Friday, December 28, 2012

1793 - Dexter: season seven

It takes a lot to come back from something that was the shit-show of season six of this series, but I'd argue that Dexter has done it.  I've read complaints that this was a half-solid season and a half slippery slope.  I can't imagine you're reading this without already having seen the show, but let it be know that there are SPOILERS BELOW...

The only decent thing about season six was, literally, the final few seconds where Debra walked in on Dexter - changing the fate of the show forever.  This season was all about Debra coming to grips with who Dexter is, and also more-or-less becoming his sidekick in a weird way.  All that fueled with a bizarre love-triangle with the fantastic Hannah and you've got a pretty solid season - top that with a half-season villain of Isaac Sirko and it's even stronger.  A lot of people complained that Isaac was taken out too early - I'd argue that it would have been hard to keep him up and build towards this season's climax.  I was actually hoping that Hannah would be the one to take out La Guerta and thereby protecting Dexter and making Debra owe her one - possibly the one way to get her off her back and make it so that Dexter and she could be together - although turning Debra into a killer is a pretty smart move forward for the show.  Will she spin out of control?  Should be interesting, especially since Hannah is still in play.  Could the two of them still have a happy ending?  I'm interested to see where the final season will take us since things have (somewhat) been brought back to a status quo.  I have to say that I want a final season that sees Dexter, somewhat, on the run - how else can this end on a happy note without him faking his own death? 

We shall see in the fall of 2013...

1792 - Les Miserables

 Years ago I saw Les Mis on a school trip to London, England.  I even want to say that Colm Wilkinson was playing the lead still, but I can't recall for certain.  We got last minute seats and so I we were in the sixth balcony of this huge theatre, and even through shared binoculars the actors seemed like ants on the stage.  Needless to say outside of some great music I didn't really enjoy the experience as it was less than ideal.  So that was a great place to enter into seeing the film - my expectations weren't really anything.
This is a really great story - it's epic in scope and yet small and personal.  The performances are fantastic and arguably flawless in some areas.  Tom Hooper made a solid choice to film the ballads in mostly unbroken medium shots and it's inspired and beautiful - really allowing a true performance - and none is more perfect and heart-breaking than Anne Hathaway's.  I'm not an oscar-whore, nor do I take much stock in them, but if she doesn't get some recognition for her supporting role then it's a damn shame, I say.  Jackman is pretty great but I have to say that role isn't all that exciting to me - the stand-out male role goes to Russel Crowe as the complicated and conflicted officer of the law.  What happens to him is heart-breaking in a very bizarre way.  I want to say a lot more, but I won't and will leave that for you to discover. 
If you like musicals of epic scope you'll dig this.  I did find it a touch long in some spots - and some of the sing-songy dialogue I could have done without - give me a proper song and music or just speak dialogue, I say! 
But all in all, a hell of a show well done!  See it on the big screen with the big sound if you're going to see it at all.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

1791 - Django Unchained

Nothing says Christmas Day like slavery!  Although to be honest, ironically I never felt watching this like it was a 'slave' film so much as that was the looming backdrop for a unique revenge story.  I go back and forth on Tarantino, but this just might be my favorite of his films.  It's easily the most entertaining, and I think has the strongest through line of anything that he's done.  The cast is fantastic - I don't put a lot of stock into it but expect nominations all around here.  Tarantino's skills as a filmmaker are on fire here - it's sweet, it's suspenseful, it's hilarious, it's a true roller coaster and a hell of good time at the movies.  At nearly three hours it never feels it whatsoever and just chugs along, the story swerving here and there but always with it's eye on the prize.
If you've even been a Tarantino fan this is the one to see.  Please put out a kick-ass bluray and I'll be there in a heart beat. 
I could write a lot more about it, but it's really worth discovering all it's little gems on your own!  As it is, I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

