March 14, 2011

Goodbye 'Greek'

I watched the series finale of 'Greek' like I watched most of the episodes of its 4-season run: With a drink in hand, uncontrollable guffaws, and just a few tears streaming down my face.

At its core 'Greek' is lighthearted, snarky fun. It deals with issues that other shows turn into Issues, from underage drinking and gay relationships, to cheating and graduating college. As I said goodbye to these slightly caricatured but totally lovable characters, there was more than one point that I thought "See, this is what this show's about." And I was referring to 'a story about siblings,' 'a story about the real love of your college life - your roommate,' 'a story about love,' and a few other half-dozen plot points they managed to sneak in there. And that's the beauty of it - it's about everything, so there's always something to be invested in. It's (it WAS) sometimes predictable. It was sometimes really (really) not. And it was always (always!) enjoyable.

There's a very good chance you've never seen an episode, and, for that, I'm jealous. Because (if you're smart), you'll start fixing that soon, and you'll get to hold onto it a little while longer.

February 26, 2011

Best Picture

Since I haven't done all the reviews yet, let's do this inspired-by-haiku-style of years past:

Winter's Bone: Gritty, dark, with a lead who's wise
Consider the nomination your prize
Same for 127 Hours, with my man Franco
You're first in my book, but it just won't be so
The Kids Are All Right is probably suffering from time
Released in June, it's certainly not front of mind.
Toy Story 3 is just the third animation considered tops
I cried a whole lot, but it doesn't quite have the chops
True Grit, I liked way more that I'd thought
The Coen Brothers - count them out not.
Despite the acting, The Fighter doesn't stand a chance
10 nominations got them in this dance.
Black Swan - you are so intense and unexpected
I think Portman's in, but you'll be bested
Social Network and Inception - brilliant and quick
You're a bit too young for the Academy to get.
King's Speech: You're a bromance and not too much more
And yet I think this Oscar is yours to score.

Another year, another Oscars

Make no mistake: I don't find the repetition of yearafteryear Academy Awards mundane, but reassuring and almost always surprisingly rewarding. It's like opening a Christmas stocking from my Mom & Dad - I know it's going to happen every year, and there will be patterns and there will be surprises, and I am going to love the process as much as anything contained.

As I sit here, the mountains of San Diego are being doused with snow - ten inches since this morning, and it's still falling - and the only thing on my mind is: What if we can't drive down the mountain for the Oscars? The roads are nowhere near plowed, and we live in a land of no cable, with only a Toyota Camry to our name. So, moreso than ever before, there's the chance that tomorrow Trevor and I will not be watching the Academy Awards. Gulp.

Of course the Oscars will still happen. Of course I could read about them online. of course I would know what everyone wore, and who won what, and who offended whom. And it won't change anything in the world at large. Right?

Well, let's not worry about that yet - let's focus on the Oscar predictions!

December 30, 2010

Movie Review: The King's Speech

As the circa-WWII reluctant king of Great Britain, bogged down since childhood with a stammer, Colin Firth is even better than what you may have heard. No one does uptight like Mr. Firth, but, in his posture, and as much in what he doesn't say as what he does, he gives real depth to a character that could have been a joke, or an empty sketch.

(I know what you're thinking: His inevitable Oscar nomination pales in comparison to his honoring as April 2010's Man of the Month, but it's still important to acknowledge these more mundane accolades.)

As for the rest of the movie: It's essentially a bromantic comedy disguised as a period piece. The tension is all based around whether or not stubborn royalty can learn to accept help from a commoner. They bicker, they make up. Secrets are revealed, they have to decide whether or not they'll stand by one another. It's all very touching, in an incredibly familiar kind of way. The sets are gorgeous; Geoffrey Rush is a very convincing Australian; Helena Bonham Carter doesn't do much, but she does have normal skin and hair, so the Academy will probably want to acknowledge this role as a real stretch for her.

7 Twix bars!

December 29, 2010

Movie Review: 127 Hours

Yes, this is the movie about the guy who cuts off his own arm. Yes, that part is shown, and it's definitely graphic. But it's also a tiny segment - easily avoided with a quick turtle duck into your scarf - in an otherwise interesting and beautiful movie.

How can a movie with only one actor that's onscreen for more than 10 minutes be interesting? The credit goes largely to James Franco who has real, how do you say?, "presence." As Aron Ralston, a 20-something daredevil who takes a bad step and winds up pinned by a boulder in an isolated ravine - Franco isn't the space cadet you might expect. He's grounded, funny sometimes, but also somber, reflective and relatable.

(This review isn't the place for it, but someday I'd like to do a serious case study on James Franco - the go-to guy for a stoner role, who has gone from total Spiderman cheeseball to someone who makes daring projects like this one, his Allen Ginsberg project, or 'Milk' and succeeds.)

As impressive as Franco is, I'd say the real credit here goes to director Danny Boyle, who's always made a very specific kind of movie. In a word: Manic. Okay, yes: 'Slumdog Millionaire' was such an overdone, contrived piece of crap that it made 'Crash''s unexpected Best Picture victory over 'Brokeback Mountain' look positively earned. But the colorful, loud, quick thing worked in 'Trainspotting' and in '28 Days Later,' and it's working again here. Steel yourself for a bit of gore, and get yourself to see this one.

8 Twix bars!

November 21, 2010


I thought that I was over 'Entourage.' A couple years back, the show began feeling like an obligation instead of anything enjoyable. They were over-dramatizing everything (as opposed to over-Dramatizing everything, which I might have been okay with); Ari had become a total one-note character. I was bored with it. But, on an impulse at the library a few weeks back, Trevor and I picked up Season 6, and I am now on board instead.

