Two pop culture addicts' snarky musings…

Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

We’ve been absent, have your hearts grown fonder?

Hello there poor, poor neglected blog and followers! It’s been a while, eh? I apologize for the pair of us, we both had some things in our real lives going on that distracted us from our less-than-usual updating schedule. But fear not! We have not forgotten you, if there are still any of you left out there. I know I have a few things like reviews of the Sims Medieval game, the new Harry Potter movie, the new seasons of Warehouse 13 and Rizzoli and Isles as well as the series premiere of Alphas that I want to share with you and I want to say Mel has a few things up her sleeves, but I don’t want to put any words in her mouth.

However, Mel and I have been talking (well, Mel’s been talking, I’ve been agreeing because let’s face it, she’s the brains of this operation) and there is the possibility of our blog going in a new direction in the hopes that it will help us keep up with regular posts rather than the sporadic and sometimes very random, stuff we’ve brought you in the past.

So, sit tight and keep an eye out!

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‘Les Miserables’ never lives up to its name (and that’s a good thing)

Whenever I’m asked what my favorite movie or album or musical is, I usually answer with something along the lines that it changes all the time, but my favorite of the week is…However, once I really got to thinking about it, if there is one musical that could be categorized as a favorite, one that I know all the words and have loved for a very long time, it would have to be the legendary “Les Miserables.”

While the story is quite complex, it can be told in a few simple sentences (at least, that is what I will try to attempt). It focuses on Jean Valjean, a man who spent 19 years in jail (five for stealing bread, 14 for trying to escape) he struggles with becoming a good man when the world around him refuses to give him the chance. Eventually he becomes the mayor of a small town and aids a woman named Fantine, who has been reduced to selling herself on the streets to support her daughter. Valjean ends up taking care of the daughter, Cosette while trying to stay ahead of his past in the form of Inspector Javert. Cosette falls in love with a young revolutionary, Marius, just before the Paris Uprising of 1892 (there is more to the story, but that would give it all away).

My earliest memory of this musical was my ninth grade French class, when we took a field trip to see a production of it. I don’t remember much of the actual performance, but I do remember falling in love with the story and the characters. And soon after that I was a proud owner of the VHS of the 10th anniversary concert staring some of the 1985 original cast, including Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean and Michael Ball as Marius. Looking back, Philip Quast stood out the most as Inspector Javert. I remember rewinding his solos to watch them over and over again. I was obsessed with it for a time and then, as most do, it faded to the background as more exciting and shiny things took my interest.

It wasn’t until the other week, when PBS aired the 25th anniversary concert that I remember how much I loved this musical and realized that it could be called my absolute favorite. This time around the lead role of Jean Valjean was played by relative newcomer Alfie Boe and Javert by Norm Lewis (who I loved at King Triton in “The Little Mermaid” musical). In a surprising casting choice, Nick Jonas was cast as Marius, opposite Ramin Karimloo as Enjrolas, the leader of the revolution and Katie Hall as Cossette. Samatha Banks also shone as Eponine, the girl who is unashamedly in love with Marius and the role that Lea Salonga (Fantine in this production) portrayed 15 years ago.

The entire cast was perfection; every song was filled with emotion and Alfie Boe certainly cemented his place as one of the best Valjeans ever to perform. The choice to cast the youngest Jonas brother has been hotly debated and while he was the weakest singer in the cast, that is no poor compliment. Given time and training, however, he could be a great Broadway performer.

The highlight of the entire concert came at the end, when the original cast came onstage and sung an encore of the rousing first act closer, “One Day More,” followed by a quartet version of “Let Him Live,” sung by Boe, John Owen-Jones from the 25th Anniversary touring production, Simon Bowman from the current London cast. You could see on every face on stage that this was truly a momentous occasion, not only for them but for every person in that stadium.

I believe the reason this musical has lasted so long is because it speaks to something inside of all of us, the part that wants us to make our own destinies instead of accepting what government or society thrusts upon this. And it is that theme of freedom from oppression that is even more so relevant in today’s world where countries are toppling leaders and actually living the words.

Everything about this concert has made it the new standard of “Les Miserables” performances and I cannot wait to see what happens at the next milestone concert.

Live blogging the 2011 Oscars!

It’s Oscar time! Think Colin Firth like thoughts everyone and follow along for some delightfully snarky commentary by me on the blog and Sarah on the twitter feed conveniently located in the sidebar 😉

8:36 – even though I feel like I’m five, I am laughing hysterically at these ridiculous skits.

8:37 – Ann Hathaway kind of looks like Princess Leia in that dress…but in a good way.

