Friday, February 27, 2009

Der Untergang (Downfall)

So what is this one about?
I will leave this one to Wikipedia,
In the last days of World War II in Europe, the Soviet Red Army is fighting its way into Berlin. Deep within his bunker underneath the Reichskanzlei, Adolf Hitler celebrates his last birthday and lives out his final 10 days isolated from the world, desperately ordering counterattacks that will never happen, from armies that exist only on maps, commanded by men who are most likely dead. Hitler (Bruno Ganz) is presented as he was in the last months of the war: a sick, exhausted man but dreaming still of a Greater Germany amid the ruins of war-ravaged Berlin and callously ranting against the "weakness" and "deserved destruction" of the German people for their lack of resistance. As the Red Army draws nearer and imminent defeat looms over the Third Reich, Hitler is seen alone with his clique which consists of Joseph Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes), Albert Speer (Heino Ferch) and (briefly) SS leader Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen), along with his personal staff.

Most of the events are depicted from the perspective of Hitler's young personal secretary Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara). Events outside Hitler's bunker are mostly depicted from the perspective of SS doctor Ernst-Günther Schenck (Christian Berkel). On the day before his death Hitler marries his longtime mistress Eva Braun (Juliane Köhler) and they commit suicide together on April 30, 1945, ten days after Hitler's 56th birthday.

(Holy shit that is a lot of links!!!!!)

And how much did I pay to watch?
When I watched this I didn't pay anything, because I watched my own copy of the film on dvd. I did at one time see the movie in the theatre, which made me want to buy the dvd (which I did with an gift certificate) so I did spend money on it at one time. But not this time.

And what did I think?
I think this film is amazing. Everything about it is just beyond extraordinary. But, the main thing that is so tragic and poignant about this film is that none of it needed to happen. The deaths of all the officers, the downfall of the whole of the German people. Its tough man. Its tough. And Downfall doesn't step back from slapping you in the face with the cruel and vicious and disturbing realities of that time.

You have to give a war movie that is really realistic a lot of credit. I once watched Come and See (a Belarusian war film that I will refer to in my write up of Defiance) and my professor told me that it is widely viewed as one of the most realisitic and therefore bleak war movies ever made. Downfall was sort of like that.

And, you know, now that I am reading the wikipedia entry on this movie I feel like maybe I shouldn't say a lot specifically about this film (a la Gran Torino, which I did see for a second time, and it was just as amazing the second time. Seriously, have you still not seen Gran Torino???) so that when you watch it (WHICH YOU SHOULD!) you wont have much of it ruined for you. I think that is what I should do.

I will say that the Russian history nerdo in me was very interested to see that many of the Germans who were in the bunker ended up in the Gulag once they were captured. And I will also tell you that the soft hearted, history aware, wimp in me tears up a lot during this one. It is just so, so, so, so, so, so good. It is really amazing.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
This is a movie that I consider pretty much perfect. If someone was like, "Hey Julia, you seem to complain about how movies aren't amazing. So, if you had to pick, what would be a 10 to you. Not a film you like a lot like Love Actually, but a really amazing, flawless, piece of film making?" I would say Downfall.

So, a 10 it is. And, immediately after I saw it for the first time I knew it was one of the best films I had ever seen.

The Longshots

So what is this one about?
Well, I wish I could have gotten the description from the United Airlines magazine, so I could communicate to you what I was faced with in the decision to watch this movie (as opposed to staring off into space for two hours), but, I cannot. We must settle for the Netflix description. Which is,
Eleven-year-old Jasmine Plummer (Keke Palmer) becomes the Pop Warner League's first female quarterback with help from her uncle (Ice Cube), a former high school gridiron star, in this true story directed by Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst. Despite her skills on the playing field, Jasmine raises eyebrows in her small Illinois town -- until she exceeds expectations by taking her team to the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
And I wondered, "wait, is that Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit?! Yes, apparently it was." Bizarre.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, if you want to be technical, since I watched it on an airplane, I paid how much I paid to fly on the airplane...which was $446. Since that would be insane though, I will say I paid nothing, since I watched it for free on an airplane. Woo!

And what did I think?
Well, airplane movies are quite an interesting thing, like I already said. You can either watch a crappy movie or do some other fun activity. My activities of choice included reading a crappy book, or listening to the music I listen to every damn day in the car, or falling asleep. Besides, when you watch a movie that makes two hours pass sort of quickly. And, when you are flying on United you get to watch NBC on United after the movie. HOORAY!!

So, what did I think about the movie? Overall it wasn't that bad. And Ice Cube, actually, is a fairly competent actor! I know, I know, catch your breath and get over the shock of what I just said. Actually, all the actors were fairly competent.

I vaguely remember seeing ads for this movie when it came out, maybe, and I thought it looked like it was supposed to be a stupid sports comedy. It actually wasn't, and it wasn't really that funny at all.

