talk that is half audience warm-up and half ‘please shut off your phone’ reminders.  The screen wraps completely around your field of vision.  The sound system is overpowering (almost a little too overpowering).

I recommend you go see this move, but only if you’re old enough that all the violence and sex in this movie can’t corrupt you any more than you have already been corrupted by rock-n-roll and cable TV.  You should try to see it in IMAX or the Cinerama.

JIM, OUR GUEST “BLONDE,” SAYS:

Before we get into this review I have to admit something: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a blonde. There was one misguided attempt in seventh grade to streak my hair, but even then, the hydrogen peroxide shaded my locks a less than lovely pumpkin-vomit orange, leaving no trace of blonde anywhere except maybe within the act itself.

I will say this, though — I, like any red-blooded American male, love blondes. In spades. And I thank Alison and Jessica for the honorary club membership. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I bought those Green Day and Offspring CDs in middle school.

So without further ado, let’s get to the reviewin’…

Like a good chunk of our moviegoing public, I too saw Watchmen this weekend. And I’m baffled by my reaction. Why? Because I’m a nerd.  Before we get all accusatory here on the interweb, trust me, I’ve got the nerd cred to prove it: I still hit the comic shop every Wednesday, own multiple Batman shirts, and did not see a girl naked in real life for several years longer than I care to admit. I’ve owned the graphic novel of Watchmen for over a decade now and revere it.

So imagine my surprise when I walked out the theater thinking the movie kinda sucked.

If I subtract my bias for the material, I’m left with a film that doesn’t engage me, plain and simple.  Despite a well done set piece or two, the story lacked a sense of pace. There was no rhythm. No forward momentum. For example, just as we get an interesting helping of plot progression, the movie would pause for ten minutes to tell us how the character of Dr. Manhattan came to be. Or how anti-hero Rorschach lost his moral compass when confronted with a panty sniffing pedophile. This kind of non-linear presentation may be structurally sound in the novel, but it sure as shit doesn’t work in this film. While non-linear storytelling can be well executed in cinema, Watchmen’s dense source material plays as though its been compressed in all the wrong parts. As an average viewer, the character moments feel tangential, while the story’s mystery crawls at a snail’s pace, leaving me indifferent to both. I’m watching this thing from the POV of a dude wanting to be stimulated, but I’m feeling every second of the near-three hour runtime instead. And not in a good way.

watchmen-scream-awardsPetty stuff like plot and character work aside, I also had massive problems with the music. Every song cue, from the opening Dylan track to the closing “Desolation Row” cover, felt so damn bush league. I’m still not over the crazy laughable sex scene set to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” (Note to the baked film school undergrad who compiled the soundtrack: I’ve seen more subtlety on Cinemax after dark.)

All right, all right…  So I’m ragging on the flick pretty hard. But I do think it’s warranted. Remember, I’m a nerd. When I add in my bias for the source material, I remember Watchmen is supposed to be a commentary on the comic book medium itself, demystifying the idea of the superhero and showing him as a possibly psychotic, flawed, and maybe less than average being.

So why does the movie treat us to delicately choreographed fight scenes in which our heroes emerge unscathed? Where they can perform daring feats of martial arts wire trickery set to amped techno music? In presenting these guys as bad-ass crime fighters, the film becomes the antithesis of the novel’s primary themes. Leaving the geek inside of me pissed enough to order more porn on my mom’s credit card, even though I know she’s gonna see the bill and ground me again.

I guess I can only blame one person for this inevitable exile: director Zack Snyder. To be fair, I’ve never been a huge fan of the guy.  His Dawn of the Dead remake lost a lot of steam after the first ten minutes, and his follow-up 300 played like a vapid Lexus commercial for guys who won’t admit they subscribe to the Here! network. Snyder’s perception of cinematic cool has never been cerebral.  It’s always been sex, violence, and rock and roll. Which may explain why the only thing he brings to this film is excess; excess in gore, violence, and even misogyny. The attempted rape of Silk Specter, for example, is far more brutal in the movie than the novel (check out the panels if you don’t believe me). It’s unnerving to me that this is where the filmmaker decides to step in and expand upon the source material.

Truth be told, the only thing I can’t accuse Zack Snyder of is being insincere. I truly believe the guy set out to make the most faithful adaptation of Watchmen possible. I just don’t think he understood a damn word of it.

And there you have it, a nerdy non-blonde’s review of moving picture. If you liked it, hurrah. If you hated it, blame Alison and Jessica.

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Two Blondes Make Predictions: The Oscars

February 21, 2009

Two Blondes shake their glittery Magic 8 Ball and make some predictions about the Oscars:

ALISON SAYS:

pixar_walle1BEST PICTURE:
Who I think will win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I want to win: WALL-E
I can’t describe how much I love WALL-E.  It’s one of the only films in my life to make me cry (my heart is normally protected by a hard stone cover).  I’ve never seen a character as loving, fragile and as wonderful as that goshdarn little robot.  I’m sure admitting this publicly will take away what little “street cred” I have (if any), but I can’t refrain from gushing over WALL-E.  Even my cell phone has a ring that involves that little robot yelling out “EVE-A.”

