Movie Review – Super 8
From the moment I saw Joe Lamb sitting on the swing set holding a locket, without being able to see what photo was inside, I fell in love with the movie SUPER 8. I realize I’m not seeing this movie the weekend on opening weekend, and so I am well aware of the references to the classics E.T., STAND BY ME and GOONIES.
The film deserves these grand comparisons for giving us rich characters we can care about, and for whom we can suspend reality for a couple of hours. The military cover-up of alien encounters is not a fresh story, but Abrams lets us simmer in suspense, when most movies would show guts, gore and too many details from the get-go. Yes, there are lots of special effects, but the relationship between the characters drives the story forward.
Joel Courtney who plays Joe Lamb delivered and outstanding performance. In one moment of defiance, he commands the scene and even overshadows Kyle Chandler who plays his father, Jackson Lamb. He’s the quiet leader among his pack of friends. Zipping through streets on bicycles and unable to reach parents via cell phones made me long for that time of innocence. Ryan Lee was a spot-on comic in his role as Joe’s friend and pyromaniac, Cary. Riley Griffiths, as Joe’s best friend, Charles also gives a notable performance. Elle Fanning’s Alice, the lone girl among the group of boys and the love interest of both Joe and Charles is sweet and charming with understated strength. Like the young characters in E.T., STAND BY ME and GOONIES, the movie-making kids in SUPER 8 are likable, memorable, and very believable.
After having just seen the much over-hyped film, BRIDESMAIDS (which I won’t even bother reviewing), I was so pleasantly surprised with SUPER 8, which to me, was a return to a classic style of filmmaking, a well told story and focus on the characters. If you haven’t had a chance to see this film yet, treat yourself to a matinee and sit back and enjoy.
Movie Review – Something Borrowed
My friend and I were 100% in the mood for a chick flick. We debated seeing WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, but put that idea aside for a little more cheese, SOMETHING BORROWED. It met my expectations and filled the chick flick craving nicely.
SOMETHING BORROWED had all the right elements, the two best friends who are not quite alike, with Kate Hudson’s character, Darcy, being the more fun, flirtatious and outgoing gal and Ginnifer Goodwin cast as Rachel, the more, studious and dowdy girl. Goodwin isn’t a perfect fit, though, as she came across on screen as the aesthetically more beautiful of the two. But Goodwin knows how to play the self-effacing, hopeless girl a la HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU and Kate Hudson has already been down the road of more vivacious, overbearing, kind of bitchy friend in BRIDE WARS. So the role for each of them is not new and perhaps a bit too comfortable – no surprises here.
John Krasinski plays the third wheel in the childhood friendship. His character Ethan is closer to Rachel (of course) and as expected, holds her close to his heart. When Ethan expresses his feelings to Rachel, Krasinki’s performance is golden. You just want to give him a big hug. For me, that was the only heartbreaking moment of the film.
The dreamboat in the cast of characters, Dex (seriously, very cheesy) is Colin Egglesfield. The five years he spent on the daytime soap ALL MY CHILDREN prepared him nicely for this role. He’s impossibly handsome, has a killer smile, is charming, but has absolutely zero substance. I’m sure he’s great in bed, though. He probably smells really good too! I’m sure there are lots of public references to him being a young Tom Cruise look alike. There were moments I thought I might be watching TOP GUN with those pilot sunglasses. He’s a hottie, for sure, but did not come across as a man to fight over.
All the right elements, I mentioned. We were treated to love scenes on roof tops, the Hamptons, comic relief in the form of a horny cousin of Dex’s, the girls’ sleepover night with dance scene bonus and even a night time run-in-the-rain moment (Dex didn’t get wet in the scene, so points removed there). There was plenty of good conversation between Rachel and Ethan and sappy, girly moments between Rachel and Darcy. The film played out exactly as expected with neither a twist nor a turn, nor even an unhappy ending.
It was not the best romantic comedy I’ve ever seen, clearly. I’m patiently waiting for another WHEN HARRY MET SALLY or 27 DRESSES, but until that little gem comes along, SOMETHING BORROWED fills the time and let’s me mindlessly enjoy a story which has been told a dozen times, this time with really good looking and/or likeable characters.
