August 20, 2009

Movie Review: Julia & Julie

'Julia & Julie' is a movie based on two books – Julie Child's memoir, 'My Life in France,' and the book 'Julia & Julie' by Julie Powell. The latter was a follow-up to a blog about a year-long project Powell undertook to sort of kickstart her life: Cook every recipe in Julia Child's seminal cookbook, 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking,' (all 524 of them), over the course of a year. I've read 'Julia & Julie,' but not 'My Life in France' (yet).

Typically, I get annoyed by changes made when adapting popular books into movies, especially when they are big plot updates (I'm talking to you 'Cold Mountain' and 'My Sister's Keeper'!) – if the book was so good and worthy of adaptation, why are you changing the entire point of it? So, let's get the inaccuracies out of the way first: There was no big, dramatic, potentially marriage-ending fight in 'Julia & Julie'; Julie Powell wasn't a failed novelist – she was a sort of wannabe actress; turning 30 and finding out that she potentially might not be able to have kids were the catalysts for starting the project - she didn't have that group of uber successful friends that she was sort of trying to show-up by starting her blog; also, she had 2 cats and a snake (I know, big change, huh?).

Strangely enough, considering that it's based on true stories, none of these updates irked me (with the exception of the fight, which became way too much of a plot crux to have just been made up out of thin air). In fact, I was more offended by the trailer for the Peter Jackson adaptation of 'The Lovely Bones' we saw beforehand than I was by any of the changes they made to the book's plot (Seriously. Have you read that? Watch the trailer here and tell me what you think.).

I thought Meryl Streep & Amy Adams were pitch perfect (I found it hilarious the costuming decisions they made to try to make Amy Adams look a little “thick” - if there is one thing Amy Adams isn't, it's thick. Also, Meryl Streep is only 5'6". Julia Child was 6'2". Conveying that must have taken a lot of work!). Stanley Tucci, one of the most underrated and underused actors around, was also perfect in his role as Paul Child, and I expect we'll start seeing Chris Messina, who played Amy Adams's husband and who we recently saw in 'Away We Go', a whole lot more. Jane Lynch was a bit over the top as Julia Child's sister, but the scene after her wedding (trying to keep this spoiler free, everyone), is why the industry's all abuzz about Streep's guaranteed Oscar nomination.

I laughed (less than the preview would have you think, though) and I cried, and enjoyed pretty much every minute of the movie. Definitely recommended for Streep fans, foodies and everyone in between. 7.5 Twix bars!

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

I'd been looking forward to (500) Days of Summer so much, I easily could have wound up hating it. Luckily, I didn't. I thought it was smart, funny, original, and reassuringly relevant to relationships that 20-somethings have in this day and age. Until the end.

I'll leave this spoiler-free, and just say the ending was too darn cutesy. It made it feel like the whole film had just been a build up to one kind of lame, predictable punch line from a Readers Digest jokes page. And it's too bad, because Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great (though it's hard to get used to him having such a deep voice), his friends realistic, the soundtrack fun. It's hard to not feel like Zooey Deschanel was playing herself – equal parts pixie and sassy hipster, unaware of how beguiling she is – but she was perfect as the titular Summer.

There were other problems (An architect? Really?), but this is the kind of movie that I think will get even better upon repeat viewings, as you get to know the characters better. 7.75 Twix bars!

August 18, 2009

Movie Review: Up

'Up' does what Pixar movies do best - puts seemingly unrelatable characters front and center, and makes them real and likable. This time around, the character that we get to fall in love with isn't a toy cowboy, monster, superhero or robot - it's a sad old man (voiced by Ed Asner).

The story is about a boy and a girl obsessed with travel and adventure who grow up, fall in love and get married. Though they live a content life, they never achieve those travel and adventure ambitions. Eventually, the old man is being forced out of his home, so he decides to finally go on their adventure - and to take his house with him, by using balloons. Up, up, up he goes - and then he discovers that a curious boy scout who had come to visit is up there with him. They make it to their destination, and adventure ensues, in the form of a rogue explorer (Who, I was delighted to find out, was voiced by Captain Von Trapp himself, Christopher Plummer), a mysterious bird, and dogs equipped with voice transmitters ('Dug,' a sweet, dumb ol' dog, has some of the best lines of the movie - I could watch a whole movie just about him. Squirrel!).

The movie starts out melancholy, and quiet - I was told to bring my hanky, and this was certainly good advice - but it moves along quickly enough. After the sad beginning, there is just enough action and humor to make you remember that this is, in fact, a kids movie. Your attentions is kept and your spirits are up throughout the whole thing.

As Carl, Ed Asner is perfect, equal parts grumpy old man and devoted husband. His evolution to friend/psuedo-grandparent is as satisfyingly joyful as his quest to achieve that one final goal for his wife is heartbreaking.

I love the idea that a kids movie doesn't have to just be loud and colorful in order to be appealing. Like 'Wall-E' before it (which I think I liked maybe .25 of a Twix bar more), what I really liked about 'Up' is the sheer intelligence of it: I love that there are enough layers to be good upon repeat viewings, to both children and adults.

8 Twix bars!

August 10, 2009

Goodbye Boston!