DIRECTING:
Who I think will win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I want to win: The Wrestler, but Darren Aronofsky isn’t even nominated.
Dear Academy,
WTF?
Alison

frozen_river_melissa_leoACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:
Who I think will win: Kate Winslet
Who I want to win: If you’d asked me five days ago, (before I received Frozen River on Netflix), I would have called it a tie between Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet.  But now after having watched Frozen River, I’ve gotta put the tie between Melissa Leo and Kate Winslet.  I’d also go so far as to call Melissa Leo’s performance almost as raw and gritty as Mickey Rourke’s (of course the films couldn’t be more different, but there’s something to both performances that struck a nerve with me and exhibited a lack of vanity).

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Who I think will win: Marisa Tomei.  And I hope she says “See?!  It wasn’t a fluke.”
Who I want to win: Marisa Tomei, followed closely by Viola Davis.  Both women blew me away.

wrestler-aronofsky-promo-01ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:
Who I think will win: Toss up between Frank Langella and Mickey Rourke.
Who I want to win: Mickey Rourke.  He’s fucking amazing in The Wrestler.
Mom, I’m sorry to swear, but it’s the truth.
I also wish there was a “Shout Out Best Actor” Oscar category that could be given to Ben Burtt for creating the voice and sounds for WALL-E.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
Who I think will win: Heath Ledger
Who I want to win: Tie between Heath Ledger and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Both were stunning performances.  An honorable mention for funny must be given to Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder.  I can’t imagine any other actor pulling off what he did in that film.  I don’t think that means he should get an Oscar over the other nominees, but I’m sure glad he’s being recognized.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY):
Who I think will win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I want to win: Doubt
I loved Slumdog Millionaire, but I think I loved it because it moves you while you’re watching it.  Afterwards, after the music and lights have faded, you wonder about some holes in the script and story, but it was still a film that made you sad and happy and in between throughout, so you forgive those flaws.  But in regards to Doubt, it performs on every level.  I can’t think of any weakness in it.  The script is pitch perfect.

walle_lgWRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY):
Who I think will win: Milk
Who I want to win: WALL-E.
Have I mentioned I love WALL-E?  Cause I do.  As I type this, I can look to my left and see a little WALL-E figurine sitting on my desk.  And every time I look at it, my heart swells.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
Who I think will win: I’m really not sure, but Kung Fu Panda did sweep the Annie Awards.
Who I want to win: WALL-E.
You may have noticed a theme of me loving WALL-E.  On a sidenote, I do think Kung Fu Panda is wonderful and one of the best films DreamWorks has made.  I also find it really exciting how many animated films there are that are entertaining for audiences of all ages.

ART DIRECTION:
Who I think will win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Changeling
Who I want to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Changeling

slum-dog-millionaireCINEMATOGRAPHY:
Who I think will win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I want to win: Slumdog Millionaire
Every nominee should get a gold star in my humble but accurate opinion.  They’re all beautiful films.

COSTUME DESIGN:
Who I think will win: No idea.
Who I want to win: I’m not sure who I want to win, but I really want all of the dresses Kate Winslet wears in Revolutionary Road and all the hats Angelina Jolie wears in Changeling.  Can someone please arrange that for me?  I’d be your best friend forever!

FILM EDITING:
Who I think will win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I want to win: The Dark Knight

MUSIC:
Who I think will win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who I want to win: WALL-E
While I loved the music in Slumdog Millionaire and have downloaded the album on iTunes, it’s the music in WALL-E that moved me and continues to move with every viewing in a way I’ve never experienced on any other film.  As I’ve said, I love that little robot.

SOUND EDITING:
Who I think will win: WALL-E
Who I want to win: WALL-E

SOUND MIXING:
Who I think will win: WALL-E
Who I want to win: WALL-E

benjamin_button_poster_lgVISUAL EFFECTS:
Who I think will win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Who I want to win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and WALL-E
No matter whether you’re a Benjamin Button lover or hater, you can’t deny what the visual effects department accomplished in the film.  Visually, the film is a masterpiece, as is WALL-E.

*You may have noticed that there were quite a few ties in my choices.  I obviously suffer from indecision and an intense love of good filmmaking.  Also, it’s really hard to decide when you’re aware of how much work, blood, sweat and tears went into every film.

Congratulations and best wishes to all the nominees!
XXOO Alison

JESSICA SAYS:

BEST ACTOR:
My pick, were I an Academy member, would be Mickey Rourke and I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t win.  I haven’t seen The Visitor or Milk yet, so I can’t speak to Sean Penn’s and Richard Jenkins’ performances.  Running a close second here is Frank Langella.  If anyone can step in front of Rourke, it’s Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.  He is fantastic and already has a Tony for this role.  However, I’m giving the upper hand to Rourke because, besides the fact that he gave an outstanding performance, there is nothing folks like more than an underdog.

heath_ledger_joker_9BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
OK, I recently changed my mind on this one.  I think Heath Ledger will win – it’s almost absolute at this point.  He was a great actor and it truly is a shame we won’t get to see any future work from him.  He was great in The Dark Knight.  However, I’ve decided my vote (if I got one) in this category would go to Philip Seymour Hoffman.  The more I have reflected on it, the more I really am astounded by his performance in Doubt. ( I haven’t seen Milk or Tropic Thunder.)

kate-winslet-the-reader-3BEST ACTRESS
Kate Winslet.  My reason is the same as everyone else’s (I presume).  She is great in The Reader, but I’m also picking her for all those times she hasn’t won yet.  Plus, she’s totally awesome and will give a killer acceptance speech.  I totally respect the fact that she makes no bones about wanting to win.  You should want to win. ( I haven’t seen Frozen River.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
This is the category that is notoriously hard to pick, e.g. the last time Marisa Tomei won.  Personally, I would vote for Amy Adams in Doubt, although I loved Viola Davis and Marisa Tomei too.
BEST DIRECTOR:
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire.  It is rare that Best Picture and Best Director don’t go hand and hand, so…

slumdog_millionaireBEST PICTURE:
Slumdog Millionaire.  It will win, but Frost/Nixon is deserving as well.