I like Jamie-Lynn Sigler for Turtle; Ari has actual dimension every once in awhile, while still carrying off great banter with Lloyd; Eric's not quite so pathetic; Drama is just as absurd as ever; the guest casting has been fun (Jeffrey Tambor, David Schwimmer, etc.) Maybe because the casting has been on, it took me four full episodes to realize that the new junior agent in Ari's office isn't, in fact, Mrs. Ben Stiller herself, Marcia Brady reincarnate, Christine Taylor.

Christine Taylor

Not Christine Taylor

Turns out she's actually familiar from playing a high school student on 'The OC,' which, incidentally, I've watched way more of than anything starring Christine Taylor.

Movie Review: Alice in Wonderland

I'm struggling to think of anything positive to say about the newest incarnation of 'Alice in Wonderland.'

To begin with: It's boring. Nothing's added to one of the most well-known stories out there. The surreal, colorful beauty common to Tim Burton falls flat here. The accents are inconsistent and often hard to understand, especially at the beginning. The climactic battle scene has been seen a million times before (I've searched high and low for corresponding pictures of the final battle scene of 'Enchanted' and a screen cap from 'Jurassic Park' where the dinosaur's eye is alongside the cab, but the internet has let me down.).

At least it's not too long?

6 Twix bars!

November 16, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

'Toy Story 3' was everything that I was expecting, Clever, funny and sweet, it was throwback-y enough for those of us who were kids when the first came out, and current/kidsy enough for the new generation watching this one first. I would love to write more right now, but my eyes are so bleary from all the crying, I can't quite see my computer screen. So, let's watch this trailer while I pull myself together.

It was a lot of fun to revisit these characters (especially Wallace Shawn's Rex and Tim Allen's Buzz Lightyear), the gimmicks were new and clever (Turning Buzz into Spanish mode, giving Barbie a Ken), and there were some true laugh-out-loud moments (The reveal of the cymbal smashing monkey as security guard.). And was that a flamenco version of 'You've Got a Friend in Me' in the credits?

For years, Pixar has been providing adults and kids with reliable entertainment. As the franchise that started it all, it's only appropriate that 'Toy Story 3' is just one more piece of heartwarming proof that they're the smartest movie house around.

November 4, 2010

Movie Review: Going the Distance

The weirdest thing happens when I try to think about 'Going the Distance', the summer romantic comedy starring perennial on/off/on/off/on/off real-life couple, Drew Barrymore & Justin Long: I instead immediately think of 'Date Night,' the earlier summer romantic action comedy starring never-been couple Tina Fey & Steve Carrell.

I don't know why. Maybe I think Justin Long should replace Steve Carrell on 'The Office' when he departs at the end of this season. Maybe I'm envisioning a future when Drew Barrymore & Justin Long are a bit older, and settled in their ways and can live happily ever after. It's probably just because we saw them around the same time.

Here's what was good about 'Going the Distance':
  • The ups-and-downs, priorities and downfall of the relationship were realistic (way more realistic than the likelihood that he'd work at a record company and she in journalism - hello, it's 2010 - but, hey, they kind of addressed that.)
  • Drew Barrymore was seriously funny - just the right amount of raunchy. It was nice to watch a romantic comedy where the woman has some personality.
  • Mustaches. Justin Long's buddies in this movie are hilarious.

Boston friends, did you see the movie/watch the trailer? How much is the guy on the right like Zura??

Here's what was less-than-good:

I keep confusing it with a different film movie.

So, I really enjoyed the movie while I was watching it: laughed, cried, all the goods. But the long term effects just aren't there. 7 Twix bars!

October 26, 2010

Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

'The Kids Are All Right' was the first independent movie to garner some serious Oscar buzz this year. Not a shocker, as it stars perennial Academy favorites, Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, and features a hot-button topic, gay marriage.

But here's the thing: The movie isn't actually about gay marriage. It's about a brother, who convinces his just-turned-18 sister to find out who their sperm donor father is, and the subsequent interactions of that father with the nuclear family. It's a totally average family - angsty sibling and his older, put-upon sister; tired parents just trying to do right by their kids and keep any semblance of their own selves. Anyone who's ever had a long-term partner will recognize aspects of their relationship in the one being shown on screen. And that's the point, politically-speaking: Completely intentionally, this film makes a statement about gay marriage by not making one.

A lot of weight is put on Mark Ruffalo and his sexual appeal - it's basically the crux of this movie, the kids' and their mothers' varying levels of ability/willingness to resist his charm. He's rocking the salt and pepper hair and it's-been-exactly-three-weeks-since-I-shaved-that's-how-effortless-this-is look, and in general is all smolder. For me, it tipped a bit to the smarmy side - it was like everyone else in the movie had to be extra pale so it was clear how tan and handsome and desirable Ruffalo is.

Speaking of pale, it was really fun watching Julianne Moore be spacy and kind of generally inept. I feel like I'm always watching her as a Strong Woman and it had long grown boring (I'm talking to you 'The Forgotten' and that one about the abandoned orphanage.). So watching her be the ditzy one was a nice reminder of what a great actress she can really be.

My main issue with this movie was how heavily it, at certain points, echoed one of my favorites - a little seen beaut called 'Something New.' On its surface, 'Something New' is about the challenges of interracial dating, but, just like 'The Kids are All Right,' it's also this beautifully shot, incredibly colorful love poem to the non-entertainment side of LA, a side all about native plant-heavy landscape architecture and farm-to-table restaurants.

But, I suppose, if my main issue with a movie is that it's too much like one of my favorites, I'm kind of stretching for complaints.

8 Twix bars!