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!

October 25, 2010

Movie Review: The Town

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to watch a Boston-set movie without spending the majority of my time squinting at background street signs and building facades, trying to determine where any particular scene was filmed. Featuring one of my favorite North End restaurants AND Fenway's Boston Beer Works, 'The Town' didn't disappoint.

This trailer is actually really annoying, because it features a ton of dialogue that doesn't happen in the movie. But you'll get the point.

It didn't disappoint as an actual movie either: Ben Affleck the actor is in his element - all grizzle and simmering anger (and track jackets), while Ben Affleck the director tells a focused and well-paced story (He shoots landscapes and light particularly well). I was able to forget Serena Van der Woodsen quickly, in exchange for Blake Lively's trashy drugged out single mom; forgetting Don Draper was harder, but Jon Hamm was also working with a lower-key character. Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall, as the best friend and love interest of Ben Affleck's main character, were solid, if ultimately forgettable (Renner - or the script - could have done more with his character and the I-went-to-jail-for-you anger and rash, revenge-on-the-world decision making).

There was a continuity error that's still bugging me (The final heist is said to revolve around a four-game Red Sox/Yankees series, but a bar TV shows a Red Sox/Blue Jays game instead), and an annoyingly cheesy throwaway scene, in which Jon Hamm demands a warrant, that's only left in for plot necessity. And I wonder if there was some lost-in-the-editing process plot point to Victor Garber, or if his inclusion in that opening scene was just a shout-out to Jennifer Garner and 'Alias.'

I can't put my finger on where the movie dragged (certainly not in the prison scene, where Ben Affleck visits his dad, played by Chris Cooper, who packs a 5-minute role full of weight and punch), but the movie felt long. That also might have been my 10-hour car ride from the day before talking.

7.5 Twix bars!

October 15, 2010

Lookalikes Return

It should come as little surprise to most of you that, at least pop culturally speaking, I am at heart a 14-year old girl. Case in point: My life features infrequent internet, no cable access, and nothing resembling DVR, but I have found ways to follow television shows like 'Glee' and 'Life Unexpected.' These are both shows that I wish I enjoyed more, but to which I still find myself drawn. Judging by these new characters, it might be a lip thing:

He's in high school, potentially a love interest for Kirk,
but mostly relying on his acoustic guitar and
beach-voice "skills" to endear himself to the ladies.

He's in high school a teacher! Yup, I didn't see that one coming either.
Thanks 'Life Unexpected,' for keeping this teen-soap-expert on her toes.

But maybe it's just me: Am I just imagining the lookalike-connection between these two new recurring characters?

October 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Social Network

If there's any question that 'The Social Network' is written by Aaron Sorkin, it's decidedly answered in the first scene: Witty, biting, quick, and multi-layered, the conversation that supposedly set off the events that led to Facebook is the perfect introduction to the tone of 'The Social Network.'

There are few people who know how accurate this movie is, and I'm not sure it matters. It's a classic story: Man climbs ladder, forgets how he got there. It's left blessedly open-ended, and, years in the past. So, really, Mark Zuckerberg - Facebook founder/possible backstabber extraordinaire)'s life and public perception is still in his control (As he - or his PR folks at least - clearly know, judging by the $100 million donation he made to the Newark Public School System the day of the film's release.).

As Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg exudes cocky apathy, with both the innocence and scowl perfected in 'Adventureland' and 'The Squid and the Whale,' (put to far better use here). As the scorned CFO/Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, Andrew Garfield - who's about to blow up, you heard it here, not at all first - makes the most of favorable treatment (and a throwaway side storyline about a crazy girlfriend), and does a mindblowingly perfect Brazilian accent. I found myself falling a little bit in love with him, despite the vague similarity to Roger Federer (It's in the eyebrows.) (Speaking of: While all the featured characters could probably find something to complain about in their depictions, they should at least be grateful they got significant attractiveness upgrades.)

I, for one, find it intriguing that 'The Social Network' even got made. Dangerously current, it's written by a politics-focused TV scribe and stars unproven actors. In the 90s, it could have been a TV movie starring someone from 'Saved by the Bell: The New Class.' But it did get made, and it's damn good.

Nearly everything about this movie is done well, but the thing that I enjoyed the most was its - for lack of a way better term - modernity. I felt relevant while watching the movie, like I understood what was going on, in a more real way than I get with anything else I consume. And, since this is what Facebook gave us as a culture, it makes sense.

8 1/2 Twix bars!