Side note – I’d love to see John Krasinski in the lead role of this genre. Girls would swoon and cheer for him to get the girl in the end. Trust me. He’s adorable.
Take note – stay to watch the credits, as there is one quick scene with Darcy and Ethan and a “To be continued…” announcement. I’ll venture to say the title will be SOMETHING BLUE and that perhaps that darling John Krasinski’s Ethan finally finds love.
Movie Review – Black Swan
Today was Hollywood Day for my friend visiting from Vietnam. Black Swan was a clear choice for us both as we both adore Natalie Portman. I was also curious to view Darren Aronofsky’s work, since I had met and known him briefly when I worked at the American Film Institute.
The film has already received great reviews, awards and Oscar nominations; I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.
My first words when the film ended were, “Bravo, Darren. Well done.” I’m not sure there was anything about this movie I didn’t like. Natalie turned in a wonderful, magnetic performance and the story was rock-solid, sucking me into the dancer’s dramatic world and character Nina’s twisted soul.
I loved the camera work and unique close-up angles, plus the hard-to-get shots in a room full of mirrors as Nina twirled and spun in practice. Sound effects with her breathing and beating heart, were all soft undertones which helped heighten the drama.
Under Darren’s direction, Natalie Portman shined, as did the supporting cast. Winona Ryder, while only briefly on screen gave a spot-on performance. Barbara Hershey expertly played the over-protective and smothering stage mother, a dancer in her own right, well past her prime and clinging to her own dreams through the life of her daughter.
The story is centered in Nina’s quest for perfection (with her mother’s persistence) and the torture and mental anguish perfection dishes out when one tries to achieve it. Nina sums up the entire production in her last line in the film “I was perfect.” And Black Swan was perfection, indeed.
Movie Review – Inception
After just writing about the fact that I haven’t been to a movie for ages, I went last night to see Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception. I was out an about Hanoi yesterday with my good friend Pete. We tired to squeeze as much into our Saturday as we could. After I finished my half day of work (seriously – should be a crime to work on Saturdays), we went and bought out movie tickets and then did a little shopping. I was happy to find and purchase a new phone, getting up to speed with the iPhone 3Gs (the 4G is over $1000 -can’t do). It was about time I had a proper phone! This is my first iPhone and within minutes, I was in love.
By the time I made my first test call to Pete, it was about 2:30pm and so we walked to his favorite place, The Metropole. High Tea starts at 3:00pm and so we opted to enjoy the occasion. I was sold the minute I learned there was a chocolate buffet. But you can read about that HERE.
By the time we finished tea and goofing around with our iGadgets (we tend to play any number of games of Angry Birds on his iPad), it was time to head to the theater. Movie tickets in Vietnam are cheap, thanks goodness. And with just 70,000VND comes your selection of seats. I like this concept tremendously.
Neither Pete nor I had read any reviews or even the plot or concept of the film. All we knew was that it was a thriller. Imagine my surprise when the film began in Japan and Ken Watanabe came on the screen. Woo hoo! So I sat back and relaxed and was willing to let this movie take me for a ride.
Let me just say that I like movies that mess with your head a little bit. I loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I even loved a much less noticed What Dreams May Come. When I was a kid, Nightmare on Elm Street scared the bejeebers out of me so much, I was afraid to go to sleep for a few nights for fear that what might happen in my dreams would happen in real life. That spurred many “Have you ever died in your dreams?” conversations with my schoolmates. So at the movies, I am more than happy to surrender reality and let my mind wander into new territory. It is fun and that’s what we go to the movies for…to be told a story and enter a parallel world for a few hours.
Inception was great in concept, but the execution of the plot fell way short of good. There was not a significant enough reason to actually commit “inception.” Some of the sequences were long and tedious…that white van falling, Cobb spending so much valuable time saying goodbye to his wife, and while a cool visual, the zero-gravity kick preparation. And the ending? Give me a break. Without ruining it for those who haven’t seen it…can we get a little more original?
