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The King’s Speech

March 18, 2011

As a self-proclaimed movie buff it is a little embarrassing to admit that I failed to see the movie that won Best Picture at the extremely vanilla Oscar’s this year. First a note on that cinematic celebration. I did not think the Oscars were as bland as everyone lambasted them for being. I think that James Franco was definitely high through out the show, which might have made it more funny (especially when he said, “Congratulations Nerds!” after the presentation for the winners at the Scientific and Visual Oscars or whatever it is called). That being said, I think that Anne Hathaway should have turned down the giddy school-girl routine. I mean, the woman is going to be playing Catwoman, she can’t be prancing through the streets of Gotham, gleefully clapping her hands every time Batman steps out of a shadowy alley way. And even though I had not seen The King’s Speech yet, I truly believe that The Social Network got robbed in many way. Most importantly, The King’s Speech was a film that could have been made any year, any decade, an been effective. Everyone realize how difficult it is to have a leader that can barely speak (we all lived through George Bush). But The Social Network was not just impeccably written and forcefully acted, but the movie itself was so poignent and perfect for the time in which it was released. As we are all starting to get friend requests from out grandparents, The Social Network showed us how even a creation that is supposed to bring everyone together sometimes furthers us from real human connection. This sentiment shone through out the film with Jesse Eisenberg’s harsh but heartfelt portrail of the youngest billionaire in history. The film should have been recognized for it’s timelines and cultural accuracy. I mean, the movie critiques itself in the same way it was being critiqued. When everyone heard that a movie about Facebook was coming out, they all said, “It’s too soon, we can’t judge how Facebook has effected society yet!” Cut to Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin talking in their dorm and Zucherberg insists, “We don’t know what it is. We don’t know what it can be. We don’t what it will be. We know that it is cool.” That is exactly how the public still feels about Facebook and The Social Network hit that nail on the head.

Ok, I’m done with my rant, because for everything that I said, this was still an amazing movie. Imagine that your one job, not only professionally but in life in general, is to speak to millions of people, and that is the one thing you can not do? Would you be angry? Frustrated? Humble? Well I would probably be really pissed, as is the King in this film. Colin Firth is introduced to the audience as the Duke of York, or to everyone from this continent, the second in line to the throne of England. While that does certainty take the pressure off some, a prince is still required to speak all the time. And Albert Fredrick Arthur George happens to have a ridiculous stammer. Like, an insane, can’t get words out at all, stammer. It’s kind of like those birthday candles that when you blow them out, they just keep relighting, and the flame seems even bigger. Except the candle lasts for an entire lifetime, which would be a giant candle.

He's been standing there for 2 hours

So off to the experts the not-so-young prince and his wife (played by Helena Bonham Carter in her first good role since she stopped being in Tim Burton movies, which would be this movie, so it’s her first good role in a while). Now of course the medical experts and royal doctors are kind of the oposite. He probably should have realized this when one guy makes him put seven giant glass balls in his mouth and tells him to read a passage. No one should ever tell the prince of England to put balls in his mouth. Eventually, his wife Elizabeth stumbles upon an untraditional speech therapist who offers his services to the prince.

The therapist is played stunningly by Jeffery Rush. Rush’s incredible acting is coupled with the amazing room the set director found/created to the characters sessions in. Lionel Logue’s office consists of a large room with sparse furniture. It looks as if the walls had been wallpapered over 5 times and then ripped apart. It is bleak, but quaint at the same time, and definitely the oposite of the type of place the prince is used to spending his time in.

"Yes Prince Albert, the office is right up the stairs and to your left."

The prince is at first extremely reluctant. He is prone to outbursts and hates to have his royalty come into question. But as the unusual therapy continues, he begins to realize that it is not his voice or throat or mouth that is the problem, it is his concept of himself. Meanwhile, his father, the King (played by Dumbledore) passes and leaves the kingdom to his first born. Played by Guy Pearce, turns out to be an unfortunate choice, and would rather chase married American women then deal with Hitler and the Nazis kind of committing genocide and taking over Europe across the channel. Under the pressure to, uh, do his job, the eldest son decides to step down from his throne, passing is on to Albert.

