Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 2011 Books and Movies

Due to my voice surgery, this month was definitely full of movies. 20+ hours of plane rides contributed nicely as well. :)

Beautiful Lies (De vrais mensonges)

Generally I really like Audrey Tatou, but this film was a tad weak for me. The premise was essentially stolen from whichever Shakespeare comedy of errors you prefer, Love’s Labour Lost, As You Like It (aka The Merry Wives of Windsor), Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream so it feels a bit ho hum. The male lead isn’t jumping off the screen as Jean the love interest, and the characters in general seem two dimensional and lackluster. I did love the cinematography, as it’s set in the south of France, but that’s about it. Amelie has no competition from this.

Blue Valentine

Reviewers en masse loved this from the alternative weekly papers to the big dailies. What the heck were they on about? Yes, I get that it’s a depiction of love gone sour, but it’s really had to feel any sympathy for either one of these characters, let alone journey with them in their pain and self pity. Michelle Williams was marginally better than the pitiful Ryan Gosling, although I’ve never much cared for him. The storyline is told well in flashbacks, and the editing is really clever, but unless you’re watching it for free, say on a 15 and a half hour flight to Hong Kong ☺, give it a miss.

Shrek 4

The first half of this movie was pretty bad, and much what you’d expect from a sequel to a sequel to a sequel. But the second half impressed me. They were able to completely reinvent the story within the Land Far Far Away and fairy tale setting. I loved Fiona’s alternate character in the alternate universe, as well as some of the new characters they brought in. I’m a flute player, so it’s a given that I enjoyed the Pied Piper. He really played a mean jazz flute! ☺ I love Mike Myers, so I have no doubt that when they get around to making Shrek 5, I’ll see it at some point.

Die Fremde (When We Leave)

This was really good. Tragic in a makes you want to punch your screen kind of way. The actress who played Umay was absolutely brilliant. Her command of subtle emotion acting technique absolutely blew me away. The story is heart wrenching. She escapes Istanbul and an abusive marriage, only to find that back home in Berlin, she is painted a whore and a dishonourable daughter by her mother, father, brothers and sisters. She does everything for her son’s safety, but it just doesn’t matter. As far as her family is concerned, she should just leave the boy with them, and slink off in disgrace. I won't spoil the ending here, but really, give it a go, it's quite something.

Toy Story 3

I've loved Toy Story since the first time I saw it in 1996 on one of those first few dates that you keep starting new relationships to experience. The relationship didn't last, but the love of Toy Story and it's sequel did. I'm so glad I wasn't disappointed with the third instalment. Andy's all grown up and off to college, but Woody, Buzz Lightyear and all the others are still the same. The new little girl is really cute and the happy ending is wonderfully feel good. Definitely see it, with or without kids!

Black Swan

This was as good as everyone said, although slightly marred of late by Natalie Portman's claim that her dance double only performed 10% of the dancing in the film. (Um, I don't think it's possible to learn en pointe in 1 year, even if you are a big Hollywood star.) It was suspenseful, downright creepy at times and full of beautiful music and dance. I've always loved Swan Lake, the music is some of Tchaikovsky's best. Again, it was nice to see Winona Ryder after a while, but sorry to see she's still doing bit roles. I was impressed with Jackie from That 70s Show. She was quite good. All in all, not too shabby for a blockbuster!

The Adjustment Bureau

I really really wanted to like this. And I did like some of it. I liked Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and especially Anthony Mackie. I liked the romance, the thrills and the New York (not Toronto as stand in) cinematography. I did not like the inference that some sort of monotheist power controls our life plan. Ick, ick, ick. It's really clever and original, and I can see how some audiences would have spontaneously applauded, as I've read, or why it's gotten good reviews. But these people must have a strong belief that there is a greater plan, someone in charge etc. And I just can't get behind that.

Logan's Run

Hmmm, supposedly one of the best late 60s early 70s sci-fi flicks of all time. Give me 2001: A Space Odessey any day. While the special effects were phenomenal for it's day, the movie was very trite and cliche. I just couldn't get into either of the leads, or the plot. Then I looked it up (sometimes the internet can be a very bad thing) and found out the movie is nothing like the book, and that I would have liked the plot twists in the book better. So a bit of a fail for me. Another J rave, which would put him 0 and 2 this month! :)

Torchwood: Children of Earth

I love Torchwood, and this was really good, but it really felt empty without Tosh and Owen. And then they had to kill off yet another cast member! I'm looking forward to the latest instalment set in the US, but I still prefer the first 3 seasons. As long as John Barrowman is on screen, I'll be tuning in for sure. This season was really creepy, with the children being the mouthpieces for the aliens and all, but not as scary as some people said it would be.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask

Wow, this was pretty bad. Both K and I thought so. It was on recommendation from J, but I think it's more of a guy movie. The jokes were stupid, and most of the time, I really like Woody Allen. The vignette about the sheep was atrocious. In all, not my kind of movie.


This was really good. A fleshed out, somewhat fictional account of the event leading up to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Great cast (good to finally see Christian Slater in something and weird to see pre train wreck Lindsay Lohan) and an interesting look at the politics of the day. Even though you know how it's going to end, the movie still surprises you. Really good.

The Band's Visit

This film is absolutely brilliant and a great example of how people come together to create something amazing even if they are from different cultures within the same country. The actor who plays Tawfiq is an Israeli Jew who was born in Iraq. The actor playing Haled is an Israeli Arab. The actress who played Dina was born in Israel of Moroccan Jewish parents. The storyline is quite simple. An Egyptian military band is invited to Israel to play at an Arab cultural centre but accidentally gets on a bus to the wrong town. They spend the night there until the next bus in the morning and interact with the locals. Apparently it the Academy rejected it as Israel's submission for best foreign film because more than 50% of the film's dialogue was found to be in English, as opposed to Arabic and Hebrew. The
article is quite good on this film. An absolute must see.

Sex and Death 101

Ummm, not the most memorable thing I've ever seen. The guy from the Metalist and The Devil Wears Prada was very good. Interesting concept, he's provided with a list of everyone he's ever slept with, and hilarity ensues, as the last person on the list is a purported serial killer. It was nice to see Winona Ryder after a long while. Not great, but a few laughs.

New York, I Love You

Not nearly as well done as Paris je t'aime. Too many cliches. I could tell what was going to happen next in most vignettes. Plus, there were too many character crossovers that felt very contrived. It was great cinematography, and New York makes a great backdrop for any film. I supposed Paris is prettier, in that respect, but part of New York's charm is its grittiness. I'll be interested in seeing any other city featured in this short film style. The very best part though, was the appearance of Anton Yelchin. I luuurve him, and I haven't see him since Star Trek. I was also impressed with Natalie Portman's directing. Worth a look.