OTHER CATEGORY PREDICTIONS:
Best Editing – Frost/Nixon
Best Foreign Language Film – Waltz with Bashir
Best Sound Editing – WALL-E (watch the DVD extras-they’re great)
Best Sound Mixing – The Dark Knight
Best Adapted Screenplay – Doubt
Best Original Screenplay – WALL-E

oscar_sallykirkland1

OTHER PREDICTIONS:
I predict Sally Kirkland and Faye Dunaway will inexplicably be in attendance.  They have both been at the previous two ceremonies and have served to only make me fear the ageing process that much more. I can only hope they reappear so I can read what Go Fug Yourself has to say about an ensemble like this:

I predict Renee Zellweger, if she attends, will usurp Jessica Simpson and Lindsay Lohan as the new most talked about weight issue.

Two Blondes Use A Camera: Oscar Prep

February 19, 2009

Wondering what’s going on in Hollywood with Oscar prep?

Sure, getting dressed up for the Oscars is a lot of work for all the celebrities.  I wonder how many hours Ryan Seacrest must spend getting his blond tips just right!  But what’s even more work is the prep that goes in to getting the Kodak Theater and Hollywood Blvd ready for the big day.  Hollywood Blvd has been blocked off all week, and you should see all the worker bees constructing bleachers and rolling out the red carpet.

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

January 30, 2009

Two Blondes review a movie and mostly ramble about themselves.

JESSICA SAYS:

My mother is known for two constant comments, when it comes to movies:

“Well…it wasn’t what I expected,” and, “You know, I’m just such a Pollyanna…”  So it was no surprise that when I asked Mom what she thought of Slumdog Millionaire, she said, “Well, it wasn’t what I was expecting.  T (one of my other sisters) said it was going to be uplifting and I guess there was just too much abuse of children for me.  You know, I’m just such a Pollyanna…”*

*Please note:  To be accurate, any quotes by my mother need to be read with a strong Midwestern accent.

As it turns out, both Mom and T are right.  There is a lot of horrible abuse of children (and adults) in this film, but it still manages to be uplifting.  I think the beauty of this film is that really horrible things happen to the characters, but the hero doesn’t let it change who he is as a person and in the end (and I don’t think this is giving anything away), he triumphs.

The child actors in the movie (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, Rubiana Ali, Tanay Chheda, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, and Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar – and yes, I had to copy and paste those) are fantastic and totally lacking in all the saccharine precociousness most child actors have that makes me squirm.  I listed all their names because each one of them was remarkable.  They will break your heart.

I am fully aware that this might sound a bit corny, but I don’t care.  It’s true.  This film reminded me that movies have the magical ability to transport you to a world you’ve never seen before.  This scenery was rich and beautiful and so much credit must go to Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan (directors), Anthony Dod Mantle (cinematographer) and Mark Digby (production designer).

I loved this film.  I recommend you go see this movie right now.  Seriously, go!  Also, if you like this movie I recommend Cidade de Deus (City of God) and Tsotsi – both similar films set in Brazil and South Africa, respectively.

ALISON SAYS:
Some of the reviews make this look like a feel good movie.  And I guess by the end, you do feel good about watching this film and feel uplifted by a tale of triumph over impossible odds and a story of love.  But be warned, this is not an easy film to watch.  The slums of Mumbai is not an easy place to be, either as an orphan on the run (like our main character) or as an audience member viewing a world that is harsh, dirty and dangerous.

I would love to pick Danny Boyle’s brain (the director).  Here’s a man who made Trainspotting and 28 Days Later and now this film.  These are three terrific, riveting films, but all so completely different.  I am happy to see him being showered with accolades, and while he is obviously is responsible for this film being so incredible, I also think a lot of credit should be given to the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and to A.R. Rahman, who composed the music.  The directing and acting in the film is superb, but what stayed with me were the images, the colors of this world I know nothing about.  And the amazing soundtrack.  According to IMDb, A.R Rahman is known as the John Williams of the Indian Film Industry.  I will definitely be (legally) downloading the music from Itunes.

Jessica and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the Arclight in the dome with my mom.  We paid full price on a Friday, dealt with huge crowds and it was well worth it to see a film like this on the big screen, especially in such a spectacular theater.  And I must thank Fox Searchlight for putting a film out there that both my mom and I could enjoy.  She tends to love romantic comedies, while I tend to hate them.  And usually any film that I love, she will call “interesting,” (which means she didn’t like it or enjoy it).  So it was nice to bring Mom to a fancy Hollywood theater, to a film that we both really enjoyed.  Mom used the word “exciting” a couple times when asked what she thought about the movie.  She also loved the dancing and said she “would recommend it.”

LA Viewers: It’s worth paying full price at the Grove or Arclight.

Translation for non-LA natives: Find a theater near you on www.moviefone.com

Check out this interesting article on Slumdog Millionaire:  http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0„20254915,00.html

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

January 9, 2009

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves.