1790 - Elf

This is the last of the absolutely essential Christmas films I watch each year (or try to) - there's always a few more that I try to get around to, but this is one of the must-sees.  It's amazing to think it's a decade old at this point, and I absolutely forgot that Zooey Deschanel was a blonde in this film.  I adored her when I first saw this and still do today - it's nice to see things work out for people like this who really deserve it - the film is chock full of great characters but she's an absolute delight through and through.
This film is more gags per minute than most films, but it never feels like it's forcing it or trying too hard.  One liners, visual gags, it's a unique magical thing. 
This film has been out for about a decade so if you haven't seen it then you really really owe it to yourself - it's on Netflix currently so many sure you get around to it over the holiday season - whether you're new to this film or it's an old favorite - I always discover new gems in this one.  Hopefully you do too!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

1789 - Scrooged

I'm pretty predictable when it comes to my holiday viewing of cinema.  It's Muppets, this, and Elf which are always my staples.  In fact I raced around a few Christmases ago to find this on DVD.  We had a friend over tonight who'd never seen it and so it was my duty to make sure she had and I think she was enchanted by it as well.  It's amazing that this film is close to 25 years old - it easily still stands up today - the comedy is sharp - the heart intact.  I'd argue that the ending gets a taaaaad preachy at the very very end, but I can live with that.  I grew up with the TV version which was edited for time and content so it's still a tad odd for me to watch this as was originally intended - but I love it all the more.
If you've never seen this update on A Christmas Carol you're missing out especially if you're a comedy lover and enjoy Bill Murray.  The cast is loaded with strong performances.  I can't say that this is a film for the entire family - but teenagers could easily enjoy.

Seriously though - if you've never seen this before get on it before the holidays are over.  You'll thank me.

1788 - 50/50 (commentary)

You can find a full review or two here already of this film as it's not my first viewing, but I decided to check out the commentary whilst I was doing some other things.  It's not the most informative - but it's a good time had by what appears to be good friends hanging out - including the writer whom the film's story is based on.  The commentary provides some decent stories and laughs but I wouldn't call it essential listening.  If you haven't see the film yet please do though - it's fantastic and one of my favorite of last year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

1787 - Homeland: season two

There are shows that you look forward to watching each week and then there are shows that you just absolutely can't wait to get to the next one.  Homeland is in the latter category.  Here's the thing - this show is immensely popular so if you're not watching it yet then you really just need to - it's got a great premise, solid cast, and fantastic storytelling.  So for all intents and purposes expect the rest of this blog posting to be SPOILER HEAVY - turn back now and catch up with this show.  You've been warned.

So I was pissed when they didn't kill Brody at the end of the first season - I thought it was a cop-out and didn't know how they would extend that character.  The brilliance of what they did was the first season you spent rooting to kill Brody, and they managed to flip it where here you're rooting for him to make it out alive. Very very strong reversal for us emotionally as an audience member.  For Claire Danes character this season has been a redemptive one, and she's as good as she ever was.  And so if they coped out with how they ended the first season they emptied the kitchen sink here.  This season was doing things in the second episode that I thought would take the entire season to get out - but they just plowed through a lot of great material with what seemed to be reckless abandon.  A risk that paid off in spades.
This season moved along like a freight train and made the world much bigger - I think some people preferred the smaller scale of the first season and, really, I like both and I think they can work together as well.  I love where this was left and how I can already see the seeds of the third season.  Clean slate for everyone in a really wonderfully heartbreaking way.  Hopefully the future seasons can sustain this quality, or they get out while they're still in fighting form.  I loved this and can't wait to return to it next fall.

Monday, December 17, 2012

1786 - Dazed & Confused

Good goddamn I forgot just how perfect this film in.  I was in the mood for a solid ensemble film with a great soundtrack and there are few that are on the level of this one.  It's interesting though, when you see great ensemble films often the music takes a large role as well. 
If this film isn't part of your lexicon it's a damn shame - it's one of the best coming of age stories and all the better because of it's wife variety of tales.  It's the last day of school for a bunch of kids in a small Texas town.  Some about to become seniors, the others about to become freshmen - but all of them are on the cusp of change large and small.  It also features a pretty impressive cast of up-and-comers and even the delightful Richard Linklater couldn't have predicted how big many of them would become.
If you're looking to pick this up you'll probably want to spring for the Criterion Collection edition (I have the usual) as I'm sure it's worth the extra $$$.
This is easily one of the best films of the ninties and of it's genre, one of the best in general.  If you were every a teenager in high school I just can't imagine how this wouldn't resonate with you somehow.

