Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kissing Jessica Stein

So what is this one about?
My beloved Netflix tells us,
Jessica (Jennifer Westfeldt) is a single, straight, successful New York journalist who, like most of her female friends, has had a history of dating (male) creeps. But when she answers an intriguing personal ad from Helen (Heather Juergensen), Jessica finds herself intensely drawn to her. As Jessica explores this new side of her sexuality, the two begin a friendship that ultimately leads to romance.
Isn't that the way it always works?

And how much did I pay to watch?
Zero dollars because I own this movie. It is one of my faves.

Though, back in the day I did see this in the theatre. I saw it with my mom at my belov'd Cinema Arts. And when the movie was over, do you know what my mom said to me? She said "You remind me of Jessica Stein." And to this day I have never been able to figure out what she meant. Though, it does make me feel a bit odd for her to say that to me.

And what did I think?
Well, here is the thing. Despite this movie being one of my faves, upon watching it I realize it isn't all that spectacular. What makes this movie so appealing is the characters.

It is empathizing with the characters that makes the whole thing relate-able. Hmm, how can I say this in a way that doesn't make me sound totally gay? Hmmm, see, the thing is, how can you--as someone who has likely met someone (no matter what gender) who is utterly intriguing--dismiss this film just because the storyline is somewhat gay? Answer: you cannot. If you think about it, of course you can relate to it.

It is like that line in Chasing Amy,
The way the world is, how seldom it is that you meet that one person who just *gets* you - it's so rare. ... And to cut oneself off from finding that person, to immediately halve your options by eliminating the possibility of finding that one person within your own gender, that just seemed stupid to me. So I didn't.
I mean, that, I think, is what Kissing Jessica Stein is about. It isn't about, like, realizing you are a lesbian, but it IS about opening yourself up to all that is out there.

Now, other than that, I realized way way later that John Hamm, of Mad Men fame, is in this movie, since Jennifer Westfeldt is his longtime girlfriend. But let me tell you, even as an avid Mad Men watcher, if I hadn't know he was in this, I never would have realized it was him. He is so much hotter in the 1960s than in the early 2000s.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Well, I love it. For realzies. But, I realize it isn't a 10. So I give it an 8, though it still remains one of my favorites!

Sunday, May 3, 2009


So what is this one about?
Well, Netflix tells us
Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie, in an Oscar-nominated role) is overjoyed when her young kidnapped son Walter is brought back home. But when Christine suspects that the Walter who was returned to her isn't her actual child, the police captain (Jeffrey Donovan) has her committed to an asylum. John Malkovich co-stars as the crusading reverend who comes to Christine's rescue in this gripping, 1920s-set drama helmed by ace director Clint Eastwood.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Probably around $4. I guess it is still less than the $4.99 that I would have paid if I had watched it "on demand"...but still it is much more than it should be with my netflix love.

And what did I think?
Well, my love for Clint Eastwood has grown out of control (just like kudzu...). This movie looked exactly like something he would direct. It had this beautiful clear, yet smoky grey quality. It was slow and deliberate. He is an AMAZING filmmaker. In fact, I have added so many Eastwood directed films to my queue, so if there are a lot of his movies in the coming soon section, that is why.

So, what did I think? Well, when I saw the preview for this movie I thought it looked really interesting, because did her boy actually change, or was it not her son at all? I wont really give it away, I suppose, but it was rather unexpected. This movie even brought in my interest in both true crime stories and Canada! Joy! Oh yeah, and citizen activism...take that Los Angeles County!!

The costumes were amazing. I read on wikipedia (maybe) that Eastwood wanted to cast Jolie because he thought her looks fit the time period. Let me tell you, as someone interested in both decorative arts and costume/historical fashion the casting of Jolie as a woman of the late 1920s was absolutely spot on. She is the CLASSIC 1920s-1930s model type. She was a bit more glamourous than the normal woman in that time period, but I suppose Angelina Jolie has a hard time not being glam.