ALISON SAYS:

I love David Fincher.  I think Se7en and Fight Club are two of the best movies ever.  Ever! Also, on a personal note, I met Fincher at a premiere a while back.  He was super nice, despite me being a rambling fan who probably reeked of Appletini’s at the time.  And he’s pretty cute.  That said, I really liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.  Is it a marvel and an accomplishment of film making?  Yes.  Am I impressed with what they were trying to do?  Yes.  Is Brad Pitt talented?  Yes.  Was the movie too long and felt a tad too much like Oscar bait rather than just passionate film making?  Yes.

Brad Pitt did really impress me with his performance.  Especially during the times when he was a child/old man at the beginning.  There was a vulnerability to his performance that I haven’t seen from him before and was really happy to see.  Of course as he grows younger, he stunned with those golden boy looks.  But this movie also proved Brad Pitt is still pretty damn hot, even with wrinkles and lanky gray hair.  Congrats Angelina!  Cate Blanchett is stunningly beautiful and talented, as always.  I’m not sure if there’s anything she can’t do.

I was intrigued by the idea of a person growing younger throughout their life and how that wouldn’t be a fantasy scenario.  I will now be much more grateful to grow old with the person I love, rather than growing younger.  I also loved the idea of the clock that runs backwards. There were a lot of parts about the movie that I loved, it’s just the whole that threw me.  I didn’t find myself caring at all about the story in the present with the daughter and her dying mother.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the random shots of the old guy who was continually hit by lightning.  On one hand it was funny and visually interesting, on the other hand, it was distracting from the main story and seemed unnecessary, especially when the movie was already an hour too long.

There’s something about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that made me feel like Fincher decided he needed to make his Forrest Gump.  Despite that, he still accomplished a mood with the movie, a timeless love story, and a connection to the past that is worth going to the theaters for.  Just be prepared to get restless butt syndrome while you’re watching it.

LA Viewers: I’d say to hit up a matinee at the Grove or Arclight, or wait till it hits one of those little cheap theaters on Beverly Blvd.

Translation for non-LA natives: Go to a matinee.

JESSICA SAYS:

I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button over Christmas and have been putting off writing my review because I didn’t really know what I wanted to say about it.  The film is long.  2h 47min.  I mean, I feel like I complain about movie lengths a lot on here, but if you expect me to sit still for three hours in a dark room, the story better be pretty riveting.  I can’t say that I thought this movie was.  I feel like I gave them three hours of my time and I didn’t come away thinking anything more than what I went into the movie thinking—it’s a story where Brad Pitt ages backwards.  Aging backwards is an interesting thought, but I didn’t get anything profound out of the story about life, death, aging, etc.  It was just…OK.

I recommend renting this movie, but I bet this will end up being one of those titles you add to you Netflix/Blockbuster queue and when it shows up at your house you keep it for about two months before you get around to watching it.

Two Blondes Go To A Movie: Frost/Nixon

December 28, 2008

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves.


JESSICA SAYS:

I am not old enough to have any first-hard knowledge of Watergate or Nixon.  I only know the handful of TV clips that get replayed:  sweating during the debates, “I am not a crook,” the wave as he boarded Marine One for the last time, etc.  Also, I grew up hearing my grandmother refer to Nixon, almost exclusively as Tricky Dick.  I remember asking my Mom once, why was he ’tricky.’  “He lied,” she told me.  “Don’t all politicians lie?”  “Well, he lied about trying to spy on people who disagreed with him.”  I didn’t get any more information than that about Watergate in school because our textbooks always seemed to stop right after World War II, as if nothing noteworthy happened after that.  Perhaps that is because I went to public schools with text books that were at least a decade old, which means Watergate was still recent history when they were written.  It’s OK though, you don’t have to be a historian to enjoy this movie.

The synergy of Frost/Nixon being released during a scandal involving a powerful politician brought down by taped conversations where he talks about, amongst many appalling things, going after the press for criticizing him is remarkable.  Even more remarkable to me is that out of the two of them, Richard Nixon is more sympathetic than Rod Blagojevich.

Frank Langella is absolutely fan-freaking-tistic as Richard Nixon.  If he doesn’t at least get an Academy Award nomination, then I don’t want to know ya, Academy.  Michael Sheen and Langella are as well matched as opponents as Frost and Nixon were.  You find yourself rooting for the good guys to pin the bastard to the wall, while at the same time sympathizing with the villain (his dad was mean to him and he just wants to be liked…).

Was Diane Sawyer really part of the team trying to put a shine on Richard Nixon’s image after he resigned?  I don’t want that to be true because I like Diane Sawyer.

I recommend this movie to…everyone.  Seriously.  Go see this movie.

ALISON SAYS:

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest history buff.  My knowledge is spotty at best when it comes to basic things having to do with the history of our country and the world.  I wish I was like my father and retained that kind of stuff (he would kill on Jeopardy orTrivial Pursuit), but I don’t and I sometimes find it boring. So I was kinda concerned that I would find Frost/Nixon boring and wish I had just stayed in and watched more DVD’s of Friday Night Lights.  I was also concerned I wouldn’t know what was going on, because when I think of Nixon, the first thing that comes to mind are the Nixon masks Patrick Swayze’s gang donned in Point Break.  But all my fears were unfounded.  I loved the movie.  I’m not saying it’s a perfect film by any means, but it is interesting and really sucks you in.