It's been a long and wonderful 9 years in Boston, and in just a few short hours, Trevor and I depart for California. We'll be there for at least a year, and after that, who knows? I've been saying "We'll just have to see" a lot over the last few weeks. I've also been having a lot of Lasts over the last few weeks - last time at Fenway, last day of work, last volunteer shift at Rosie's Place, last ABC Club, last dinner out with friends.

Just as important as the Lasts, I've been doing a lot of Firsts. Nothing like a rapidly approaching departure date to put the fire under you to actually go all those places you always meant to. I am referring to The List, a note I've kept in my iPod since April, tracking restaurants, bars and attractions that I'd somehow just not done yet. Not everything is crossed off - if I lived here for another 9 years I probably still wouldn't make it to all the appealing bars and restaurants - but I am pretty pleased with my progress:

  • Cantab Lounge (Dive bar fantastic)
  • Cuchi Cuchi (Freshly muddled blackberries and gin? Yes, please! Waitresses dressed as flappers? No, thank you!)
  • 28 Degrees (Blue cheese stuffed olive martini? Done. This night also checked off the bonus accomplishments of Sibling Rivalry and Hammersley's Bistro - two South End hot spots I hadn't thought to include on The List)

  • Sam Adams Brewery (Must do!)

  • Dinner @ Centre Street Cafe* (This one comes with an asterisk because we actually had lunch here, a place we normally go to for brunch when my sister is in town.)
  • Flour (It is a good thing I live far enough away from this South End bakery & its recently opened Waterfront counterpart, because this was amazing. The Sticky Sticky Bun, as we'd seen on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, was just as good as promised. Yum.)

  • Twin Donuts (You just can't beat a good ol' rundown 50s style donut shoppe. Seriously.)
  • Clink* (I actually still haven't been to Clink, but I did go to its sister bar in the Liberty Hotel, Alibi, so I am marking it off. It's my list - I make the rules!)
  • Falafel Palace (I walked by this often during my last year of commuting, and apparently it's a bit of a Cambridge landmark. Tiny, cheap and delicious.)
  • 1369 Coffeehouse* (Another asterisk! After hitting up the Mass. Ave. location for their famous cold-brewed iced coffee, I realized I had actually been to the Inman Square location before. Alas. Mark it off.)

  • Parish Cafe (Deluxe sandwiches and a beer mug club? Damn!)
  • South Street Diner (When Sarah heard I'd never been to this 24-hour downtown diner, she said "You must never have been clubbing with me downtown." Yes, that would explain it.)
  • Wally's (Famed jazz joint, this is the one I'm most disappointed to have not marked off yet.)
  • Improv Asylum (But, hey, at least I've been to Blue Man Group)
  • The Friendly Toast (This place just opened, so I don't feel too bad for missing out on it.)
  • ICA (The recently moved Institute of Contemporary Art, it's now on the Waterfront with a Shepard Fairey exhibit.)
  • Angela's (Would have loved to try the guacamole here, but East Boston is just so far away.)
  • Santarpio (See above, just substitute "pizza" for "guacamole".)
Definitely gives me a few more reasons to come back and visit soon.

August 2, 2009

Man of the Month: August

You know how famous people are always talking about how hard their lives are with all this fame and fortune? (And doesn't it seem like it's the famous people most desperate for the spotlight who complain the loudest? And they're often the ones with the least reason to be famous). Boo freaking hoo, right?

But do you know when I do feel sorry for celebrities? When they do genuinely amazing work, with little or no recognition for it. This is the syndrome that cancels the My So-Called Lives, Freaks & Geeks and Arrested Developments of the world after 1 or 2 seasons, while keeping 'According to Jim' on the air for 8 years (I wish I was kidding.). This is the affliction that leaves Lauren Graham, she of the brilliant Lorelai Gilmore creation, Emmy and Golden Globe free, while Jeremy Piven of the funny but mostly one-dimensional Ari Gold, makes his way to the podium – again. And this is why, this month, we are celebrating Kyle Chandler as Man of the Month.

Kyle Chandler plays Coach Eric Taylor, the heart and soul of one of the three best television shows on today, 'Friday Night Lights' (The other two being 'The Office' and 'Mad Men' – 'Lost' is too hot and cold) – a show that the Emmys somehow thought it sensical to nominate for “Outstanding Casting,” one of those prizes they don't even announce on the telecast, without recognizing a single member of that outstanding cast in the acting categories. Brilliant.

I've babbled on about 'Friday Night Lights' before – about how tragic it is that it's not more watched and about the reasons for this (People think it's about high school kids; people think it's about football; people think it's about high school kids playing football; all of these people are wrong; etc.). For today's purposes, that's neither here nor there (But those people are wrong.). And while I might love Tammie, played by the brilliant, subtle, smart, sassy, classy Connie Britton, even more than Eric, this is Man of the Month, not Celebrity of the Month. So, this August, we salute you, Kyle Chandler, for being a wonderful television dad, a brilliant deliverer of the well-meaning evil eye, and most of all, for making a football obsessed, middle-aged Texan sexy to a liberal, 20-something, baseball fan of an urbanite. Clear eyes, full hearts indeed.