Eastwood even composed the music! What can that guy not do?! I will tell you what he can't do, he cant seem to get an oscar nomination for the amazing recent movies he is made. That is a flipping tragic injustice! Also, across the board, the acting was amazing. Jolie, Malcovich, Harner, and even Amy Ryan. They were all so nuanced and perfect. So subtle and powerful without being at all cartoonish. Fantastic!!

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Changeling is pretty amazing. It is just perfectly spot on and I assign most of that to Eastwood and his incredible attention to detail and perfect astehtic eye. I give it a 9.

Crazy Love

So what is this one about?
Netflix told me
This documentary from director Dan Klores chronicles the disturbing true story of an obsessive relationship gone awry in 1950s New York between Burt Pugach, a married lawyer, and his twentysomething mistress, Linda Riss. In a shocking reversal of the traditional "woman scorned" formula, it was Pugach who came unglued when Riss broke up with him -- and the subsequent fallout made headlines across the country.
And it was available on view it now, plus I was waiting for my laundry to wash, so I watched it.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Well, it is included in my membership fee, so, there you go. Also, I think I am getting back into the swing of watching more discs, so the cost will go down soon.

And what did I think?
Well, it was a little bit like a Lifetime movie or one of those episodes of Oxygen's Snapped (which is a show I really like). But it was still interesting, and shocking. I really don't want to say anything about what happened in the movie because I think there are people who read this who will really find it interesting.

Just go ahead and watch it...and then discuss it with me on the comments.

It was pretty well done for a crappy sort of low rent, low budget documentary (though I was unable to find any internet proof that the movie was cheap to make...I did find out how much it made though, which was just over $300k.) It also had the ability to make the audience react to what they were seeing. I can't say for sure what my reaction to the whole documentary was, but it was certainly something that was visceral. Yikes.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
It gets an 8. It was so surprising and good in its own way...a documentary that makes you think or feel while also learning about something new is always my fave type of documentary.

Marley & Me

So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us
Based on the best-selling memoir, this feature adaptation centers on Jennifer and John Grogan (Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson), who, as newlyweds about to start a family, learn many of life's important lessons from Marley, their lovable yet trouble-seeking canine. This heartwarming story examines the highs and lows of marriage, maturity and confronting ones' own mortality, as seen through the lens of family life with a dog.
And how much did I pay to watch?
I got it from netflix, and I think I've gotten enough movies this month to not have them be worth $16/disc. So, lets calculate...or, well, lets not. I've only gotten 3 discs in one month. YIKES!

And what did I think?
When I worked inauguration week I started out intros by having the students say their name, where they are from, and the best movie they'd seen recently--of course mine was Gran Torino. A lot of students said Seven Pounds and a lot said Marley & Me. Oh yeah, and they also said The Dark Knight. A student told me that she cried so much during Marley & Me. Well, we should all know by now...That was sort of an asshole thing to do, wasn't it? Well, I guess you should pretty much know that is what happens. Apparently it is what happens with most animal movies. Maybe because I knew that the dog dies I wasn't as suprised when he died. I will tell you, the part that got me a little choked up was when the oldest kid of Jennifer and John was so sad because he knew the dog was going to die.

Thankfully I have never had the experience of losing a longtime pet (you hear that Emmy? Don't die....) and I am sure it is very sad. Maybe because I haven't I didn't have as much empathy. Also, I didn't really care about the character of Jennifer, I felt much more for John. (Isn't this the first movie Owen Wilson made after his suicide attempt...god, that would have been so sad if he had died!)

I guess some parts of the movie were funny, and some were definately poignant, but overall it was just average.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
I give it a 6. It gets that one more point because I love Owen Wilson. And Jennifer Aniston's body was amazing. Shit, I didn't beleive for a second that she was a mother of three who was almost 40. Not for one second.