Frank Langella’s Nixon broke my heart.  I was shocked to find myself sympathizing with Nixon, but Langella’s amazing performance won me over.  I just wanted to give Nixon a hug.  I was also really impressed with Kevin Bacon, because there were definitely times where I forgot it was Kevin Bacon and just saw a loyal, tough colleague to the ex-president.  I can’t really think of one weak link among the entire cast.  And of course there is their fearless and adorably red-headed leader; Ron Howard is a pro. The guy knows how to direct and how to make a great film.  He will always hold a special place in my heart, because he made Splash and he brought the world Arrested Development.  I also love that he and his producing partner, Brian Grazer, have been together from the beginning.  It’s a bromance made in Hollywood heaven.  I kinda stumbled into Brian Grazer the other day in Beverly Hills (yes I am very, very clumsy), and he was super nice, not at all blustery or asshole-ish like some big film producers would be.

LA Viewers: It’s worth paying full price at the Grove or Arclight.

Translation for non-LA natives: Get to the theaters

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Twilight

December 17, 2008

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves:

JESSICA SAYS:

I called dibs on Robert Pattinson years ago, but when I say ‘Robert Pattinson,’ I really mean Cedric Diggory.  I first noticed him in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the role of Cedric required him to be charming and heroic without saying much and to keep his hair at a reasonable level of unkemptness.  Now yes, I know that at the time he was only 17 and I was…older than that.  However, I knew if I just had a little patience, one day the world wouldn’t judge us as harshly.

These days, his hair has reached ridiculous levels.  Have you seen this: http://www.tmz.com/2008/12/04/robert-pattinsons-internal-hair-war/? I mean honestly.  We can’t go out now because I feel certain that he does not meet one of my dating requirements—that he take less time to get ready than I do.  I can only imagine the effort that goes into getting one’s hair to do that. Even with the nonsensical hair, he is still v., v. pretty.

When I heard Robert Pattinson was cast as the beautifully heroic, beautifully sullen, beautifully tortured, beautiful vampire, Edward Cullen, I have to say I was v. pleased.  (That’s just a small taste of how often Stephenie Meyer points out how beautiful he is in the book, but we are not here to review the book.)  I should point out that I was about halfway into book three from the Twilight series when I saw this movie.

I read the first book in two nights and I am not a fast reader.  It’s not really that the book was that good, but more so that I wanted to hurry up and get to ‘the good stuff,’ if you know what I’m saying.  My inner teenage girl was constantly screaming, “Ooh!  Kiss her!!”  Then I realized when I got to the end of the book that there wasn’t going to be any ‘good stuff.’  I had heard Stephenie Meyer is Mormon, but I never really thought about what, if any, effect that might have on her writing, in the same way that I never considered what John Grisham’s religious beliefs might be when I read The Firm.  I was just enjoying a fun, light read.  It turns out I was probably underestimating what it means to be Mormon, since *SPOILER ALERT* the whole saga turns out to be a morality play about the value of virginity.

When I see a movie after having read the source material, I really try not to make nitpicky comparisons over stuff like whether Bella’s truck looked like it was described in the book or not.  No one wants to be anywhere near the person in the theatre whispering loudly, “That’s not how it is in the book.”  Since the movie was already cast and publicized by the time I finally got around to reading the books, Bella and Edward in my head looked like Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

There were some plot changes, but they didn’t bother me.  I was really too distracted by other issues.  It was only moments into the movie when I discovered that unless guided by experienced hands (with a large budget), all those pieces of the vampires-are-real plot that were totally logical and not hokey in your head while reading the book, will look completely and utterly absurd on the big screen.  I didn’t flinch at all when I read that Edward, being a vampire, sparkles magnificently in the sunlight.  However, when I saw that in the movie, I convulsed into what I like to call the ‘church giggles’ (you know, when something funny happens in a situation where you are not supposed to be laughing, which only makes it harder not to laugh).

I have to say, I’m going to lay a lot of blame at the feet of Catherine Hardwicke, the director, here.  I expected the movie to be cheesy, being that it is a romance about vampires marketed to teenage girls and a lot of the time I like cheesy, but this went beyond.  I don’t know what direction, if any, the actors were given, but whenever someone was supposed to be brooding (which happens a lot in the film) they looked either like they were trying to telepathically communicate the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Robert Pattinson) or they were suffering from a bad case of irritable bowel syndrome (Jasper played by Jackson Rathbone).  Oh, and the music!  Ugh.  I felt like there was a constant, overpowering score that was trying to make up for the drama or tension that wasn’t happening on the screen.

Let’s just suffice it to say:  Robert Pattinson—still pretty, but please stop it with the hair.  I’m not ready to write him off as a bad actor yet because he has some upcoming roles that sound intriguing, but if I had to judge only off his performance in Twilight he wouldn’t be getting very high marks.  I was not going to waste money seeing the sequel until I heard the studio changed directors, so wise move on your part, Summit Entertainment, et al.

I don’t recommend seeing this movie, unless you could make some sort of Rocky Horror/Showgirls-like drinking game out of it.

ALISON SAYS:

I just want you all to know that I am breathing very heavily and looking at the computer with brooding eyes as I type this blog. Okay that joke may be a couple weeks late, but some of us aren’t thirteen and have jobs and may have been too busy to go see Twilight opening weekend.  Speaking of opening weekend, I heard a funny story from someone who did actually attend a Twilight screening that weekend. As we all know, lines were long and full of teenage girls.  And apparently before letting lines in, movie ushers would instruct the crowds not to scream, run, or squeal as they entered the theater.  I love that this had to be stressed.  Those poor theater employees must have their ears pounding by the end of opening weekend with all the screaming fans.