This situation is massive, and a turn of events that the prince was not expecting. He has inherited the largest kingdom in the world, on the eve of the collapse of  Europe and possible invasion of his own country. During this time, we see the relationship between Logue and the prince intensify and strengthen. Lionel becomes more of a mental therapist or physiologist to the prince, and in turn, Firth plays the role of a changing prince and King incredibly well. Plus his stammer is amazing, I mean, amazing. This was undoubtedly a story worth telling and a film worth watching. It is uplifting and emotional, but very comical at points and can somehow be relatable to anyone who needed to overcome a significant obstacle. Oh yeah, and he gets to curse a lot…

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Paul Red Band Trailer

March 2, 2011

Here is the red band trailer for the newest alien movie to come out of Hollywood, Paul. Unlike the others, this is a comedy that stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, our favorite zombie killers and fake/real cops. The original trailer looked pretty good, but red bands always give audiences a better idea of what to expect. Since Paul is from the creators of Superbad I would say that the more curses and obscenities, the better. This might also prove to be Seth Rogen’s best role in a while (he does the voice of the Paul the alien). Because of the vulgarities, please keep it to 18+ (even though I don’t think anyone under the age of 18 is reading this right now, and if they are they have probably already watched the video, since kids don’t like reading that much).

Paranormal Activity 2

March 1, 2011

Due to all the work I had this week, my girlfriend and I decided to spend a night in to watch a few movies. So what is better for a night in then a bottle of wine and a scary movie to really get you out of your seat? That’s exactly why I picked up Paranormal Activity 2 at a Blockbuster Express kiosk the other night. I don’t have a great DVD player at home; it tends to skip a lot and get stuck multiple times through out a movie. Pauses are not something you want right in the middle of the scene in a horror movie with the intense building music, as the main character is creeping into the darkness while you are shaking your head knowing that the skinny white girl is about to get owned. So we were praying we would be cursing at my DVD player the entire time. Luckily for us, it was good and let us just be scared normally without being scared we were going to throw the remote at the player. I’ll admit I was slightly excited to see this movie. I thought that The Blair Witch Project was pretty awful, but as for the first Paranormal Activity, I would have to say it was pretty spine tingling. The premise was great and it actually looked like it was made by two people living in a home together. The first fil was a huge success, especially based on the return on investment (the movie was filmed for a shoe-string budget and returned $194 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable movies ever made). At first I was pretty skeptical when they said they were making a second one, even though they did leave that option open based on the ending. That is why I didn’t go see it in theaters like I did the first. But I am happy to say I was pleasantly and surprisingly scared after watching the second Paranormal Activity.

Horror movies don’t normally scare me, unless they are well shot, don’t use overly gory gimmicks, and are actually well thought out or written. The Exorcist still terrifies me to this day (and to all of you who are sitting there saying, ‘The Exorcist, I laughed at,’ just think about the spider walk down the stairs (yeah now you are all, ‘well that was actually pretty scary’)). The first one in this series also did the trick for me. Paranormal Activity 2 definitely gave me a few of those scares. The movie starts about 6 months before the first movie ended. It focuses on Kirsti Rey, the sister of the main character Katie from the first film, and her whole family (husband: Dan, daughter: Ali, baby son: Hunter, dog: Dog). Very similar to the first film, this family also begins having strange disturbances in their home. After the family comes home to a trashed house but nothing missing, they install cameras all over the house (because camera’s catch ghosts all the time, haven’t you seen Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel?).

These guys can catch ghosts with only cameras and hair gel

Of course their crazy babysitter/house cleaner from South America or Haiti or someplace where they have mastered ghost detection recognizes whats going on and starts smoking out the house, because ghosts hate smoke. Unfortunately dads don’t like it when they come back home from dinner and their house looks like a Grateful Dead concert went down. So he fires her. But the curious daughter starts digging after she gets yelled at for getting locked outside of the house with her little brother still inside (of course it was really the spirit that closed the door when she walked out, but normally it would be because she was drunk and forgot that the parentals had grabbed the spare set of keys). With a little research, Ali and her emo boyfriend find out that if someone once made a deal with a demon, then that demon has the right to take the families first born son, which in their family line would be her little brother Hunter. Gotta love library books about ghosts, demons, and spirits.

