Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Hottest State

So what is this one about?
It was brought to my attention that Ethan Hawke--yes, the actor!--is also an author. He has written two books, The Hottest State and Ash Wednesday (in that order). Now, I was told that Ash Wednesday was much better than The Hottest State, and it was. I also didn't realize that the first book was made into a movie, but it was! So I rented it.

Netflix tells us
Ethan Hawke wrote and directed this adaptation of his novel, the story of William Harding (Mark Webber), a struggling actor who falls for a beautiful musician named Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno). While she's largely indifferent to their affair, William continues to pursue her, hoping to make a connection. His quest eventually leads him to insight into his own need for love. Laura Linney and Frank Whaley co-star.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Like I've said, probably a lot, because I haven't been wating many movies. But, I got it on netflix, if that answers the question sort of.

And what did I think?
This is the thing I don't understand about the Hottest State. I have been yapping on and on about how movies haven't been doing books justice...so tell me if this makes sense. Follow me for a minute... Actor Ethan Hawke writes a book. He then makes his book into a movie which he directs and stars in. Now, one would expect the movie to do a good job of translating the book, right?

Well, I am sure you can all imagine what happened.

No. Not at all. How can an author direct his own book into a movie and still lose a shit-ton in translation?!?!

Now, to my beloved Mr. Hawke's credit, the feel of the book was pretty much encapsulated in the film. However, some of the deviations from the book were so egregious I just don't know what to do with myself.

Sarah, the female lead was supposed to be a pasty, chubby, frizzy black haired weirdo (for lack of a better word). The reader of the book doesn't really understand why William is so head over heels for this girl. William is supposed to be a hot, slick, ladies man. But Sarah, she isn't interested in him, she isn't nice, she isn't putting out, and she isn't even good looking. So it was just shockingly bizarre when Hawke cast a beautiful girl in the role. It just loses so much.

And then, William was supposed to be the good looking one, which made his love for Sarah even weirded, but he wasn't!! When I read the book I pictured William as hot Ethan Hawke from Before Sunset, because his character's voice read just like Ethan Hawke...but William looks like a trashy, hideous Ethan Hawke. WHY!??!?

The characters went to Mexico instead of Paris, which I buy alright, but there wasn't enough buildup to Sarah asking William to marry her. Whoops! Just ruined it. Actually, I didn't, because you shouldn't really bother with this, and you shouldn't really read the book either. If you wanna read some Ethan Hawke, you should read Ash Wednesday, which is so entirely much better than The Hottest State.

The music was trite. It was like Hawke was trying too hard to make the charaters deep, and the pain authentic, and the music sentimental...and it just didn't work!

But man, was Laura Linney good. I guess I will need to stop pretending, lets be serious. I love her. She isn't my new girl crush, but she is a pretty damn fine actress.

Also, Michelle Williams was good as Samantha, but there wasn't enough development of the Sam character, like there was in the book.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Oh Ethan Hawke, really, if you hadn't written this book, directed the movie, and acted in it, I wouldn't have watched it. Well, I might have, but I wouldn't have given it the same ammount of credit I do when you put your name behind it.

I mean, I guess I will give it a 5. It was passable. It would have been much better if Richard Linklater had directed this, and it starred a young Ethan Hawke...but I guess that is impossible by the laws of time and space.

I'd like to see more directed by Hawke, and I love the idea of him making Ash Wednesday into a film, but I just don't know if that book--or maybe books in general--translate well enough to film.

Le sigh.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Staircase

So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us,
From award-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade comes this real-life, gripping courtroom drama that chronicles the case of author Michael Peterson, who stood trial in 2003 for the murder of his wife, Kathleen. With unprecedented access to Peterson's lawyers, his family and others involved in the proceedings, de Lestrade offers viewers an intimate look at the judiciary process and the mystery surrounding this high-profile case.
Also, Lestrade is totally French Canadian. It doesn't add anything to this story or movie or anything, but you know how I feel about French Canadians.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, as you can probably tell I haven't been watching as many movies lately. I used to blame it on my former job when I had to be at work at 4:30am. But, now I have a normal, fabulous job where I have to be at work at a normal time, which thus means I can go to bed at a normal time, and I could watch movies before I went to bed if I wanted.

Now, maybe I haven't been watching them because I know I need to do the write up, and I already have too many to write up...Or, maybe I've been distracted by the Stanley Cup playoffs which require a great amount of emotional energy from me. Or maybe it is because I haven't been able to get movies that I am really excited to see. Whatever it is, I have no idea how much I am paying per movie a month now, I am scared to think I might be paying $8 a movie.

But, as far as the Staircase goes, I actually first got this rental when I had just started grad school--over two and a half years ago. But, I just couldn't get into it. So I sent it back. And then when I rented it in February, the same thing started happening!! The Staircase is broken into 8 episodes, and until about the 4th episode I thought I was going to send it back to Netflix without watching the whole thing. But I did, and I am glad.