April 5, 2010

Man of the Month: April

Being as I am a happily married woman approaching 30, I suppose it's a good thing that I'm not as boy crazy as I once was. But it sure can make choosing a Man of the Month difficult. My thoughts as I browsed through our DVDs this week in search of the perfect fit for April's honoree went something like this:
  • Jon Hamm. Done.
  • Taye Diggs. Done.
  • Paul Rudd. Hahaha. Done.
  • David Boreanaz. Done.
  • Eric Chandler. I miss 'Friday Night Lights.' Done.
  • Taye Diggs. Still done.
  • Have I done Jake Gyllenhaal? Regardless, I'm not sure I can support his hair in 'Prince of Persia.'
  • Peter Krause. Done. (Is it just me or is 'Parenthood' kind of boring?)
  • Do I even like Owen Wilson that much anymore?
But then I came upon two of the most controversial movies in our collection. And no, I don't mean 'Buffalo 66' or 'Mulholland Drive; I speak, of course, of 'Bridget Jones's Diary' and 'Love Actually.' (These are controversial only in the the-participants-in-my-marriage-don't-agree-on-their-hilarity-and-cultural-relevance sense.)

Has there ever been a more natural Man of the Month than Colin Firth? No matter how many times 'Pride and Prejudice' is inevitably done, Colin Firth will forever be the quintessential Mr. Darcy, thereby making him romantic hero #1 among most women between the ages of 14 and 60. And then he was Mark Darcy, possibly an even more romantic hero, because he eats blue soup, and falls in love with the essentially-unstandable Renee Zelweger. This is a man that does uptight yet sensitive man at his best. I mean, he's in 'Mamma Mia' for Pete's sake. In fact, I'd venture to say that Colin Firth's only Man of the Month demerit (aside from his decision to co-star in a movie with Amanda Bynes): His name's similarity to the totally not-MotM-worth Colin Farrell.

March 6, 2010

Oscar Predictions 2010

If you're still keeping up with me here, no doubt you've noticed that I'm somewhat less pop culturally active than I once was. It's true: I've been sometimes busily and sometimes very lazily settling into life as a rural dweller. There isn't a movie theater, bar (that's open more than 3 days a week, that is), or concert venue within 30 miles of here; we've reduced our Netflix subscription to 1-at-a-time, and I'm surrounded by people who've never heard of the CW.

That being said, Trevor & I have done our best to stay current: We're watching 'Party Down' on Netflix, reading all the 'American Idol' recaps, and have seen eight of the ten best picture nominees (Yes, I have been completely irresponsible in terms of movie reviews, but, despite evidence to the contrary, we really have seen 8.). And - to the aghast of the Squirrels Squirrels Squirrels - we're skipping out on our weekly rec volleyball league match tomorrow in favor of the Oscars (Yikes, what if tomorrow is our first victory? Just coincidence, I'm sure.)

First things first: The best movie I saw in 2009 was 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' and - as impressed as I am with Meryl Streep constantly - I'm not so into the imitation-as-artistry form of acting (Yeah, I'm talking to you other Mr. Foxx), and I haven't heard a single one of the nominees for Best Original Song (but, I'm still willing to bet the one from 'Crazy Heart' will win.).

So, here they are, my not-entirely-fearless Oscar predictions:
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: James Cameron
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges
Best Actress: Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Waltz
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'nique
Best Original Screenplay: 'Inglorious Basterds'
Best Adapted Screenplay: 'Up in the Air'
Plus, I'm sure that 'Music by Prudence' will totally win Best Documentary Short. Er, right?

February 16, 2010

Olympic fever

The Olympics are in full swing, which means I'm getting really worked up about obscure sports, feeling extremely patriotic, and spending 50% of my viewing time getting annoyed at the TV anchors. I won't even go into the Bob Costas situation, except to say that it is truly time for someone else to sit behind that desk. Now, onto the rest of them: Stop traveling so many awesome places, Mary Carillo. "Cat fight"?, Dan Patrick? That's how you choose to frame your interview with three female snowboarders? Really? And, finally, Cris Collinsworth: Doesn't your adorable wife Amy Poehler miss you?

NBC Olympic Commentator, Cris Collinsworth

Mr. Amy Poehler, Will Arnett

February 4, 2010

Man of the Month: February

For most of us, there are certain things we consider "given" in our lives - traits that have been the same for so long, that we don't even think about them anymore. Like, I hate bananas. This is just a fact in my life. But then, you meet someone new who becomes important to you - maybe you start a new job or join a new club/community - and all of a sudden you have to establish those facts about you to someone.

What am I talking about and what on earth does it have to do with Man of the Month? Well, the other day, I had to tell someone how much I love Denzel Washington. This has been a fact in my life for so long, I could hardly come up with articulate reasons for it. I mean, Denzel papered my locker, alongside Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Jonathan Brandis, all through junior high. He is just my go-to Hollywood guy. He's never been Man of the Month before because when Jessica, my old roomate/best friend soul mate, started doing Man of the Month as a college tradition, we had two rules - it had to be someone we could both agree on, and someone who wasn't a given. That meant no Matt Damon (hers) and no Denzel Washington (mine). (It also meant no Seth Green - also mine - but that's neither here nor there).