8:39 – For the record, she SHOULD be nominated for Love & Other Drugs.

8:41 – Why has that thought about Toy Story never occurred to me? Where is the dad?

8:43 – It’s so crazy that the Titanic music still gives me chills.

8:45 – Woot! I’m 1/1 on my nominees predictions!

8:47 – 2/2 baby! And Inception so should have more nominations that it does so this was well deserved.

8:55 – Such a hard choice between Hailee and Melissa. Both were so good!

8:56 – Kirk Douglas is an adorable old man.

9:02 – I don’t get that joke, Justin. Please explain…

9:05 – Toy Story 3 have a well deserved lock on this category, but How to Train Your Dragon was a beautiful movie.

9:13 – I love all these throw back clips they’re showing. It’s interesting.

9:14 – Duh, Aaron Sorkin is genius, plain and simple.

9:16 – Stop playing over them already. We’re only 45 minutes in and the speeches haven’t been that long.

9:17 – For the record, I’ve only gotten one wrong so far. This is a rarity that I am going to savor.

9:25 – Wow do I love you Anne Hathaway.

9:25: Really? We don’t even get one night without a Charlie Sheen reference?

9:27 – Damn, I got that one wrong. You let me down, Javier.

9:32 – *Does happy dance of Christian Bale devotion*

9:41 – Whomever did the production design and video editing for this show tonight did a bangarang job. It’s so pretty.

9:43 – While The Social Network score was amazing and made the movie, Daft Punk was so cheated.

9:47 – Dude I am kicking ass and taking names on these tonight. Only two wrong so far!

9:49 – Why is everyone hating on my Tron? I mean, it was visually and sound-wise stunning. I loved Inception, but throw them a bone.

9:59 – So glad Alice won for costumes. It just wouldn’t have been as good without those amazing costumes.

10:02 – Um, hi, Mr. President.

10:02 – I heart Kevin Spacey something fierce.

10:06 – Swoon, Zachary Levi

10:12 – I’m such a Jake Gyllenhaal junkie. He’s so pretty and underrated.

10:17 – BEST.HARRY.POTTER.SPOOF.EVER

10:30 – Jude Law does such bad things to me. It’s so dirty…

10:40 – And my disdain for Jennifer Hudson grows…

10:45 – I gotta say, I like Country Strong was a better song.

10:47 – I can’t believe I got this one right. Cheers to Randy!

10:48 – I concur Randy. We coulda had a Cher performance if that had been the case.

10:49 – Well, hello, Celine, my love and singing a song written by Charlie Chaplin. So good.

11:01 – Oh, Anne. You had me until the shiny blue dress.

11:03 – I loved The King’s Speech, but David Fincher should be standing on that stage.

11:12 – Jeff Bridges was epic in True Grit. Go see it. Now.

11:14 – Winter’s Bone was wicked boring, but Jennifer Lawrence was unbelievable in it.

11:16 – Frickin’ Natalie Portman

11:20 – Is it just me or did all these red dresses look better on the red carpet?

11:23 – *Thinks Colin Firth winning thoughts*

11:25 – *Does happy dance of Colin Firth love*

11:32 Dear Steven Spielberg, please make a movie with Anne Hathaway soon, k? thxbye

11:36 – So well deserved. Brava, Academy, for getting it right.

11:37 – Final count? 18/23 right. Woohoo!

 

A most excellent Oscars. I might even go so far as to say the best in my short 25 years. Mad props and love to Anne and James! Night, all.

Why the only Best Picture nominee I’ve seen should be the one to win

By the time the Oscars air next weekend I will have seen only one of the ten movies nominated for best picture, so take this next statement with a grain of salt. “The King’s Speech” is the most-worthy of all its acting and most its technical nominations out of all ten.

The film tells of the start of King George VI’s reign who not only had to deal with a kingdom his birthplace never intended him to inherit, but a stammer that made public speaking nearly impossible. More importantly, it focuses on the king’s (Colin Firth) strange friendship with speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who helps him realize the man and king he was meant to become.

As you know, I have seen a lot of films in my lifetime, not as many as some, but quite a few. And so I feel I can say with confidence that this was the first film that I did not have one single complaint to be found. I hesitate to call it perfect, however, because I know that every film has its flaws and I fear I was blinded by the sheer magnitude of the story and the brilliance of the performances to see them.

Both Rush and Firth are nominated for their roles, and if they do not win the Oscars this coming Sunday, I will truly have lost all hope for Hollywood. Both men completely immerse themselves into these characters, these men, and you cannot see any of the actors in their performances. Firth said in an interview that he came away from this movie with a huge perspective on people who stammer. He added that if they work half as hard to control their speech impediment as much as he did to create one, then they are truly remarkable people.