Overall, I found this movie hilarious.  I laughed a lot, I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I did.  All the jumping and sparkling and lingering looks and angst.  I also learned that apparently when vampires go into direct sunlight their button down shirts suddenly open up, revealing perfectly carved abs and pecs and they become sparkly.   I am a huge fan of sparkles (huge), but I don’t understand why the undead would be sparkly.  I realize the target audience for this movie are big fans of glitter, so what could possibly be better than a dreamy, glittering hunk of a man/boy, but still it seems to go against every conception of what it is to be undead.

A lot of the movie felt like an overly dramatized music video.  Lots of heavy guitar twangs underlining what’s happening in the story and the oh so deep emotions of Bella and Edward.  But it’s definitely still an entertaining flick to watch, even if you’re not a thirteen-year-old girl or a die-hard fan of the book series.  Let’s just put it out there, Robert Pattinson is hot.   Any red-blooded woman probably felt at least some kind of twinge in her lady parts from his appearance on screen, even with all the white powder.

Dear Robert Pattinson’s cheekbones,
We get it.
Alie

I’ve had some of my less good looking male friends complain about how they can never tell what a girl wants.  And they’re right.  You could have a guy show up with a dozen roses, and if you don’t like him, you’d find it weird or creepy, but if you like him, it’s a grand, sweeping gesture.  Someone like Robert Pattinson can tell a girl he likes to watch her sleep and it doesn’t register on the creepyometer, because you’re too entranced by his perfectly messy coif or his dark, searching eyes or the way the light catches his beautiful skin. So to my less handsome male friends, don’t tell a girl you watch her sleep or stare at her from across a room while breathing heavily.  Unless you look like Pattinson, it’s probably not gonna go the way you had planned.

LA Viewers: It’s worth catching a matinee at the Grove or Arclight, but I wouldn’t pay full price unless you are 13.

Translation for non-LA natives: A matinee is the way to go.

Two Blondes Go To A Movie: Changeling

October 25, 2008

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves:

JESSICA SAYS:

WARNING:  This film is TWO HOURS AND TWENTY ONE MINUTES LONG.  That is a really long time to sit without fidgeting too much.  I’m always afraid I annoy the people who sit next to me in movie theaters because I fidget.  It’s just not comfortable to sit that long.

In case you hadn’t yet noticed, Angelina Jolie is beautiful.  I mean truly, truly beautiful.  She owes the DP and editor a cut of her salary.  Throughout the entire film she was lit to highlight just how stunning her face is.  Sometimes the focus was the color of her eyes, sometimes those amazing lips.  We get it, she’s beau-ti-ful.  You could have cut out at least 30 minutes of the film if you just spent less time admiring how pretty she is.

For a quick synopsis, Changeling is the true story of a single mother, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), who loses her child in 1928 Los Angeles.  In her efforts to find her son, she is forced to deal with the corrupt and incompetent LAPD.  The police tell her they have found her son.  When the two are reunited, Mrs. Collins realizes the boy they found is not her son.

Mrs. Collins’ struggle against the LAPD pits her against Captain JJ Jones (Jeffrey Donovan).  I never really thought about the fact that Irish-Americans in the 1920s would have still sounded pretty Irish.  Captain Jones had quite a brogue in the scenes where he was agitated (which were most of his scenes).

At one point, the police have Mrs. Collins committed to a state mental facility.  The phenomenal Amy Ryan plays another mental patient Mrs. Collins befriends in the institution.  I have yet to see Amy Ryan’s nominated performance in Gone Baby Gone, but I have completely fallen in love with her as the new HR manager on The Office.

I felt like the movie had ended, looked at my watch, and realized there was still going to be another forty minutes of admiring how beautiful Angelina Jolie is.  Actually, those last forty minutes felt more like an episode of Law & Order:  SVU, 1928.  The movie took an odd plot turn and began to reveal what actually happened to Mrs. Collins’ son.  Adding to the SVU vibe was character actor, Denis O’Hare, as Dr. Jonathan Steele.  O’Hare is one of those actors that you’ve seen in a million things, but never remember.  For instance, he has been in Charlie Wilson’s War, Law & Order (original, SVU, and CI) Brothers & Sisters, CSI, Michael Clayton, Garden State, A Mighty Heart, 21 Grams, and Half Nelson.

My overall opinion of this movie was…it was OK.  Too long, sometimes too melodramatic, too many subplots, etc., but good performances with a good director.  I recommend seeing this on a Sunday afternoon, but make sure you’ve blocked out the rest of the day on your schedule.

Overall, I still think Clint Eastwood is a master director.  However, this is not his best work.  Mystic River is better.

P.S.  I can recommend a much more entertaining story about a missing child set in the past.  This American Life, the NPR radio program, aired the story of Bobby Dunbar in episode 352:  “The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar” on March 14, 2008.  Along the same lines of Changeling, the police bring a boy back to the Dunbars claiming it’s Bobby, but the parents don’t believe them.  Check it out at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=352.

ALISON SAYS:

I’ve never wanted to be a hat person more than after I finished watching Angelina Jolie’s new movie Changeling.  I don’t usually sound like such a girl, but Angelina’s hats and clothes were absolutely gorgeous.  It made me think I was born during the wrong era, but then again I’m the kind of person who spills everything everywhere, so such beautiful, detailed clothing might have become an issue.

