May 29, 2011

Water for Elephants (2011) - a good try that somehow waters down

directed by Francis Lawrence / starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz

Water for Elephants turned out to be one of those movies that technically have all the ingridients to be great, but for some reason you can't quite put your finger on, they flag in the level of being just okay. It could've been so good: it has a great, intriguing and visually exciting setting (who wouldn't love the circus atmosphere?), a dramatic, moulinrouge-ish kind of story and pretty good actors, too (the main threesome includes two Oscar winners and one of the most recognizable faces in the world right now (not that that necessarily guarantees anything)).

And yet... blah.  There was something missing; that little extra something. I kind of did enjoy myself as long as the movie lasted, but it didn't linger in my mind, and now, a few weeks later that I'm actually trying to get my mind around finishing this post, I can't say there are many thoughts in my head about the film. But I'll try.

Reese Wiherspoon has done some pretty good roles, yes, though usually their just the basic barbie doll roles, but somewhere between those she managed to win an Oscar, too, so she can't be a total loser, right? I'm a bit torn about her, but in Water for Elephants, I didn't like her much, if at all. She just lacked that... that leading lady spark. I mean, in movies like this you're supposed to fall in love with the characters like they fall in love with each other, or at least see what they mean, when they go "Ah, my love, I'd die for you, please let me die for you" and "Your mesmerizing beauty makes me see you in slow motion". (Like in Moulin Rouge!, for example, it makes total sense that they risk their lives for each other and all that, because we see her beauty and soul and his lovable romantic poor man's charm.) I just felt like telling Rob to ditch the colourless, soulless woman and go fall in love with someone of his own age. Rob at least was kind of charming. And you can't tell me I'm biased, because I was always Team Jacob when I had to choose.

So, Robert Pattinson is pretty good in this movie. It's delightful to see the total lack of all those horrible brooding mannerisms, but I'm afraid this is still not enough to shake the vampire from his shoulders, make less people hate his guts for being so famous and popular ans handsome, and make less people faint at the sight or thought of him or anything related to him. But it's a step away from all that, even if only a small one. It's going to take a while for people to take him seriously, and everyone knows that. Speaking of which, I'm actually become kind of a spokeswoman for Robert Pattinson since some months ago I read this interview. I'd kind of felt sorry for him before, but now I've taken up the habit of defending his honour in every chance I get. If you want to hear my speech, please do not hesitate to ask. Haha. But seriously, though. The guy's just taken too much crap for one little mistake, which you can't blame him for, because no aspiring young actor in his good sense says no to a leading role. Okay, shutting up now, before this gets out of hand.

Christoph Waltz masters the art of playing the vilain, of course. In fact, if he was really lazy and just wanted to make some quick, easy money, he could just do all of his roles by standing still and not saying anything, and the memory of colonel Hans Landa in everyone's minds would do the job for him and everyone would be freaking scared of him anyway. So that's all I have to say about that.

I've somehow failed to talk about the film itself, while talking about various other things. Well, first time for everything, right? (A little sarcasm, right there, in case you didn't notice.) Let's do a nice little summary. Good about Water for Elephants: Rosie the elephant (seriously, what a charmer! Hope they treated her alright...), setting (I just love me some circus stories), Christoph Waltz, Pattinson's non-Edward-ness. Bad about Water or Elephants: the lack of that little extra something, the TOTAL lack of chemistry between the two 'lovers', Reese Witherspoon's blandness, the annoying Nicholas Sparks-like vibe the ending gave me.

I've got the book waiting for me on the shelf and I will read it when the moment presents itself, because the story is still okay, and everyone says the book is better than the movie. I just have to imagine someone else's face in the place of the heroine...

"I don't know if I picked that circus. But something told me that circus picked me."

May 28, 2011

The Breakfast Club (1985) - once upon a time in a Saturday detention

directed by John Hughes / starring Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy

Five high school kids spend their day in detention on a Saturday. All the stereotypical high school types are represented: the jock, the nerd, the prom queen, the weirdo and the problem child. They all come from different directions, diffrent backgrounds, different lives, and at they end of the day they leave to again go their own separate ways, but in between, they might learn something about each other, about themselves and about life.

It's a real travesty that before just a few months ago, the only John Hughes films I'd seen were about an accident-prone kid called Kevin McCallister. I mean, of course I have the highest respect to Home Alone movies, but oh how I wish I had discovered the John Hughes high school movies of the '80s when I was in that particular target age. Better late than never, though! The Breakfast Club was actually the first one I saw, and after that I've seen pretty much all the other big ones (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty in Pink, even Weird Science), but nothing really could beat that first one.

They say that John Hughes was the first film director ever to take teenagers seriously, and potray them in an accurate, realistic way, and I'm totally buying that. That one scene towards the end of The Breakfast Club (where they sit and talk, you know what I mean, I'm sure) is enough to prove that Hughes remembered what it is like to be a teen. My god, that scene is one brilliant piece of cinema. It's almost overwhelming and can't be described in words (at least not in any words I know) how awesome that scene is.

I love all the characters in The Breakfast Club (though some more than other, yes), and I love how they interact with each other. Really, the five individual characters and the group dynamics are what holds the film together and makes it so, so good.