So, while I don't particularly intend to see his latest, 'Book of Eli,' I do feel like it's only fair to honor Denzel Washington as Man of the Month this February. If you need some articulate reasons, chew on these:

1) He's just plain handsome. There's no other word for it.

2) He met his wife - who he's been married to for 27 years - on the set of his first movie. His children have been drafted by the NFL and attended Ivy League universities.

3) The Oscar he won for 'Training Day' was a make-up for the others that he should have - especially for 'Hurricane.' When you've already won one, should have won a couple more, and then take home a second, that's a sign you're pretty damn talented.

4) Have you seen those Boys & Girls Clubs ads? I mean, come on.

January 22, 2010

Movie Review: The Blind Side

It's hard for me to watch movies based on books that I've read - too easy to nitpick all the plot differences. It's even more difficult when the book is based on a true story, where those plot differences - supposedly essential to making a movie extra movie-like - compromise someone's actual life story. So, it was with skepticism that I went into 'The Blind Side', a movie based on one of the better books I've read in the last 5 years (and it takes quite the compelling storytelling to invest me in football).

While the book weaves a narrative of the modern day NFL, including backstory on teams, coaches and positions, inside tidbits on salary, and explanation of how it all works, the film leaves [most of] that out - really, it should have left out all of it - Sandra Bullock talking about Lawrence Taylor at the beginning was distracting, disparate and totally unnecessary.

The movie's main strength was its entertainment value. If it cut some corners, summarized some character development or oversimplified, it felt at least productive to the overall story. And the overall story is, afterall, a fairy tale: Some kid, poorer than poor, who has been shuffled around the foster care and public school system so much by the time that he's 15 that he hardly knows how to read, much less comprehend high school subjects or regular social interaction, gets befriended, then taken in, then adopted by a wealthy family and winds up as a starter for the NFL? How could you improve on that?

I imagine it's somewhat insulting to the rest of the Tuohy family who gave as much as Sandra Bullock's Leigh Anne to have been so disregarded in the film. The daughter was demoted a grade or two (in reality, she and Michael graduated in the same class), the son was made extra precocious (as if a 10-year old coaching him would actually give him , and Tim McGraw really could have had some more barbeque stain on his white t-shirt: His Sean Tuohy was made a supporting role throughout it all while in the book, he's the first connection to Michael).

That being said, the main problems with the movie came from outside the Tuohy family: the recruitment scenes were plain cheese (It should be a rule for the future of filmmaking that college football coaches never be allowed to play themselves...even though the main recruiter, being played by an actor, was even worse.), and Michael's high school football coach was at times painful to watch. He was played with such over the top facial expressions, I felt like I was in a wax museum. It was as if the actor given the part found out that the coach turns out to be kind of a fame-mongering twat, and, in a bad page from the pre-Eternal Sunshine school of Jim Carrey acting, just decided to use his mouth and cheekbones to convey expressions. "Here, in this shot you're shocked!" "Okay, now, be angry!"

There's not much to discuss aside from the plot; the movie certainly didn't reinvent the filmmaking wheel. But, while it exaggerated some places (Sandra Bullock telling off a housing project thug) and skipped out on some great book moments (Sean Jr. taking a part of scholarship negotiations, it got to the heart of the story and told it with believable, not-entirely-cheesy conviction. 7.5 Twix bars!

January 19, 2010

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

I get the hype around 'The Hurt Locker.' Totally intense, beautifully shot and well written, it's the first critically and commercially successful film about the war in Iraq.

The movie centers around the final 30 days of service for a 3-man bomb squad in Iraq - they are charged with neutralizing the risk of all reported bombs. A variety of different scenarios - roadside bomb, body bomb, desert ambush - are shown as we learn about these three men and their demons and drivers. As you wait for the bomb to go off, or to see the right wire clipped, each sequence is so tense and harrowing that my neck muscles are now sore.

The ending wasn't great, wrapping things up a little too neatly so that it was bordering on contrived. But I love that this movie was directed by a woman (especially because that woman, Kathryn Bigelow, also directed 'Point Break' - and what's not to love about 'Point Break'?) and that where movies like 'Black Hawk Down' are all A-list stars and flashy special effects, this movie was mostly no names and grittier, down-to-earth cinematography.