It was actually much more related to civic things, with a community pulling itself up by the bootstraps because they were inspired by one of the community members. And if you know me, you know that any movie that even touches on civic activism is something that I love (see Hairspray... well, once I write it.) But, you could have tricked me, because I was positive the movie took place in Michigan, not Illinois.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Anyway, it was entertaining enough that I did watch it a second time on my return flight.

And it was surprisingly good, especially Ice Cube.

So, I give it a 7. Woah!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Meet Bill

So what is this one about?
The 'flix tells us,
Beleaguered bank employee Bill (Aaron Eckhart) has his hands full with his wife's (Elizabeth Banks) infidelity with a local television reporter (Timothy Olyphant), his oblivious father-in-law (Holmes Osborne) who runs the bank, and his own frustrated attempts to change careers in this screwball comedy. But when he's persuaded to mentor a teenager known as the Kid (Logan Lerman), things just might turn around for Bill. Jessica Alba co-stars.
Ok, sounds normal enough, I suppose.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Nothing, because I watched it on Devin's Netflix view it now option. View it now is kind of amazing, but the choices are a little limited.

And what did I think?
So, this seems like it would be normal enough. I get that Bill is a doormat who never asserts himself and therefore never gets what he wants. I get that when he finds out his wife is cheating he wants to take some steps to get her back and maybe turn around his life in the process. I don't however understand what the hell was going on in this movie!

It was one of the oddest things I have ever seen. My netflix review read,
This movie was so weird, like, where did it come from? and why? and what was I supposed to get from

That is pretty accurate. There were just so many bizarre things in the movie that were never really explained. For example, this "Kid" that he mentors. The kid is a little odd, but we are never made to understand what his flippin' deal is. How and why is he so weird. If there had been some explaination as to his weirdness maybe the rest of the movie wouldn't have seemed so creepily off kilter. So much of the oddity that happens in Bill's life is this Kid's fault. It seemed rather jarring that he was so weird with no explation.

Now, I am not saying I constantly need explanations in movies for why things happen, but I am saying it likely would have made the movie more funny if there had been some funny reason the Kid was so odd.

Instead it just makes other things really uncomfortable. Like, why is this Kid so in love with Jessica Alba? He is so in love with her that he dresses up in women's underwear and parades around a mall store in such. He gets Bill to go on a double date with a girl (like maybe early 20s) when the Kid goes on a date with Jessica Alba. The Kid then gets Bill to let him drink alcohol in the tent that all four of them sleep in. Oh wait, but not before they have sex with their respective date...while they are in the tent together. Why was Bill doing these things???

And why did he want a doughnut shop? What the hell was going on!?!?

So little explanation/exposition made the movie creep, creep, creepy.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
I gave it a 2 out of 5 on netflix, so I am going to give it a 3 here. Seriously, don't bother watching this. It was truly, truly bizarre.


So what is this one about?
The 'flix tells us about this one. They say...
When young Buddy falls into Santa's gift sack on Christmas Eve and is inadvertently transported back to the North Pole, he's raised as a toy-making elf by Santa's helpers. After growing up to be a misfit who never quite fits in, the outsized elf (Will Ferrell) decides to go to Manhattan and find his real dad. Co-stars Ed Asner, Mary Steenburgen, James Caan and Bob Newhart. Directed by John Favreau.
I should have known. Flippin' Jon Favreau...the filmmaker, not the Presidential speech writer.

And how much did I pay to watch?
I didn't pay anything. I watched this when I went to go visit Lori in Athens, GA. This is amusing for two reasons. I went to visit her over New Years...which was nearly two months ago! Second, well, not as amusing, she is Jewish but loves Christmas movies. She has been telling me to watch this one I finally did.

Oh yeah, but it cost nothing, because it was her dvd.

And what did I think?
I guess I see why she has been telling me to watch this for so long, because it was such a nice little holiday movie. Even though I watched it after Christmas, it made me feel all Christmasy.

Will Ferrell is really hit or miss, I find. I often find myself thinking, "Okay Will Ferrell, we get it. You're funny. You don't need to make a crappy film every year in order to remind us. Just make one good one every two years and that will be fine." But, he was funny and endearing as Buddy. Now, Zooey Deschanel on the other hand, was as irritating as I usually find her. She is just so overly spacey in every role. BUT, she was super cute and we--as the audience--really wanted her to get together with Ferrell.

It followed a predictable story line, but it was endearing none the less. I even got a little misty at the end. It was nice to have all the people who are normally grumpy jerks, believe in something. esp, Santa.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It was a nice little Christmas movie filled with childlike wonder. It was certainly not an award winner, but it was nice, and amusing, and sweet. How can you not like that??

I give it a solid 7.