So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us
Curious young Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) unlocks a mysterious door in her family's new home and is transported to an alternate universe that strangely resembles her own -- only better. But when her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) doesn't want Coraline to return to reality, our heroine must summon all her courage and ingenuity to go home and save her family. The breathtaking stop-motion animation is based on the best-seller by Neil Gaiman.
And how much did I pay to watch?
I saw this bad boy in 3-D because I heard that is the only way to see it. And 3-D at Cinema DeLux was $12. Or, at least it was on February 20, 2009...which was when I watched it (errrrrrrrrrr)

And what did I think?
Well, I think probably 3-D was the only way to see it. I've only seen a movie or two in 3-D lately (I think only Beowulf in Budapest) and this one was much much better. I think something that is a little more cartoonish is better in 3-D than "live action" movies (Beowulf wasn't really live action because it looked like it was computer animated live action...) Also, apparently Neil Gaiman wrote Beowulf...innnnnnteresting [Apparently the process is called "performance capture" and is explained here,
The cameras recorded real time footage of the performances, shots which Zemeckis reviewed. The director then used a virtual camera to choose camera angles from the footage which was edited together. Two teams of animators worked on the film, with one group working on replicating the facial performances, the other working on body movement. The animators said they worked very closely on replicating the human characters, but the character of Grendel had to be almost reworked, because he is a monster, not human.
Man, you're getting more production info than you'd have ever expected on this blog, aren't you?]

Anyway, Coraline was done in animated stop-motion
"an animation technique to make a physically manipulated object appear to move on its own. The object is moved in small amounts between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames are played as a continuous sequence. Clay figures are often used in stop motion animations, known as claymation, for their ease of repositioning."
Interesting, right?

The 3-d in Coraline made it really spacey, and that is what the other world was supposed to feel like, so it worked really well. The story was interesting enough, but what I enjoyed about this movie was the way it actually looked. I mean, it was probably worth watching the movie just to see how it looked. Sort of like The Corpse Bride. I liked the other mother, and all of the characters in the other world.

I think this movie probably appeals to the kiddies who really like those spacey, sort of goth-ish movies and comic books. But for a straight-laced girl like me I liked the art of it all.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Yeah, so this def gets points because of how cool it looked. It gets an 8.

If you're gonna watch this you should watch it in 3-d...but now that it is out of the theatre I don't know how that is possible. Sad face for you...

Saturday, May 2, 2009


So what is this one about?
You know, I was going to use wikipedia's description of this film, because I was sure Netflix would not say that the film took place in Belarus...BUT IT DID! So yay Netflix, they say
Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski, one of four Jewish brothers who escape from Poland into the forests of Belarus during World War II to lead a band of resistance fighters and create a safe haven for Jewish refugees. The real-life sanctuary established by the Bielski brothers saved more than 1,000 Jews from persecution and death. Edward Zwick directs this moving historical drama that also stars Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell and George MacKay.
And how much did I pay to watch?
I have my movie ticket from, wait for it, February 6, 2009 from the good ol' Georgetown AMC and it tells me that I paid $10.75. Now I can throw this receipt away...since I only hung onto it because I knew I could refer back to it on this hurr bloggy.

And what did I think?
Now, Ima tell yous a secret. The first time I saw this preview I knew, I MEAN KNEW, it took place in Belarus. Now, how would I know that? Well, maybe two reasons. 1) I wrote my masters thesis on of course I am an expert. But, the real reason is 2) I once saw this movie, Idi i Smotri (Come and See) in this class I took in grad school called "Comparitive Totalitarian Culture" that is about how poor Belarus was absolutely slaughtered by the Nazis. And the color in the film was SO reminiscent of what I was seeing in the trailer for Defiance. (Have I written about Idi i Smotri before? I feel like I have...) Well anyway, when I saw this I thought, "If this isn't about Belarusian Partisans I will eat my hat!" but, it was. So there, my hat is safe.

Back in the day when I was working at the 'bux, I had this customer who always talked about movies with me. She said I absolutely had to see Defiance because she thought it was so amazing (she hadn't seen Gran Torino yet, but after she had she wanted to go see it again the next day). I disagree with that, and in all honesty I didn't think it was that amazing. I mean, it was ok, but perhaps because I knew the story of Belarusian Partisans I wasn't as taken because it wasn't as surprising. In fact, sitting here three months later I can't remember much I found very extraordinary about Defiance. I did like the girl who got preggers, and Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) getting a forest wife. And the music was pretty good, but I didn't find the film especially moving or affecting or amazing.

