Quickie Reviews

 

So remember when I was all pumped about the Oscar nominations? Well, the Academy Awards are just a few days away, and I’ve barely been talking about movies here (or blogging for that matter)! I have caught up on a few movies, including two Best Picture nominees and… one romantic-comedy starring a future Best Actress winner.

Inception (2010)

Quick Stats: Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, and Marion Cotillard.

Plot: A group of corporate spies, led by DiCaprio, attempt an almost impossible task: planting an idea into a target’s subconscious, or “inception”.

Verdict: I actually liked this movie a lot more than I expected to. Even though Inception was one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters, I put off seeing it, partly because I am not a fan of Nolan’s work (and yes, including his Batman films). I’m also not really a fan of sci-fi and whatnot, but the story is really interesting, so it captured my attention. Luckily, I watched it on DVD who had already seen the movie multiple times, so I was able to ask lots of questions when I got confused. It didn’t “blow my mind” like I expected, but it’s a “must-watch” based on technical and visual achievement alone.

The Social Network (2010)

Quick Stats: Written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David Fincher, based on the book The Accidental Billionaires. Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer.

Plot: The Social Network tells the inside story behind the founding of Facebook, and its aftermath.

Verdict: This movie is very well-done, but I didn’t necessarily find it enjoyable, yet I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The script is smart and fast-paced, and the acting is generally solid. I guess there was something about the editing and pacing (I found it to drag at times) that turned me off from it. Now that I think about it though, it was hard to connect with the characters – all them were really unlikable, except maybe Esteban (Garfield). A little disappointing overall, but it’s not a bad movie.

No Strings Attached (2011)

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman

Plot: Um, it’s a romantic comedy… about two friends having casual sex… who fall for each other. Yeah, none of this has to be explained.

Verdict: This movie was actually really entertaining, though I think it’s mostly because of the charm of the two leads, and their supporting cast. I never have anything bad to say about Natalie Portman, and it was fun seeing her play such a mainstream role. She was pretty convincing. My main criticism, besides the typical rom-com predictability, was the uneven tone. No Strings Attached was trying too hard to be both raunchy and sweet, and it was a weird combo. It’s a fun movie to see with your girlfriends though.

Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think?

~ Sarah

Quickie Reviews: Golden Globes Edition

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3

The Golden Globes are upon us, and since it’s officially awards season, it’s time for a quick rundown of the some of the movies I watched over the holidays.

True Grit (2010)

Quick Stats: Written and directed by the Coen Brothers. Second adaptation of a 1968 novel of the same name. The original Western won John Wayne his only Oscar. Was not nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press for any Golden Globes.

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Hailee Steinfeld.

Plot: Fourteen year-old Mattie (Steinfeld, in her feature film debut) hires a merciless U.S. Marshall, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges, Crazy Heart), to hunt down her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Brolin, Jonah Hex).

Verdict: I love this movie!! It’s entertaining, funny, and just a solid showcase of acting. Since it’s a Western, the movie stands out from today’s indie “dramedies” and big budget blockbusters. The characters are something else, especially Rooster and LeBoeuf (Damon). Although Bridges outacted him, I’m really starting to dig Damon in these subtly hilarious roles, like his lead role in The Informant! And I have to mention Steinfeld- the chick is younger than my little brother, and she has a bright future ahead of her. Even if you’re not a Coen Brothers fan (definitely don’t blame you), I recommend this movie.

Black Swan (2010)

Quick Stats: Directed by Darren Aronofsky, of The Wrestler fame. Nominated in four major Golden Globe categories.

Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Vincent Cassel.

Plot: The virginal ballerina Nina (Portman) wins the role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake over her sensual rival Lily (Kunis), but the part soon begins to consume her.

Verdict: I know that I should love this movie, especially since my adoration for Natalie Portman is well-documented. And honestly, I really can appreciate the artistic qualities and production value behind Black Swan. You can just tell this movie will be dissected and analyzed for years to come. But did I enjoy it? No, the film is meant to be disturbing. My initial reaction was that it was a mind**** (yes, fill in the blank). Still, I guess it might be a must-watch because otherwise, you just won’t get what everyone is talking about.

The King’s Speech (2010)

Quick Stats: Directed by Tom Hopper. Based on the true story of King George VI. The screenplay was based of the Queen Mother’s personal diaries. Nominated for seven Golden Globes.

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Plot: The film tells the story of the Duke of York (Firth) and speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush) who helped the future king overcome a stammer.

Verdict: This is my type of movie. I’m a history buff, especially when the British royal family is involved. To some, the subject may feel irrelevant, but George VI came into power at the height of the radio era, so strong speech skills were of a newfound importance- especially once WWII started. I loved this movie- despite the slow, steady pace, this is a great blend of history, politics, and drama.

All of these movies have the potential to be Oscar contenders. Have you seen any of these? Which ones are your favorites? And are you watching the Golden Globes tonight?

~ Sarah

Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right, directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko, is one of this summer’s most talked about independent movies. It’s a drama-comedy centered around a couple, Nic (Annette Bening, American Beauty) and Jules (Julianne Moore, A Single Man). Using the same anonymous sperm donor, they each gave birth to a child, respectively,Joni (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland) and Laser (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia).

Life at home is pleasant and comfortable, albeit a little stale and at times strained. The film picks up the summer before Joni leaves for college. Laser comes to his half-sister with a favor: since she is now 18, she can contact the sperm bank for information on their biological father. Their dad turns out to be Paul (Mark Ruffalo, 13 Going On 30), an easy-going bachelor turned restaurateur. At first Nic and Jules are supportive of their children’s decision to meet Paul, but soon his inclusion begins to shift the delicate family dynamic. This culminates when Jules and Paul, who were working together on a landscaping project, spontaneously begin an affair of sorts.

Two things about this movie really stood out to me: the performances and the writing. Moore does a great job as Jules, the unfocused, free-spirit mom still looking for direction in her life. Likewise, Benet is a great fit as Nic, the type-A doctor who is overly fond of wine. Their characters could have easily become caricatures, but both actresses approach their roles with honesty. It’s instantly believable that these two women have been a relationship spanning two decades. I expect both of them to get plenty of nominations and recognition come award season.

Ruffalo also gives a solid performance as Paul, probably the most complicated character. Ruffalo is an underrated actor, but he manages to make Paul likable even though he screws things up pretty badly. Wasikowska is good as well, and I expect great things from her in the future. However, the material for her and Hutcherson isn’t the best- when the teens are shown with the friends it seems superficial. The two of them shine alongside Moore and Bening.

The writing is also strong, and for the most part it gives the actors good material to work with. There are few things I enjoy more in comedies than witty banter, and The Kids Are All Right has plenty of it. Thankfully, not too much attention is focused on the fact that the parents are also lesbians. This isn’t a movie about homosexuality, it’s a movie about a family. The people in this movie deal with very real and universal problems, from infidelity to mid-life crises. This is a sophisticated and smart movie, but beyond it’s premise, it’s not as original as you would like. That’s why The Kids Are All Right isn’t completely satisfying, but it’s still a worthwhile watch.

What do you think? Are you planning on seeing this movie, or have you already?

~ Sarah