Friday, February 13, 2009


So what is this one about?
"I'm saying, when the President does it, it's not illegal!" (and then I shake my face around while I'm saying it, like a horse...) it is a pretty accurate impression.

But, what it is actually about will be told to us by the 'flix.
Ron Howard directs this adaptation of Peter Morgan's popular Broadway play centered on a series of revelatory TV interviews former President Richard Nixon granted British talk show host David Frost in 1977. Nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, the film stars Frank Langella, reprising his Tony Award-winning stage role, along with a stellar cast that includes Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Toby Jones, Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt.
And if you want more information about the play, or the film, OR the interviews!, the 'pedia (nice one, right?) has good information.

And how much did I pay to watch?
My mom paid for our trip to the movies, and she paid $14 total. So it cost $7. But, I didn't pay. As I've said, as per usual... besides, when we go to that theatre she normally expects that my friend will let us in for free.

And what did I think?
I think what was so different and awesome and refreshing about this movie as compared to Oliver Stone's W was that Ron Howard (or maybe the playwright, since this is another film based on a play) didn't try and smash his value judgments into the storyline.

Instead, an actual character was used to demonstrate the different opinions that people may have had about Mr. Nixon. One of the characters--an academic who judgementally wrote negative things about Nixon-- an American, was so pissed at David Frost, a Brit, because he felt that Frost was trying to build sympathy for Nixon. Now, what actually happened in the movie/play/real life was that Frost absolutely skewered Nixon in his interview. And then the public/audience felt bad for Nixon. Even though Frost got Nixon to admit that he was a jerk, and a liar, and a bad guy it was in admitting this that the public felt bad for him. Awesome. Howard/ Morgan (the playwright, Peter Morgan) didn't need to inject their value judgement, because they probably thought the audience would be smart enough to figure it out. Whereas Oliver Stone thought that he somehow needed to force some sort of judgment about George Bush down his audience's throat (now, as I said when I reviewed it, I could figure out if he was serious, or mocking the whole administration...bad job suckah!)

Now, otherwise the movie was rather slow. Just like during Doubt, I may have drifted off for a few minutes during this one (Keep in mind though, that I do wake up at, it might just be that I am tired). I think what is tough about watching a movie that you know is a play (at least for me, since I did theatre in highschool) is that I think about what the play would be like. And I have come up with the idea that this play would be

As a movie it was passable, but, it isn't going to win the Oscar for Best Picture either. *mumbles*stupidslumdogmillionaire*mumble*

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Not too bad. A little better than average because it didn't force a value judgment on the audience. So, I'll give it a 6.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Tudors: Season 2

So what is this one about?
Remember that song from elementary school? "I'm 'Enery the Eighth I am I am, I'm 'Enery the eighth I ammmm, I was married to the widow next door, she's been married seven times before, and all the kids say 'Enery, 'Enery, 'Enery the Eighth I ammmm" Yeah, remember that? Well, this is sort of like that. Except a little different.

Netflix tells us,
Hollywood icon Peter O'Toole joins the cast for a second season of the hit Showtime series. After King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) secretly has his marriage to Katherine (Maria Doyle Kennedy) declared invalid and weds Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer), Pope Paul III (O'Toole) moves to excommunicate the king. Meanwhile, some of Henry's old friends and allies fall out of favor. The critically acclaimed drama co-stars Jeremy Northam.
Oh yeah, also, [NOT A SPOILER] Anne Boleyn gets hers. Thats what you get man! (sic semper tyrannis, bitches!)

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, I gots this shit on the 'flix. It is four discs. According to my history I actually got nine discs this month (is that possible? I've been so lazy lately with the movies...) so they each cost $1.88 (woah) and then times 4 is $7.55 total. Certainly cheaper than giving my money to Showtime by buying the discs, AND more reliable than watching it on the internet (since I always feel like the internet is trying to trick me and will mess up the episode order or something. I think that makes me paranoid.)

And what did I think?
What did I think? I think "Ooooooh, look at me, I'm Jonathan Rhys Meyer. I'm a good actor because I can yell a lot. I played Henry VIII who was clearly weak minded and could be influenced at the slightest change of will, or the drop of a hat." That Henry, man, I keep looking at wikipedia to see if anyone adds anything about him being bipolar or something. He was ridiculous!

And Anne Boelyn, I spoke last season of how she was pretty much the worst person ever. This didn't really change with the second season, however, you did feel a little bad for her in the season finale, if only because she acepted her death, even though she had truly done nothing wrong. It was hilarious [spoiler] that the only person who actually did have carnal knowledge of her was not sentanced to death. Hilarious.

And that Jane Seymour...seriously, who was that bitch fooling?? She wasn't that innocent. Bitch please.

But other than the weird characters, I found this season much less annoying than last season. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect, or maybe I had just become desensitized, but it seemed like there was less gratutious sex in this season. Which I thought was good. I mean, since Jane Seymour was so "innocent" she certainly wasn't going to do it with him. suckah.