Jessica and I went to see this movie at the Arclight.  Before it started, one of the adorable little ushers announced that the movie was two and a half hours long.  The entire audience groaned.  Don’t get me wrong, the movie is amazing, as long as you’re okay with thinking it’s ending on four separate occasions and still having to continue watching for another forty minutes past that.  It’s long.  The directing and acting is superb.  On all levels, it’s a gorgeous, moving, well-made film.  You will be stunned by how beautiful the lighting and Angelina are.  You’ll realize how important a good director is when you see the performances of everyone in the cast.  Yet, there’s still something…

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is well traveled, intelligent, interesting and completely aware of themselves as a well traveled, intelligent, interesting person?  And while you enjoyed listening to their stories, you felt like maybe they enjoyed hearing themselves talk a little bit too much?  There’s a similar feeling in watching this movie.  The film is a little too in love with itself and its star.  But then again, you can’t really blame it.  First off, you have Clint Eastwood directing.  He is the one of the most talented men on the earth, not to mention he’s aging really well.  Then there’s the lovely, hauntingly beautiful Angelina Jolie. It’s definitely one of Angelina’s best performances and I am a huge fan of hers.  During crying scenes, she’s able to create a quiver in her chin to show she’s on the verge of tears.  It almost seems like CGI, because how is someone able to make her chin quiver on cue?  It’s an awesome skill and a perfectly understated way to show the character’s tremendous undercurrent of emotion.  So it’s easy to see why this movie would be a little too in love with itself and then decide that it’s deserved the right to go on for two and a half hours, but for me, it just left me with restless butt syndrome by the end.  And some of the ending(s) got a bit heavy-handed for me.  But I would still watch it again, just to live in that world again and to have the pleasure of watching what awesome talent can create even when there may be too much talent going around.

LA Viewers: Worth paying matinee price at the Grove or Arclight, but just keep in mind you’ll be sitting for a while.

Translation for non-LA viewers: Go see a matinee.

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

October 18, 2008

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves:

Note: Our review may have some similar sentiments, but we swear we wrote them separately. Great minds think alike sometimes…

ALISON SAYS:

I haven’t loved a cast this much in a long time. First off, I love Michael Cera. Not in a creepy way. I’ve never gone looking for where he might live in Los Angeles and stood outside wondering if he’d walk out, see me and find me as charmingly awkward as I find him. Really, I haven’t. But I have watched DVD’s of Arrested Development and been amused for hours. Clark and Michael has distracted me from doing work many a time. I may have even considered writing a non-creepy and comedic love ballad to express my thanks for there being a boy-man like Michael Cera both on the big and small screen.

Second, there’s Kat Dennings. Can we just talk about talented and beautiful this actress is? Angelina, we have a real contender for “best lips in Hollywood” now that Kat Dennings is on the scene. And Kat is beautiful in a way that’s real and not just good make-up. She was the perfect slightly insecure, but knows who she is teenage girl. Here’s two quotes I read on IMDB from Kat: “There’s nothing else I would rather do, unless there was a profession that involved cuddling bunny rabbits and kittens all day for money.” “I’ve basically made a career out of my imagination.” How cute is she?!

Then we also have Ari Graynor with her portrayal of the drunk best friend, Caroline. I wanted to stand up and applaud her hilarious, spot-on portrayal of what drunk teenage girls act like. She was able to be charming at the same time as being obnoxious. Then I also loved the boys who played Nick’s gay friends. They were funny and sweet, and never felt like a stereotypical portrayal of the gay best friend.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist felt very real to me. Possibly the realest (is that a word?) movie about teenagers I’ve ever seen. Some past teenage movies (like Juno) left me feeling manipulated and like someone was just trying to sound “cool.” Nick and Norah just felt real and left me happy, amused and charmed. It reminded me of being young, insecure and trying to figure out love. And made me somewhat nostalgic for the days of kissing boys in the streets of New York just when the sun is coming up, or being seventeen and asking a boy if “he’s interested” and being so scared of rejection. It’s a movie that leaves you with that attitude of life being full of infinite possibilities, not to mention lots of great music.

LA Viewers: Worth paying full price at the Grove or Arclight. Yes, I realize what’s going on with the economy, that’s why being entertained is so important right now.

Translation for non-LA viewers: Unless you’re dead inside or hate young love, go see this movie right away.

P.S. The director’s first film Raising Victor Vargas is worth getting on Netflix. A grittier, lower budget look at young love.


JESSICA SAYS:

I like to consider myself to be somewhat of a master when it comes to the mix CD–incidentally, I still feel the urge to call it a mix-tape. ‘Mix CD’ doesn’t have the same ring to it. As of today, my iTunes library has 5,238 songs in it, which is 343 days worth of music, so there is a lot to pull from. There is an art to a good mix. One song needs to lead to the next and you certainly never put back-to-back songs by the same artist. That’s the antithesis of the mix.

So, I was already into this movie, simply from the title. A title that is also, admittedly, a bit clunky. Although this irritates me about other people, I am also someone who is annoyed when my new, favorite, quirky, little band that no one has heard of becomes big, e.g. Vampire Weekend. I have been known to grumble when a song I like is featured on Gossip Girl, or the like. This movie is full of bands to whom this has already happened, or they are dangerously close to it happening. To my point, Vampire Weekend is on the soundtrack.

Two minutes into the movie, watching Michael Cera leave a squirm-inducing voicemail to his ex-girlfriend, and I knew I was going to like it. As we were leaving the movie, I realized what was so familiar and likable about it–it felt just like a John Hughes movie. Instead of Chicago suburbanites, they were New York. Instead of finding the meaning of life at the end of a rollicking day that included singing on a Von Stuben Day float in a parade, they passed through a gay Christmas musical review. And of course, instead of cassette tapes, there were mix CDs.