This guy made a deal with the Devil and he became an awesome super hero. Sucks for suburban families with babies

Really now there is nothing they can do but wait for some crazy insane stuff to go down. It obviously runs in the mom’s, Kristi’s, side because she is Ali’s step mom. Plus most bad things run on the mom’s side (obesity, baldness, nagging. Just kidding mom, I love going bald). But Ali also reads that it is possible to pass the curse on to someone else in the family (hint, hint, first movie). Once Dan realizes that his crazy housekeeper wasn’t so crazy, he calls her up and they start smoking that place up like they were at Woodstock and Deep Purple was cranking out Smoke On The Water (did they even play at Woodstock?). But just as you guessed, that demon ain’t backing down to a little smoke. I won’t ruin the explosive part of the movie for you, but it’s worth it. The end ties the first film one in so well, and there are some really chilling, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-sticking-up parts. Plus Dan learns once and for all, that when there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who do you call? Not Martine the extremely nice but not so good cook housekeeper that you fired a week ago. You call these guys…

Or these guys…

Just not this lady…

Cold Souls

March 1, 2011

That's a lot of Giamatti

I am sorry that I haven’t been posting for the past week. School and work and sickness has held me back from my cinematic responsibility. But now that I am recovered from a harsh week of essays and folding clothes, I am ready to get back on my game and catch up with these posts. Although I wasn’t posting, I was still watching movies in between my many responsibilities. Watching movies and writing essays do not really go hand in hand, which is why it took me 3 days to get through the movies. Cold Souls was another random NetFlix find. I had seen the trailer for this dark, quirky comedy about a year ago, and even though I wanted to see it I never actually go out and pursue these movies. They play at virtually one theater in all of Boston and just walking in there makes me feel like I need to flash a special badge just to prove I know about movies to the ticket guy. So instead I watch it in five minute increments while being told to price German khakis or trying to write papers on how high the cocaine content was in the original Coca-Cola. When I eventually got through those movies I found out that my feelings towards it was very much like the main character through out the film: ambivalent.

Cold Souls is an independent comedy featuring Paul Giamatti playing himself. I love Giamatti as an actor because I feel that he is very different from the rest of the actors in Hollywood. Even though he relies on the way he looks to get roles just as much as anyone else in Hollywood (it’s not like Matt Damon is running off to play a fat disgruntled middle-aged loser, Giamatti’s dream role), he still takes the roles that he gets and turns them into his own creation. His look does also allow him to break out of that typical role, which is why he is so good and why he is rarely recognized simultaneously. In the film, he plays a version of himself, obviously not his full self. But in that version we see an actor who is confused and lost. He is acting in a play by Chekov called Vanya, which I know less than nothing about, but I’m guessing it has something to do with a fat disgruntled Russian finding himself. He feels bogged down by the role and fears that he can not longer embody it. But Paul’s answer comes to him in the form of the New Yorker: Soul Removal.

This guy will totally remove your soul

Soul Removal does not in any way resemble the process in The Exorcist (even though that could have been a sick movie). In stead, soul removal, or soul extraction as the company that executes this process calls it, allows a person to have their soul removed through a weird, CAT-Scan looking machine. The person can then either decide to continue being soulless, or to have some one else’s soul be implanted in them for a certain amount of time. This company is run by David Strathairn, otherwise known as the awesomely villainous CIA Director Noah Vosen from The Bourne series. When the soul is extracted it is put in a glass jar and stored at the facility. The souls tend to look like black blobs, or gray strands, not the right flowing colors one might expect.

This is what my soul would look like

Paul gets his soul taken out and after realizing that soullessness wasn’t flying with him, he decided to try out the soul of a Russian Poet. This Russian soul makes him amazing in his Chekov play, but after his two week period with the soul is up, he goes back to the facility to return it and get his soul back. Unfortunately, Mr. Giamatti find out that his soul has been stolen and taken to Russia because an aspiring soap opera actress wanted try out an American actors’ soul (preferably Al Pacino or Robert DiNero). Paul suddenly realizes that he will do anything to get his soul back, and travels to Russia with a woman who is responsible for muling souls from Russia to the U.S.