And to answer the question, I have absolutely no idea how much I paid. Probably a lot.

And what did I think?
Well, like I said, I thought it was a little boring. I just could. not. get. into. it. But, I am glad I slogged through the slow and tedious beginning of the series, cause man oh man! It sure picked up speed!!!

I guess I understand why LeStrade had to make those boring first four episodes...to lay the foundation so the audience understands everything else that happens. Well, I don't understand why he had to make it so boring, but, I suppose it doesn't matter.

Ok, so what did I think? Well, I think without giving away the verdict...because you maybe should watch this (especially you, Lori)...that the thing that was best about this film was how LeStrade really tried to not insert his value judgements into the documentary. He showed what was happening, and then we as an audience were able to make our own judgements about wether we think Michael Peterson killed his wife. I think, especially after looking at the internet, that we tend to always assume people who are accused of murder are pretty much always guilty. And violent crimes are always henious--so someone is guilty. But, watching LeStrade's film it gives you some sort of feeling about what the American justice system might really be like.

It was also very interesting, because as an audience we saw Michael Peterson, and frankly, that guy was a dick. BUT, just because he was an asshole doesn't mean he is guilty. So as an audience we had to sort out our personal feelings about the accused to decide if the evidence that the prosecution presented was enough to make their case that Peterson was guilty beyond a REASONABLE doubt.

Anyway, it was interesting. And after I watched the movie I found some crazy websites talking about the murder and the case and theories and all that. So, if you're not gonna watch the movie I guess you can go to them. Or not. Whatevs.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Well, because it was so so boring at the beginning I cannot give it a 10. But, it was very interesting, and well done, so it gets a 9.

He's Just Not That Into You

**really? two months after I saw this I am finally getting around to the summary?? I am embarrassed.**

So what is this one about?

He's Just Not That Into You is a book that revolutionized the lives of women all over America, probably all over the world. I am not ashamed (well, maybe I am a little ashamed) to admit that I read and loved the book! The point it makes is simple, but it is one that seems to elude most women. If he isn't calling you, if he isn't sleeping with you, if he is sleeping with someone else, if he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you...he just isn't that into you. Once someone accepts this fact then it becomes much easier to put things into perspective. "He didn't want to try our relationship again. If he was that into he would have, so he isn't the right guy for me." Silly Greg Behrendt yammers on and on about how "you" (the woman reading the book) deserve a guy who is insanely into you, and if he can't be, then you should move on, because someone will be. (eventually. hopefully)

So, the movie is basically the book in movie form (now, I had no idea how this was going to be done when I learned a year ago that this was going to be made into a movie...but, I'll go into that later). Netflix tells us,
Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson lead an all-star cast in this adaptation of the bestseller that follows an ensemble of characters dealing with the pitfalls of love and human interaction. Set in Baltimore, director Ken Kwapis's film moves swiftly between a host of storylines and characters brought to life by a stellar lineup that includes Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long.
Ken Kwapis!! Of The Office Season 2 "Casino Night" (aka: the most perfect episode ever) fame?! Hot DAMN!!

And how much did I pay to watch?
Again, my mother paid for the ticket. I don't know how much, but I didn't pay anything. But she did buy me movie nachos...which was awesome!

And what did I think?
Well, I am embarrassed to say that this is the best book to film adaptation I have seen this year. I suppose, though, that the film industry should be embarassed by this, not me, because there have been amazing books that have been turned into films (Atonement, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, etc). Even though these books were better, and were written SO beautifully, they didn't translate well because there was no narrator to communicate what the author told us as readers. Now, what made HJNTIY work well as a movie was that the role of the author/narrator was made into an actual character in the film (played by Justin Long). This was what made the different questions/vingettes from the book translate to film. Frankly, I was amazed that this device was employed, and I was floored that it worked. Poor idiots who failed making better books into movies because they didn't have a narrator. Losers.

Now, the thing that was irritating and odd was that the characters and the narrator and the book's author kept emphasizing that you (the everywoman) are not special. Sure, you heard the story about the girl who liked the guy and he never called and treated you like crap, but somehow they ended up happily ever after anyway. But you are not that woman. And her story is the exception to the rule. You are the rule, not the exception. EXCEPT...every. single. character. in the movie ended up being the exception. So, what does that tell all the ridiculous, silly women in the world? You aren't the exception to the rule, but, for your specific love and relationship you probably are.

This seemed so ludicrous for a movie that was trying to communicate what it was. Ri.dic.u.lous.

But, other than that little flaw it was really quite good. Entertaining with characters that the audience cared about--good looking characters, at that--it was funny, and heartfelt, and honestly, everything I would expect from Ken Kwapis.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
I give it a 9. No, maybe an 8.5. No, I guess a 9. Because it was a great book adaptation, smartly done and well acted for what it was. The message was quite trite, but, well, I suppose a lot of messages are these days.