So at the end of the day, films like Usual Suspects or Seven (both of which coincidentally star Kevin Spacey…hmm…), Memento, or even classics like Vertigo, are far better at making me think about the movie long after I’ve left the theater. Even Ocean’s 11 and 13 were a little more witty and clever.
The sad thing about a movie like this that it has such great potential with a fabulous cast, great art direction, visual effects and a relatively unique concept. But instead of staying intelligent, it looses its way with unnecessary violence, James Bond-esque stunt scenes and a sub plot that doesn’t truly enhance the main theme.
Am I glad I saw it? Of course. I was happy to go to the movies and see a film like that on the big screen. But it is one that I do not plan to add to my DVD collection once it’s in the shops here. Once was enough for me.
From seat 68A
On the plane ride back from Bangkok last night, I picked up the in-flight version of the Wall Street Journal. I found a couple of articles that were interesting enough, I thought I’d share them with you!
US & Hanoi in Nuclear Talks. Title kind of says it all.
If you are a WSJ subscriber, you can read THIS article about Rakuten, a unique company in Japan pushing employees to speak English in the workplace. For those of you who are not WSJ subscribers, I found THIS article on The Mainichi Daily News.
I hope my life never becomes as surreal as Naomi Campbell’s. I’ve NEVER been at a party where afterward I receive a bag of strange looking stones. I have NO concept of what that world might be like and I NEVER want to live there.
Of all the articles I read, I have to say that THIS ARTICLE about the movies released this year was my favorite. Maybe I’m missing my days at the AFI. I was so current with movie industry news then! Do you think this year is the worst year in movies ever? While I don’t often go to the movies in Vietnam, I do buy DVDs. Yet, I don’t load up every wekend and I haven’t gone to the shop anxious to buy anything except the TV Series GLEE. That makes me wonder about the quality of movies released not just in 2010, but in the last few years. In fact, the last movie I saw in the theater was District 9!!! Wow! What does that say?
What’s your favorite movie released in 2010?
A new appreciation
Tonight, I return to my room after celebrating the opening of a new hotel in Luang Prabang. This is one which is not a competitor, as the rates begin at $600+. The Amantaka was the former hospital in Luang Prabang and has now been restored and converted to a lovely, albeit austerely designed hotel. In a former hospital, I think I would avoid minimalism and go out of my way to make it as cozy and comfortable as possible. But I digress…
Marie-Helene and I were sitting in wicker chairs over-looking the black-bottom swimming pool which was aglow with floating candles. The dance performance began at the opposite end of the pool. I asked her how she ever landed in Laos and how she has enjoyed living here the last 10 years. As we talked, one of the daily flights flew over our heads. All of the planes which land in LPQ are propeller planes. The locals know exactly where the plane is coming from and which type of plane it is, even which airline. I find it all so very Casablanca.
We talked about out love for Asia and I told her that in the early 1990’s, I watched for the first time the 1956 movie, The King and I. In that movie, there is a scene where the king has invited a delegation to dinner and his servants perform for him. Do you remember the scene? They are all in costume and the story focuses on Liza, who wants to escape the kingdom.
The beauty of that scene was always lost on me until I moved to Asia, until I visited Thailand and saw for myself these types of dances. Now I find the simplicity of the performance so beautiful. You amy remember that sheets of silk were used to form a river. The dancers acted out emotions and set designs. Yet they absolutely got their point across.
Sitting there at this elegant party, watching this dance and soaking it all in, I still realize how lucky I am to have a chance to live life in this part of the world. It is so enchanting, so different and I am forever grateful that I will always have these beautiful memories for the rest of my life.
As a pre-cursor to a girls night with Mette, we headed to the DVD store where I stocked up on my collection of DVDs. You can’t rent them here, you just buy them. I bought seasons 1-12 of South Park, the first two seasons of Californication, the entire series of Will & Grace and about 20 movies ranging from “He’s Just Not That Into You” to “Gran Torino” to “Burn After Reading” to “X-Men Origins, Wolverine.” All these TV series and movies cost me just about $45. The quality may be great or it may be crap – who knows, who cares? I’ve got quite a stack to get through!
BTW – Can Hugh Jackman get any hotter? Yeeowza!