The historical stuff was a little less interesting (no sweating sickness, not really using leeches to "heal" people), what with the reformation and such, but I still found myself looking at wikipedia a lot to get more historical information. This season also took place over a much shorter span of years (it was odd to see Princess Mary age so rapidly when Henry barely aged at all) so it was a little less odd to see the passage of time. Or not. (see above).

I am very interested to see what happens in Season 3 (are they even making a season 3?) if only because it is very interesting to see history unfold--even if it is a total lie. Because lets face it, I am a history nerd who likes movies.

One thing I do have to say about this stupid ass show was that the bonus features were the suckiest thing ever! I mean, there was this segment where Natalie Dormer (who plays Anne Boleyn) went to see where Anne was kept in the Tower of London, was beheaded, and was buried. She then proceeded to go on and on about how brave and amazing Anne Boleyn was. Get over it. Come on.

OH! I just remembered something that was awesome about this season...there were more gay men. And one of them was Anne Boleyn's brother!!! SCAN-DAL!

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It was good. Amusing for sure, and I didn't find it nearly as irritating as Season 1. I gave it a 4 on the 'flix so I will give it a 7.5 here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us,
David Fincher directs this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic tale set in the early 20th century that follows Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a man who was born in his 80s and continually grows younger. The story throws linear conventions upside down to explore love, loss and memories from the perspective of a character living under incredibly unique -- and unexpectedly difficult -- circumstances. Cate Blanchett co-stars in this Oscar nominee for Best Picture.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, as like all the other theatre films I have watched recently, my mother paid. So it cost me nothing, but it cost her $8.50x2.

And what did I think?
Halfway through watching this film I thought to myself, "this is absolutely perfect." Without having read the short story I was certain that the screenplay adhered to his story perfectly because it so accurately captured the feel of Fitzgerald's writing style. He is beautifully flowery, and dreamlike, and wonderful. So, I was absolutely shocked when I consulted wikipedia after I got back from the movie to learn that other than the backwards ageing there are pretty much no commonalities between the film and the short story.

Well, here I proclaim for everyone to see, KUDOS. Kudos to Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, the writers and screenwriters. Kudos to cinematographer Claudio Miranda. Kudos to art directors Kelly Curley and Tom Reta. It had the absolute feel of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was shocked to learn it was supposed to take place in Baltimore, MD. The second I head the southern accents I was sure that Fitzgerald had picked a southern city. The little cut aways to show black and white flashbacks in the style of the Smashing Pumpkin's "Tonight, Tonight" video--that sort of spacey 1920's feel--I was positive that Fitzgerald wrote those in. It was an inspired choice to add those. Everything that the art director, and cinematographer, and writers chose was like they were channeling Fitzgerald. I simply cannot comprehend that the film deviated so much from the book!! I cannot fathom it.

And I think that is what I found so stunning and perfect about the movie. Because, when I think about it, I suppose it is a little trite. Perhaps I would feel this excited if I had seen Forrest Gump in the theatre when it was released. I think, one of the reviews I found in wikipedia sums up my concern. They say,
Ashley Scrace from the Sheffield Star noted that: "It is a good film, but one of contradictions, some of which are far beyond the story of young versus old. It is surprising yet clichéd; sad yet hollow; visually impressive yet ordinary." He goes on to add "I just hope this year’s Oscars do not follow a tired formula: biggest budget, plus biggest stars, equals biggest awards."
And I agree. I mean, its sweeping in scope, and time, and place. And that seems to be something that people accept as a successful formula. And, yes, the visual effects were amazing. Astounding. I have no idea how they put Brad Pitt's face on a puppet-like oldman body. It looked like a puppet. I bet it was...

For me, it wasn't what the film was saying as much as the way they said it. The story with the clock going backwards was so perfect that I just knew it was Fitzgerald's (which it wasn't). Setting the story in New Orleans, with the backdrop of Hurrican Katrina, was perfect. The flooding from the storm enabled the story to end up wrapped in a neat package. Man, it was just perfect.

I think Benjamin Button was better than Slumdog Millionaire. But, I see that it is typical. However, Slumdog Millionaire's happy ending was more typical than Benjamin Button.

Maybe I am still just grumpy that Gran Torino wasn't gd nominated.

P.S. Brad Pitt is retardedly attractive. Really, he is so good looking it is stupid. Jesus god up in heaven. I swear.
So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Ok, now as I have been writing this I realize what I think was perfect about this film. Maybe it wasn't the whole film itself, though I enjoyed it a lot. What was perfect about this film was that it so accurately encapsulated F. Scott Fitzgerald--who I think is one of the most beautiful writers of the 20th century.

But, as I have shown on this little movie blog, I don't give 10s to just extraordinary movies. I give 10s to movies that are 10s to me.

So, 10.