Their friendship is natural and easy, you can see why the king trusted this man so much just as clearly as you can see how Logue wanted to know the man behind the title.  Perhaps the best example of the actors’ command of their roles as well as the beauty of the storytelling comes in the pivotal moment at the end of the film, when King George must make his first wartime speech. It is truly one of the most spellbinding moments in cinematic history and on the surface it looks like just two men in a sound booth. It is, of course, so much more than that and every gesture, ever word, Firth and Rush convey the countless layers that moment was built upon. Helen Bonham Carter is also nominated for her role as Queen Elizabeth and while it was a well-deserved nomination and a very well-acted role, I think the sheer power of the two male performances was so great it overshadowed the rest of the cast.

Like I said in the beginning of this column, this movie deserves to win the majority of the twelve nominations it deserves. I have no doubt that all three acting nominations, directing, writing and best picture nominations are looking good for wins. However, in some of the technical awards I am a little less confident. I have to point out all my comparisons are based on the trailers for most of the other movies.

Though the movie is up against “Black Swan” and “Inception” for cinematography (which deals with such things as framing and lighting), I think it has a good chance of wining since every single shot in “The King’s Speech” was absolutely breathtaking. For editing it is up against “Black Swan” and “127,” among others, and I think those two have the best chance of beating it out, and while the costumes were gorgeous, it is up against “Alice in Wonderland,” (which I have seen several times) and since “Wonderland” is the closet thing to an extravagant costume piece in the nominations, I’m betting on it to win. Period costume pieces almost always win.
The music and sound categories can be tricky, though I would think “The King’s Speech” has a better chance at wining for Best Score as it is up against three action movies in the sound mixing category and those are usually favorites to win.

So while I may not have seen every single film nominated for the Oscars (that’s all on Mel and I applaud her for it), the one I did get a chance to see most definitely deserved every single nomination.

SyFy’s Alice is a trip worth taking

I know that in my columns I have talked about adaptations, reboots, re-imaginings and remakes in both television and cinema. And I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted on the subject of Hollywood’s obsession with giving a new face to an old piece of work once or twice. While most of the time the redo’s are okay (and sometimes really bad) every once in a while there are those that absolutely blow my mind with their ingenious and creativity. Such a gem I have found in SyFy‘s “Alice.”

This mini-series originally aired about three years ago, and like Tim Burton‘s “Alice in Wonderland,” isn’t so much a re-telling of the story as it is a continuation or a sequel and also takes elements from “Through the Looking Glass.” It follows Alice (who you aren’t quit sure if it is “the” Alice or not) a twenty-something who, thanks to the desertion of her father when she was 10, has a lot of issues. These issues come to light when her boyfriend Jack proposes to her under mysterious circumstances. When she kicks him out and then follows him to return the ring he left, she follows him straight into Wonderland, but a Wonderland that has changed from when the first Alice came over 150 years ago and not everything is as it seems.

 

Alice (Caterina Scorsone, left) and Hatter (Andrew Lee Potts) from SyFy's "Alice"

Nick Willing (who also breathed new and strange life into “The Wizard of Oz” for SyFy with “Tin Man”) brings us a Wonderland that is darker, more dangerous, more adult and ruled by the Red Queen (Kathy Bates) who has her Suits steal people from our world and bring them to the Hearts Casino where they, called Oysters in Wonderland, are drained of their emotions so the inhabitants of Wonderland can consume them. Bates plays the queen as only she can, with a careful balance of maliciousness and comedy. This isn’t Willing’s first time in Wonderland, he made the 1999 made-for-TV-movie “Alice in Wonderland” starring Robbie Coltrane, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Short, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lloyd, Gene Wilder and Tina Majorino. I remember watching the movie and being very confused and weirded out most of the time. I might go back and watch it again, just to compare it with Willing’s new adventure, but I have a feeling the SyFy one will win out.

To be honest, the first twenty minutes of the move made my head hurt, and it wasn’t until we met the Hatter (perfectly portrayed by “Primeval” star Andrew Lee Potts) and he explains to Alice (Caterina Scorsone) and the audience what is going on that I started to enjoy the show. What I like about Potts’ Hatter, along with his very sixties wardrobe, is that he isn’t actually mad at all. He’s a criminal who, until Alice comes along, played “both sides of the fence” to survive. His instant chemistry with ‘s Alice is electric and you enjoy every scene they have together.While the movie itself is one of the most original adaptations I have seen in a while, the DVD itself is lacking in all the extra goodies I tend to seek out first when purchasing a new movie. The only thing I found was an audio commentary with Willing and Scorsone, and while those are my favorite behind-the-scenes extras, it would have been nice to see some featurettes or documentaries, as the “Tin Man” DVD are chock full of them.