1785 - Get Him to the Greek

I'm actually not sure if I've seen this film since it was in theatres, but I remember (like Sarah Marshall) being surprised just how hilarious I found it to be, and what a fun film.  It's a great addition to the buddy comedy and while not quite a rival for Planes, Trains, & Automobiles it's definitely a close relative.  The soundtrack to this film (almost entirely - if not absolutely entirely original songs by the main character) is something quite spectacular and elevates the film from being merely good to pretty nifty-great (that's now a term - use it!).  Brand and Hill are a great pairing and their energy feeds off each other in really delightful ways and shifts nicely when they're with Bryne and Moss as their respective love interests.
If you've never seen this and are a fan of any of the cast or just the buddy comedy in general this is a must see - and the songs are an awesome bonus - I listen to the soundtrack fairly regularly.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

1784 - Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

Watched this on a whim from netflix.  I'm studying teen comedies at the moment and thought I'd check out this one.  It's a pretty basic story of a teen girl trying to navigate the awkwardness of being a teenager, find a boyfriend as well as social and self acceptance.
Is it a predictablity-fest?  Sure, to some extent - although to be fair that's exactly the kind of film that this is...  Despite being a bit on the cheesy side from time to time it's surprisingly frank and I think really cuts to the core of people in that age range currently.  This could be a fun film to throw at a teenage daughter who's coming into their own.  Also, very fun soundtrack.  Cinephiles aren't going to dig this, but it's not for them.  Those who would like it, I can only assume would like it a lot.

1783 - This Means War

I have no idea what made me decide to watch this outside of liking all of it's stars.  I was doing some work and wanted to throw something on in the background and wanted something that wouldn't be too demanding (what a horrible criteria for picking a film to view...) it's premise is a fun one - combine a rom-com with espionage.  However the problem is is that it means in the middle without bringing any of the real fun from either genre.  Outside of the opening and the ending the spy stuff is pretty lame (and I kind of have a hard time buying that someone at the CIA wouldn't crack down on them for their abusing company resources.  In fact, that should have been a late act twist - where all their power as agents is taken away and they have to win the girl - and defeat the bad guy without their main weapon they've had all the time, but I digress.
Reese looks lovely here and she and the others have light moments to shine and they do quite well - it's just not a terribly entertaining film and it never draws me in.  I was interested in who she'd pick in the end, but I couldn't really care less who she ended up with as I didn't really get a sense of love from any of the parties...
So I don't recommend or condemn this one - go with your guy - it's on netflix.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How NOT to be Popular

I read this book as a sort-of-assignment ( which I need to give myself more of - I miss reading ).  It tells the story of a young girl whose parents are second generation hippies that pick up and move every few months, and now that the girl is a senior in high-school she's sick of it.  Sick of leaving friends behind and hurting - so she decides that this time, in this town, she's going to do everything she can to make sure she doesn't get attached to anyone or anything.

One could argue that it's a tad formulaic but I don't know if that's a bad thing at all for this sort of story.  What this story requires, and has in spades, in a unique voice and point of view.  At it's heart it really tackles the core issues that haunt teenagers no matter what era they are in.  As someone whose getting closer to being the parent of teenage people rather than a teenager himself (holy shit that's scary) I think this book is relatable across the board. 

It's light and fun - if you dug films like Mean Girls or Easy A then this is probably right up your alley.

1782 - Muppet's Christmas Carol

This is one of my favourite Christmas films and while it made me feel super old to realize that it's the 20th anniversary of this film it was my delight in being able to share this with my little guy for the first time.  He's a fan of the muppets and his only concern was whether Sweetums would be in the film or not (he has a love/hate relationship with Sweetums).  Ultimately he dug the hell out of it despite the 3rd Ghost terrifying him.  The film ended and he declared "I loved it! And we're NEVER GOING TO WATCH IT AGAIN. EVER!"  We'll see next year...
For me, it's a pure and constant pleasure.  The music, the jokes, it's all working and Michael Caine fits in perfectly with the madness and yet gives it a poignant touch.  Outside of Bill Murray he could very well be my favourite Scrooge, and it terms of the classic approach, I think he safely is.
If you've never seen this version of this classic then you really owe it to yourself to - they put it out on Bluray this year for the anniversary and at $20 it's a pretty good price, although I'm sure you can find it on DVD even cheaper.  If you watch this and don't love it, you have no soul...