On the wikipedia entry on Defiance they point out something that I missed in the film, but adds so much excellence and authenticity and is something that I would have given the filmmakers so much credit for that I am embarassed I missed it. Well, apparently it was on the entry when I first read it in February, but now it is gone. So, on imdb they talk about it a little... they say,

The Bielskis' native language is Yiddish, which is influenced by German, Russian and Hebrew. While growing up, the Bielskis learned Belarussian from their neighbors and also experienced various occupations by Russians, Poles and Germans. To varying degrees, they picked up other languages out of necessity. Tuvia also learned German during World War I when the Germans occupied their land.

So, what was the point of that? The old wikipedia entry explained that the English that the Bielskis spoke was supposed to be Yiddish and all the other languages would have had to have been subtitled for that. (Did you know you can go back and see edits on Wikipedia? Well you is what I wanted to show you originally...
The movie was filmed primarily in accented English to represent speech by the Jewish characters that would have been in the Yiddish language.Whenever the dialogue was not in English, for instance when a Jewish character was speaking to a non-Jewish character or when a non-Jewish character was speaking, the dialogue was in the Russian language. The only exception to this were German soldiers who spoke in German. Some Polish reviewers have criticized this decision, arguing that many of the locals in the area would have spoken Polish and not Russian or Belorussian and that the Bielski partisans did not know Russian or Belarussian as well as or Polish. The actors' accents in English have also fallen under criticism because they were not distinctively Yiddish but instead varied and seemed to represent a general Eastern European accent.
Well, that long explaination was barely worth it. Harrumph. But it does illustrate my unecessary and undying love for authentic languages being spoken in movies. This is way going off track, but one movie that the use of language drives me nuts in was Enemy at the Gates. All the Russians were played by Brits with English accents and the Germans were played by Americans with American accents, but for some unexplicable reason when there were announcements over speakers they were in Russian, or when a newspaper was printed it was in cyrillic. Why?? WHY!?
So what is the rating? (out of 10)
So, on netflix I gave Defiance 4 out of 5. I would have given it a 3 but I said the extra star was because it was about Belarus, and Belarusian partisans. So, I'll give it an 8 here, because Belarus gets no love, and maybe it will introduce a wider audience to Belarus during World War II.

One other thing, though, is that not everyone thought the Bielskis were freedom fighters. If you're interested, you can see that history always has two sides. Just like Sarah yelled at Areta for her paper on the UPA, some people think the Bielski brothers were "Jewish-communist bandits" not great freedom fighters and heroes.

Mission: Impossible III

So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us
Helmed by J.J. Abrams, the third entry in the explosive espionage series finds semiretired superspy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) forced back into action to save his protégé, Lindsey Ferris (Keri Russell). To checkmate her investigation, badass arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) abducts Lindsey, sending Ethan and his crack field team to Berlin on a rescue mission. Meanwhile, Ethan's agency superiors may be double-dealing their operatives.
And how much did I pay to watch?
Nothing! I watched this at Mel's and the dvd belonged to her roommate. Huzzah!

And what did I think?
Um, what did I think? I mean, this movie wasn't all that good. Actually, it was about what I expected. But I will tell you one goddamned thing...Johnathan Rhys Meyers is so flipping hot, and his natural accent is so fabulously cute I didn't know what to do with myself when he was on the screen. I watch a lot of Rhys Meyer on The Tudors (even though it isn't such a good show, I pretty much love him...) and I have become quite a big fan of him. He is cute as a Brit, but man, with his natural accent...I don't even know what to do with myself!!

I also absolutely love Phillip Semyour Hoffman (PSH) so, anything with him is a-ok with me.

Also, this was supposed to take place in Virginia (sic semper tyrannis, bitches!) and the female love interest was named Julia. Ta-freaking-dah, right?!

Also Keri Russell was in it, and she is pretty great too.

Lets face it, sometimes my movie reviews are not insightful... *eye candy*

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
So, if you want a typical action movie tailored to Julia's specifications with hot boys, great actors (not Tom Cruise...PSH), super locations and pretty/talented ladies, I suppose you could do worse than MI3. I give it a 6.