Even if you are sick of the “Alice” remakes, I highly suggest you take one more trip down the rabbit hole with this miniseries. You won’t be disappointed.

Liveblogging the Golden Globes

First, I have to apologize for the lack of posts on here, I give the usual excuses of real life and holidays. Second, I apologize in advance for my lack of liveblogging abilities. I’m going to attempt to liveblog the Golden Globes while Mel handles the tweets but I think the last liveblogging I did was the Emmys, so we’ll see how this goes. Three minutes until the Globes start so wish me (and the nominees) luck and enjoy the show!

8:01 – I would really love to have an entertainment-industry event without the mention of Charlie Sheen. Apparently, so would the Golden Globe attendees. Ricky Gervais is falling flat. Ouch.

8:04 – Dear Ricky Gervais, if you see torches and pitchforks after the show, I’m pretty sure it was well-deserved. Also, run.

8:06 – I was not expecting Christian Bale to win, but that’s exciting. To quote Mel: “Holy hair!” I also wish I could understand a word of what he is saying. I think that epic mustache is getting in the way and alcohol might be involved.

8:09 – First award of the evening and we’re already sending them out with music and completely cutting sound. This is going to go well.

8:10 – Katey Sagal looks great and I know Mel is very excited for her win!

8:16 – I remember the Miss Golden Globes from an episode of “Criminal Minds“! She was amazing and she looks gorgeous. I am curious if all the sound-cutting is because of language or if they’re having sound problems. It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the evening.

8:22 – Somehow I missed that “Red” was nominated tonight. I’m sad I didn’t get to see it in theaters but it still looks awesome.

8:23 – Yay Chris Colfer! He looks so stunned and adorable. I predict crying in his acceptance speech. Aw, Lea Michele is crying for him! I love this cast.

8:31 – Apparently the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press doesn’t appreciate Ricky Gervais’ brand of humor.

8:33 – Kevin Bacon is going to be in the new X-Men movie? How did I miss that news?

8:34 – What I love about these awards shows is they give me new things to put on my Netflix. So far: “The Pillars of the Earth” and “Boardwalk Empire.” Congrats Steve Buscemi!

8:37 – Apparently my decision to put “Boardwalk Empire” on Netflix was a good one.

8:43 – I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on Facebook who actually hasn’t seen “The Social Network.” Poor Andrew Garfield. Inspiringly isn’t not an easy word to type or say. And according to spell check, isn’t actually a word at all.

8:43 – “Bound to You” is a gorgeous song. I really hope it wins, though it is up against Alan Menken. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” is a pretty song too and Cher did an amazing job with it, so well done “Burlesque”!

Side note: I am really looking forward to “Harry’s Law.” I’m really sad it’s on at the same time as “Hawaii Five-0.”

8:55 – That haircut makes Justin Beiber look about nine…so, his actual age then.

8:57 – Though I did not see “Toy Story 3”, the first “Toy Story” will always be a part of my childhood.

9:01 – This is why Robert Downey Jr. is awesome.

9:02 – More important than Annette Bening winning, I actually picked a winner! This makes me very happy, even though I would have loved Emma Stone to win for “Easy A.” I’m not a fan of Emma’s blonde hair, though. I love that Annette is thanking actors as though they were actually the characters.

9:12 – Tilda Swinton, that is a very ill-advised ensemble. For some reason when I was predicting my winners, I chose Dennis Quaid over Al Pacino. That was clearly very stupid.

9:15 – I love how much Temple Grandin and Claire Danes love each other. It’s very sweet. I am also digging Claire’s dress, though it’s a bit bright.

9:23 – It’s a little random to have Zac Efron introduce “The Kids Are All Right.” I’m just saying.

9:26 – Aaron Sorkin wins for Best Screenplay for “The Social Network” and I am awaiting the Oscars so I can do better with my winning predictions. I kill with the costume and makeup categories.

9:30 – Jane Lynch wins for “Glee”! Kind of obvious, but well-deserved. Now we will again be subjected to Ed O’Neill’s complaints on how Sofia Vergara should have won.  Awesome.

9:36 – Ricky Gervais may be a crap host, but he speaks the truth. Sadly no one in America really pays attention to the foreign films.

9:41 – I wanted Laura Linney to win but I never expected she would!  That’s very exciting.

9:46 – Jane Fonda what are you wearing? And that was a very random clip to show for “Burlesque.”

