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 too...as 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!