Cold Souls? More like Awesome Vodka Russian Gun Souls

Mr. Giamatti’s trip takes him through sketchy Russian warehouses where he meets smugglers, gangsters, and common Russian peasants. It is supposed to be a trip that helps him define himself, on a search to truly find his soul. But the ending does not make you feel any better about him getting his soul back. I loved how the addition of someone else’s soul to a body only creates slight changes, instead of huge obvious cliche changes. And the dark tone of this movie, especially with backdrop of snowy Moscow, went well with Giamatti’s acting style. But the truth is, the movie did not make me care enough about Paul’s soul to root for him to get it back. By the end I felt that the movie did not do much to define the soul, or even really make it seem important. The assertion the movie makes that one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure and that everyone should appreciate and never give up who they are, is undermined by the lack of soul in Giamatti’s acting throughout the film. The first three quarters was well done, but the ending had me wanting something else. The soul is a great subject, but it usually only works when a demon is possessing one, or when one is talking to Morgan Freeman in heaven. If you want an amazing movie about finding yourself and a strange scientific operation that attempts to change a person, watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Same tone, same-ish context, better characters, better outcome, more trippy. Here’s the trailer for Cold Souls…


Apollo 18 Trailer

February 21, 2011

Here is the latest ‘unaltered found footage’ movie Apollo 18. Along the lines of Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield, Apollo 18 presents audiences with the top secret footage of the classified last mission to the moon. The footage does actually look pretty good based on the fact that it is supposed to be based in the 1970’s. From the trailer, it appears that the two man mission encounters an alien or paranormal force on the moon that gives them some syphilis like virus and probably drives them insane, which usually happens in space horror movies (See Sunshine, Moon, Event Horizon, plus an extra crazy Steve Buscemi in Armageddon). I liked both Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield, and most space horror films are actually pretty scary because I think that space is a pretty scary place in general, even though being an astronaut would be awesome. I think I will be seeing this, I think it has potential. Let me know what you think…

Criminal

February 21, 2011

Awesome Poster

As I was browsing through the massive amount of random movies on NetFlix On Demand, I stumbled on this gem of a film, which doesn’t normally happen to me when I pick a random movie from NetFlix. First of all, the poster is amazingly designed, which normally means that the people behind the movie actually put time into it instead of just throwing together the typical floating heads, dramatic background poster. I love con man movies, maybe because I, and probably everyone else in the world, secretly wants to be an awesome con-man and pull off some ridiculous job while screwing the man. But what makes this movie different from the rest of the run of the mill con movies is that the morality of what a con-man is really willing to do is a key factor, and becomes even clearer when the final twist is laid on the audience, which happens to be a great twist. The one hold-up I had before watching this was John C. Reilly. It’s not that I don’t like him as an actor because I thought he was incredible in Chicago, Magnolia, The Aviator, and Gangs of New York. But as of recently I have only seen him in less then dramatic roles.  I’m pretty sure the last thing I heard him say, or I should say sing, was, “If you want to get down on these hairy balls, why don’t you jump right in? There’s a crotch party right up in here!” So needless to say I was hesitant about watching a dramatic role from an actor that wore a Chewy mask through a quarter of the last movie I saw (if you haven’t picked up on it I watched Step Brothers last week). But I saw that this was from his older work, so I threw it on nonetheless.

John C. Reilly pulled through in fine fashion. Reilly co-stars with a lesser known actor named Diego Luna. Luna is a well known Spanish actor, but hasn’t been recognized very much in the States, besides for his roles in Milk and the Oscar nominated foreign flick Y Tu Mama Tambien. Luna’s character, Rodrigo, is a small time con man, trying to make minuscule scores in casinos by telling waitresses that they did not give him correct change. John C. Reilly plays Richard Gaddis, who, on the other hand, is a well experienced con man and knows the ins and outs of the business. He spots Rodrigo as the young man is about to be arrested in a casino and pull him out of there by pretending to be a police officer.

Then this happened...

Richard recognizes what Rodrigo is trying to do, and after the hopeless Mexican man explains to Richard that he needs a whole lot of dough to help his father out, Gaddis decides to take him under his wing for a day and show him the ropes. At first Gaddis is unimpressed, and continually more and more annoyed with the fact that Rodrigo’s conscience tends to get in the way of him getting work done. But when Rodrigo surprises him by getting an old woman to trustingly hand Rodrigo her purse, he begins to see a glimmer of hope and decides to keep the kid with him as his partner for the day. It just so happens that it is this kids lucky day. Richard gets a call from his sister Valerie, played by Maggie Gylenhall, who tell her brother that an old acquaintance of his is making a scene at the hotel she works at and wants him to come get the old man. Richard reluctantly goes, but upon talking to this man, who is a professional forger, learns that he has recreated a very valuable piece of old US currency worth a whole lot of money and want to sell it to the unlucky but absurdly wealthy business man that is staying in the hotel. The old man and Richard strike up a deal, and Rodrigo convinces Richard to keep him with him for the remainder of the day.