9:49 – Jim Parsons looked like he was stuck in a corner somewhere, so I was pretty sure he was going to win.

9:51 – Melissa Leo wins for “The Fighter” and is adorable. Who wouldn’t freak out if they were kissed by Jeremy Irons?

10:00 – Oh Matt Damon, you’re so cute. I didn’t know he worked on a movie with Robert Di Nero, so I was confused as to why he was presenting it.

10:14 – We’re coming to the point where all the big awards are given out! It probably shouldn’t take another 45 minutes, but it will. And usually the Best Director (in this case, David Fincher for “The Social Network”) wins, said movie will also win. As I have yet to see this movie, I’m not sure how I feel about that.

10:18 – Yay “Glee”! Again, not unexpected but very well-deserved. This show has done more for society than I think even it realizes. I love that even the newer cast (Darren Criss, Max Adler, Dot Jones, etc) are there too.

10:25 – What does it say about Johnny Depp that he was up against himself and he still didn’t win?

10:32 – I find it interesting that we have seen very little of our host all evening. I think the bigwigs are not happy with him.

10:34 – From everything I’ve heard, Natalie Portman’s win is well-deserved. I love her so I’m very happy she won!

10:39 – I expected “The Kids Are All Right” to win.

10:46 – Sandra, I am so not a fan of that dress. Or your Cher hair. And surprisingly Colin Firth wins! I thought given all the wins with “Social Network” that Jesse Eisenberg was a shoe-in. But awards shows do love their period dramas.

10:54 – I love moments like this, the entire room giving Michale Douglas a standing ovation. It gives you the feeling that this is actually a community.

10:55- And the final winner of the night? “The Social Network.”

And there you have it, the 2011 Golden Globes! It was an awkward night, to say the least, and I am looking forward to seeing what all the tabloids say about it tomorrow! So? What did you think?

Welcome to ‘Burlesque’

First, I want to apologize for not being around here for the past month, I blame the holidays and my insane family. This does mean I have a few reviews for you to enjoy, however. I was going to post my Harry Potter review first, as I saw it the weekend it came out, but I am planning to see it again sometime this week and intend to edit it accordingly. So instead, my first review for you all shall be for “Burlesque.” I’ll be back later with one for “The Nativity Story,” just in time for Christmas!

Take two powerhouse superstars, add a “Twilight” vampire, spice it up with some racy dance moves and killer music and you have the recipe for an amazing musical experience, also known as “Burlesque.”

From the trailers the movie looked pretty simple, maybe even a little gimmicky. Cher and Christina Aguilera star in this story of a small-town girl Ali (Aguilera) who wants something more of her life and tries to find that in a hole-in-the-wall Burlesque club, run by Tess (Cher). The club is as diverse as the players inside it, including Tess’ right hand man, Sean (played to perfection by Stanley Tucci),  bartender/aspiring songwriter/Ally’s love interest Jack ( Cam Gigandet, “Twilight) and the club’s drunken diva, Nikki (played by Kristen Bell, a nice reprieve from her romantic comedies). There’s also the stunt casting of Julianne Hough as Georgia, a background dancer whose character didn’t really need to be developed, and was essentially just Hough being herself.

The club is in debt and in danger of being bought out by real estate mogul Marcus (also known as Cam’s rival for Ali’s affections, played by Eric Dane). Of course Ali and Tess, having formed a bond as all lead characters in movies like this do, come up with a solution in the eleventh hour. But what the movie lacks in plot depth, it makes up with in its characters.

 

Official poster for "Burlesque"

 

Never before had I felt that a movie could exist in our world with such conviction. These characters had real struggles and came up with real solutions. Sure, it’s all wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end, but it wouldn’t be a feel-good movie without it.  There’s just something about this movie that makes it different than all the other fluff pieces out there and I’m convinced its the characters and the sense of family the cast gave to them.

And while the big names are at the top billing, the number one star of this movie is the music. Cher knocks out her two solos as only Cher can, reminding us that while we may be skeptical of her career, she still has the talent that made her a pop icon.
I have been a fan of Aguleria since her “Genie in a Bottle” days, but even I was in awe of her voice when it came to the songs in this movie. More than once I had to stop myself from clapping out loud.

But perhaps my favorite music came from the recordings of the old Burlesque numbers. Now, I haven’t actually looked up whether or not these songs are actually from the old Burlesque days as the movie claims, but they certainly have the sound of them and it brought a sense of history to the club and the movie.

“Burlesque” may not be groundbreaking or a shoe-in for the Best Picture Oscar, but it has a heart in its characters and it has a voice its stars and it’s the perfect film to make you forget your troubles for two hours.

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