For full disclosure here, I wrote my Master’s thesis on John Hughes movies. I chose them because I figured if I was going to spend that amount of time reading about and watching something, I had better like them. Plus, I had already seen them each at least five times. As much as I loved Jake Ryan by the end of Sixteen Candles (OK, who are we kidding, I still do love him.), I think I love Michael Cera more. He’s just so funny and sweet and adorable.

So yeah, I really liked this movie. My one criticism would be there were parts that dragged a little bit, but on the whole I really liked it. If there were a competition for best bee-stung lips, Kat Dennings could give Angelina a run for her money. As someone who has had friends that were carbon copies of Caroline, the attention needy intoxicated friend, I can attest that Ari Graynor was perfect in the part.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is worth the full Friday night price. I especially recommend this if you ever had a crush on Jake Ryan, Ferris Bueller, etc.

Two Blondes Go To A Movie: Choke

October 3, 2008

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves.

JESSICA SAYS:
Here is what I knew about this movie going into it: It’s based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk. That’s it. Sometimes that’s a really nice way to go into a movie (or book for that matter) because it prevents the sentiment that my mother utters after every single movie when you ask her what she thought–“Well, it wasn’t what I expected.” I have read Fight Club, which is also by Palahniuk, but haven’t read Choke. So, I expected it to be dark and twisty, with a little social commentary added in for good measure. To borrow from Mom, “It wasn’t (totally) what I expected.” It was dark and twisty, but I missed the social commentary. Side note: anytime I quote my mother, be sure to read it with a pretty strong Midwestern accent (specifically Saint Louis).

A quick plot summary–Sam Rockwell plays a recovering sex addict, Victor Mancini, who works at a colonial reenactment site. His mother, played by Angelica Houston, is a patient in a mental hospital who no longer recognizes her son. Victor begins to fall for his mother’s doctor, played by Kelly MacDonald, as he sets out to find out who his father is.

Kudos to the casting director of this film. I don’t think there is another actor out there that plays sleazy, but likeable as well as Sam Rockwell. I’m kind of in love with Anjelica Huston now. As I left the movie, it dawned on me that I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of her movies before. I am in the process of adding her films to my Blockbuster queue right now. This film was filled with scenes that turned on long, silent close-ups of her face as she processed emotion and information. I was in awe. Plus, I got kind of mesmerized by her looks–she’s attractive, but not in a traditional sense and I could never quite put my finger on what made her striking. It’s like the individual parts are kind of odd, but the sum of the parts works. Last but not least, I was so pleased to see Joel Grey, star of Broadway and father of Baby Houseman (a.k.a. Jennifer Grey–“Dirty Dancing”). He’s such an odd little man and he worked that beautifully as one of the recovering sex addicts in therapy with Victor.

Have you ever seen a movie and thought, I bet this is a really good book? That’s how I felt with “Choke.” That’s not to say I didn’t think the movie was good; I did. I just felt like the book probably said things the movie didn’t even attempt to (the missing social commentary I referenced at the beginning of this). I laughed out loud several times, which is how I judge how funny something is. Even better, it was pretty moving, too.

Just a warning: I was unprepared for how much sex there was in this movie. After reading this, you will already be aware it’s about a sex addict. I was not. All the sex scenes felt appropriate and were relevant to the plot, just…you know…this isn’t one for the kids.

This is worth seeing for the full Friday night price. Just don’t see it with anyone whom you might be uncomfortable watching people do the ‘around the world.’

ALISON SAYS:

Who knew broken, depressed sex addicts could be so funny? I sure didn’t until I saw this movie. I have never read any of Chuck Palahniuk’s books, though after reading some of his info on Wikipedia, I’ve just added some of his work to my library account (yes, I have a library card and actually use it). Here’s a few choice pieces:

When Palahniuk “attempted to publish his next novel, Invisible Monsters, publishers rejected it for being too disturbing. This led him to work on his most famous novel, Fight Club, which he wrote as an attempt to disturb the publisher even more for rejecting him.”

“Palahniuk would also become a member of the rebellious Cacophony Society* in his adulthood. He is a regular participant in their events, including the annual Santa Rampage (a public Christmas party involving pranks and drunkenness) in Portland. His participation in the Society inspired some of the events in his writings, both fictional and non-fictional. Most notably, he used the Cacophony Society as the basis for Project Mayhem in Fight Club.”

“Choke” is the latest film adaptation of Palahniuk’s work, and it’s definitely worth seeing. It has a stellar cast, all talented and all funny. There’s a depressing realism to the misery that is their lives, but you still love being along for the ride and keep hoping they’ll find some semblance of happiness. Sam Rockwell dazzles as a guy you sort of want to hate, but can’t help being charmed by. I can’t believe I just wrote “dazzles.” Brad William Henke masterfully portrays the sweetest, most cuddly chronic masturbator you’ll ever meet. Clark Gregg should be proud of himself for his directorial debut with this film, not to mention his hilarious performance as Lord High Charlie and the fact that he wrote the screenplay.

LA Viewers: Worth paying full price at The Grove or Sunset 5.

Translation for non-LA natives: It is worth paying money to see this movie in the theaters. It will make you laugh and you get to see boobs (if you’re into that).

Sidenote: This is not the movie to bring your small children or your mom to. Or to bring anyone who might be weirded out by somewhat explicit sex scenes.
*Jessica has no idea what the Cacophony Society actually does, but you had her at “pranks and drunkenness.”