As the day progresses, the deal becomes more and more complicated, and more and more people get in on the con, making Richards life extremely difficult. Their mark also proves to be hard lined and kind of a prick. The audience gradually learns about a lawsuit going on between the Richard and his sister, in which the estate of their  deceased mother came into question and Valerie attempted to make sure that Richard did not get a part of it seeing that he went to jail twice and is a sleazy con man. At first this seemed unfair to me, possibly because I was still looking at Reilly as the hopeless innocent type like he plays in most other movies. But you learn more about Richard, the more you begin to see that this is a man that will do anything, screw anyone, push anyone under the bus to make sure he gets his money. Being a con man has to be an immoral profession, because normally you are screwing people out of their hard earned money. But Richards does not hesitate to do the same thing to his friends, co-workers and family.

John C. Reilly has a thing or two to learn from these guys. Straight class.

Rodrigo ends up playing an integral part in the con, but the majority of the film really focuses on how far Richards will go to get this deal done. This includes embarrassing himself, begging, giving everything he has away, and disgracing his family. I will not give away the twist at the ending because I highly recommend that you out there check it out for yourself, but I will say that this movie gives a new perspective on how glamorous and moral the life of a con man really is. And how every person gets what is coming to them. Here is the trailer, hope you enjoy it!

When Harry Met Sally

February 21, 2011

So to make up for the last, completely un-Valentines Day-esk posting, I wanted to follow it up with something light hearted and feel good. Enter When Harry Met Sally. After watching Manhattan while I was at work on Valentines Day, and only feeling the love from older, balding men, my girlfriend convinced me to put on this classic rom-com when we got home from our amazing night out. Mind you, there was a bottle of champagne next to us so I didn’t watch most of this movie. But I did remember liking Billy Chrystal’s man-antics so I decided to give it a gander while I had my wits. And call me soft, call me lady-like, call me what you must, but this Rob Reiner film hit the spot more then almost any romantic comedy I have seen. I definitely should have watched this on the old V-Day instead, because it does make you feel the love. I normally don’t like Meg Ryan, but I think that is just because she has played every role the same way she played this one, but you can never do it better then the original. On the other hand, Billy Chrystal has always been a favorite. Definitely a better representation of New York then his uptown counterpart Woody Allen.

The poster for this movie asks the questions, “Can two friends sleep together and still love each other in the morning?” I wouldn’t that this quote is totally inaccurate about the relationship between the main characters, but it is a bit more complicated then that. Crystal and Ryan first meet when they are in college. Ryan’s character, Sally Albright, agrees to drive Harry Burns (Crystal) to New York after they both graduate from the University of Chicago. They have a slightly insignificant drive except for the point that Harry makes about women and men never being able to be friends without having some sense of sexual tension between each other. I somewhat agree with this sentiment, at least at the beginning of relationships between men and women, but eventually, unlike these two typical movie characters, two people of the oposite gender can grow to be just friends.

AHHHH! WHY!

Harry and Sally part ways after the ride, with Sally slightly disgusted with Harry, and Harry slightly bored with Sally. For this point the movie jumps between random encounters the two have with each other, first on an airplane, and then I forget where. But eventually the two realize they are just going to keep running each other even though there were about 5 million people living in NYC at the time. So they just say screw it, lets be friends, even though the whole time they are flirting with each other and jealous of each others significant others. At some point in this time Meg Ryan has a giant fake orgasm in the middle of a crowded to diner to prove her point that women can always fake an orgasm while Billy Crystal sits across the table from her getting his mid blown.

Billy Crystal is the one that has been faking it

The two go back and for about whether to be friends or to just get it over and fake orgasm each other. They end up choosing the latter, which just makes things even weird between them because they don’t know how to bridge the “just friend” territory. Cue lonely montages, and warm cuddly make up sequence, with some great Billy Crystal “must-prove-that-I-love-her” lines, and the movie actually comes off as a well done romantic comedy. The banter between the two is actually enjoyable, and for the most part anyone that has been in a close friend-ish relationship that they wanted something more out of can relate to the two characters dilemmas. Plus it actually is a great movie to watch with a significant other because it is not too uncomfortable, the girls love it, and its not a bad hour and a half script. I definitely should have watched this on Valentines Day instead. And now to make myself feel more manly I’m going to go drink some of this Powerthirst and play sports all day…