I enjoyed the surprise cameos - Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, Evangeline Lilly - among the cast of no names. And those no names were great - the acting was truly one of the high points of the film - once I figured out who the main actor reminded me of:

The OC's Benjamin McKenzie


Kiefer Sutherland


The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner

8 Twix bars!

January 9, 2010

Movie Review: Invictus

I have no one to blame but myself.

For the last 7 or so years - however long it has been that Clint Eastwood has been working way too hard for a 79 year old man - I've been left wholly unimpressed with what he's given us, including 'Mystic River,' 'Million Dollar Baby,' 'Flags of our Fathers' and the preview for 'Gran Torino.' (It's true: I couldn't even endure the preview of 'Gran Torino,' with all that growling and over-the-top-obvious Catholic guilt.) So, I should have trusted my instinct about 'Invictus'; instead, I let all the talk (Sure, Matt Damon helped) convince me that it was an important movie to see and worth $10. It wasn't.

Beyond how incredibly slowly it moved (Seriously, HOW do you make the final match of a rugby World Cup sooooo boring?), the most frustrating thing about the movie was its ridiculously heavy-handed plot, symbolism and soundtrack. How heavy-handed? This song - which would be cheesy in the credits of an animated Disney film - played during the climax:

Because, how else could the audience understand how bad apartheid was, how much adversity Nelson Mandela had overcome, and how important this team was to the country? At another point, Matt Damon's character visits the prison where Mandela was held and - in a totally independent-from-the-rest-of-the-movie moment of surrealism - sees Morgan Freeman cracking rocks and reciting poetry. Just in case we didn't understand what his character was learning, he then tells his wife exactly how moved he is. Later, there's another completely-removed-from-the-plot sequence where the audience is tricked into thinking that a Josh Brolin wannabe is going to attack the stadium with his plane during the all-important game. But - wouldn't you know it? - instead, he just does a fly over so the whole stadium can see the 'Good Luck' on the bottom of the plane. Talk about a complete waste of time.

And that's how I feel about the movie - obvious moment after obvious moment - as a whole. Sure, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman were fine with what they were given to do - mostly look taken aback and serene, respectively - and I know a little bit more about rugby now than I did before. But I've got nothing else good to say about this movie. So, here's the resolution: I will watch 'Bridges of Madison County' and then Clint and I are done. For good, no matter what the buzz is next Oscar season.

6 Twix bars!

January 3, 2010

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

It only makes sense that Wes Anderson ('Rushmore,' 'The Royal Tenebaums') would make an animated movie. For years his movies have been both complimented and critiqued for their out-of-this-world characters, surreal plots, colorful backdrops and quirky soundtracks - in an animated world, those features just make sense. You can watch the trailer here.

Fantastic Mr. Fox succeeds at walking a fine line: It is both simple filmmaking at its best (Easy-to-follow plot based on a children's book by Roald Dahl, stop-go animation) and incredibly, incredibly intelligent (Anderson gives viewers a totally seamless jump into a complete - and completely delightful - new universe with quick dialogue, clever jokes and subtle and pitch perfect voice actors.). Of the 5 Oscar contenders Trevor and I saw over the last two weeks, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' was the best: Heart-warming without being sappy, laugh out loud funny without being pratfall-heavy or gross, smart without being pretentious.

The story is about a foxy Fox (It's true: He's voiced by George Clooney) who gave up the thieving life eleven years ago to start a family with his Meryl Streep-voiced wife. He wants to do one final job (a three-parter) because he's bored, worried about money, having a midlife-fox-crisis about who he is and needs to outsmart some mean farmers. Of course, being a smart movie, none of these reasons are explicit, you just realize them over the course of the quick 90 minutes.

Another reason it's perfect this movie was animated: Jason Schwartzman can finally play a teenager again. He's never better than when he's playing a whiny teenage-maturity-level manchild, but the facial hair can be a distraction. As Mr. & Mrs. Fox's son, jealous of his cousin's arrival, he's all sullen sass, and it's pretty near perfect.

9 Twix bars!

January 2, 2010

Man of the Month: January

We'd only seen 2 movies between September and December (Living 40 miles from the nearest movie theater makes film-going a little more difficult than when there was one half of a mile away.), so, over Christmas, we took advantage of a three week break and civilization to see several movies. 5 in fact. And the two best - 'Up in the Air' & 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' - both starred George Clooney. That made the Man of the Month decision pretty easy.

More than just his relevance this month, I'm realizing that I actually like George Clooney quite a bit. I like how at-ease he always seems, how he embraces his bachelor life and how smart his movie choices have been over the last 10 years. Finally, I love that he survived this:

And became this:

Let's hear it for bad glasses wearers everywhere, and raise our champagne flutes to 2010's inaugural Man of the Month, Mr. George Clooney.

(Oh, and yes: Official reviews of all 5 movies coming soon to a computer screen near you.)