Saturday, December 08, 2012

1781 - Law Abiding Citizen

It's rare that you can spend 80% of a film more-or-less being entertained by it, only to have it's ending come and you become completely resentful of the damn thing.  I found the premise titillating and I was hooked enough to want to know how it would end.  I won't go into spoilers in case people still want to see it - but this is essentially about a man whose wife and daughter are murdered and the person responsible gets off on a light sentence by making a bargain, and about how the widowed husband decides to make the law learn a lesson.
Considering it's a message film I found the message to be buried a bit, and completely abandoned by the films final act.  I bought into the face that Gerard could make all of this work, but I don't buy into the ending - at all.  Feels like an awfully large cheat.   Again, no spoilers and judge for yourself.

If you're a fan of the premise (as I was) check it out, and hopefully you aren't as disappointed by it's ending as I was.

1780 - Molly Maxwell

I'm going to keep this short and sweet mostly because this film hasn't been released and I want you to discover all it's lovely little moments on your own.  I got lucky to be invited to this at the last minute, and I honestly had no idea what to expect and was delighted and thrilled by it.  It's a coming of age story of a young woman who forms a potentially, inappropriate relationship with someone else.  Sara St. Ongo, the film's writer/director absolutely gets this age group, and also the experience of young long, the awkwardness and excitement and she makes you feel it yourself while watching. 
I'm not sure when or how the distribution for this film is going to work but please keep your eyes peeled for it in the near future - it's a little gem.

Monday, December 03, 2012

1779: The Walking Dead: season 3 (part 1)

I think it's safe to say that this first half of season three has been as sigh of relief to anyone who was on the wavering fence of this series.  Much like the comic that inspired it, this show has finally shown it's tremendous balls and made no bones about it - it will kill the shit out of anyone and everyone as it sees fit.  In the comic version I believe that Rick and/or Carl will always be safe.  In the television series… I just don't know.  The comic clearly has Grimes as their main protagonist, but the series feels more like an ensemble than anything.  I love the feeling that anything can and will happen.  I loved watching this first-half-finale because I was actually really tense, worried about these characters that I, apparently, have grown quite attached to! 

So that's it for the spoiler-free half of this review - in short if you like good television and love zombies, I'm amazed you're not already watching this.


This thing has been a roller-coaster ride.  I love the energy, I loved Rick's descent into madness.  I loved how they killed off T-Dog just to give away the suspense of killing Lori.  Lori is a character I never really cared about, but her death made me cry like a little girl - mostly because of the way that Carl and Rick reacted - and the absolutely horrible thing that Carl had to do to help with her passing.  That poor little bad-ass. 
I love that this series no longer feels like it's wasting time.  Originally I thought we'd be at the prison for two seasons, but I wouldn't be surprised if the prison was the back-drop for season 3 alone.  I can't imagine the Governor's retribution being dragged out much further than the second half of the season - but we shall see.  If this is true then next season I want the entire thing to be on-the-road.  No home to call their own - completely fucked.  Thats a terrible thing to want, but there it is. 
The Governor was a really great slow burn - and I love that we've gotten to see the transformation a bit - the fight with Michonne (spelling, sorry) at the end of the season was pretty goddamn great.  And how about putting Merle and Darryl against each other?  (part of me thinks it's all part of the plan, though, to get Merle to infiltrate the group - have Darryl vouch for him that he was kicked out of Woodbury - it's pretty smart, if you ask me - and what wonderful drama we can get out of Merle reuniting with the group that left him stuck up on the roof). 
We've got two months off until the show comes back, and that's a hell of a shame.  Luckily the new book comes out in a few days :)