John Bender played by Judd Nelson is the obvious scene stealer. The character just kind of kicks ass. In many ways he's is the central figure of the whole movie, but mostly just because that personality needs to be in the centre. John Bender doesn't give a (excusez-moi mon francais (or something (excuse my lousy French)), but this is what Bender would say) fuck. He doesn't really respect anyone (authority figures the least (but somehow he seems to respect Allison, though, which is super cool) and lets it show. He's rude and out of control and angry and arrogant and awesome. You just got to love that attitude and that fast tongue.

Andrew Clark played by Emilio Estevez is the popular jock, who kind of struggles between being a nice guy and seeming cool among his peers. He's not particularly standout as a character and not very intriguing (at least not for me), so he's quite a tricky character to play. I guess Andrew and Ringwald's Claire are my least favourites of the bunch, because they are the most like they seem, like you'd expect them to be. They don't really hold as much mystery or secrets as the others.

Molly Ringwald plays the popular girl Claire Standish so much better than all the geeky, 'likable' girls she's played in other Hughes movies. Maybe it's because I never found her presence very likable or sympathetic or easy to relate to, so I didn't really buy her as the awkward yet good-hearted heroine in Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. The haughty prom queen type she does quite well, however. But like I said above, the character lacks the element of surprise to really kick ass.

Ally Sheedy's Allison Reynold is such a weirdo. She doesn't speak much, but when she does, it's golden. I love everything that she says. Or does, for that matter. "When you grow up, your heart dies." And that's all I need to say about her.

What did I do before I had seen Anthony Michael Hall in action? I tell you what I did. I lived in shameful ignorance! I was so clueless! I liked him in Sixteen Candles and Weird Science as well, because he does comedy so brilliantly, but this... I was SO impressed by his acting, especially in the scene I praised above. I'm almost tearing up just thinking about it. Geez, that just hits me so freaking hard. On the other hand, the comedy value is still there ("Chicks can't hold their smoke. That's what it is."), plus Anthony Michael Hall's personality is probably one of the most likable personalities there is, so you just can't help loving that shy, awkward, geeky Brian Johnson talking about the academic clubs he's in. Aww.

So there you go. Add the enemy (the wonderfully horrible principal played by Paul Gleason) to the mix, and you got yourself the most awesome and life-changing Satuday detention ever. The Breakfast Club is the latest addition I've made to the sacred and prestigious group I imaginatively like to call My Favourite Movies. And it's been a long, long time coming...

"You see us as you want to see us - in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That's the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed."

May 26, 2011

Did I ever tell you I was struck by lightning seven times?

Didn't remember this movie was so freaking wonderful. I bet it wasn't the last time I saw it. I'm becoming such a wuss. Anyway, love you, David Fincher, love you. And loooove technology for making Brad Pitt look like that again.

"I was thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is."
"Some things last."

May 24, 2011

a year not Lost

Today it's been one year since Lost ended, since I saw the series finale! Freaky! And what do you know, I'm still here, alive and even kicking a little. At times I was sure my life would end with the best TV show in the universe, but somehow I've soldiered on! And honestly, it's been so easy that a year younger version of me would be disgusted or at least very ashamed. But hey, the year hasn't been a total loss, as there's been Glee, which has been filling the hole born a year ago better than I ever expected anything to fill, at least not this soon.

But still as much as I lovelovelove Glee, it's obviously not Lost. Case in point: season two of Glee ends this week, and I'm not half as pumped as I always was waiting for any season finale of Lost. Nothing makes me freak out like the show used to make. I shall never forget those days of insane screaming, hitting my head on a wall and running circles on the backyard (season 5 finale), almost bursting open an operation scar on my stomach (season 2 opening), and laying on a bed for a half an hour, staring at the roof with wide, watery eyes (season 6 finale). Aw. Good times.

I think I'll celebrate this occasion by, for the first time ever, keeping it short and not letting things get out of hand when talking about Lost. I also might call everyone by rude nicknames, play backgammon and Connect Four, listen to The Mamas and the Papas, enjoy some imaginary peanut butter, engage myself in a heated conversation about destiny and faith, and maybe go buy myself a pair of white tennis shoes.

Finally, a truly series-defining quote, for old times' sake:

"Was he talking about what I think he was talking about?"
"If you mean time-travelling bunnies, then yes." 

Oh how good to see that pretty face again.

P.S. I happened to remember that I still haven't finished the final season six post of my Complete Lost Marathon. Hmh. If I found my notes I could maybe finish it one of these days...

May 22, 2011

The Walking Dead season one - brains, blood and lots of guts

I just finished the first season of The Walking Dead. I began watching yesterday. And it's not weird because the season has only six episodes. I'm not head over heels for the show, but apparently it's quite addictive and I will catch the second season, too. (It begins on August in the U.S. So I might be watching it live! Hoho! What a funny thought...)

The series builds around police officer Rick Grimes (played by a distractingly familiar-looking fellow called Andrew Lincoln, who I just couldn't make myself place without help, but he's no other than the "To me you are perfect" guy from Love Actually! I was fooled by the lack of British accent, I guess...), who one day gets shot and the next thing he knows, he wakes up in a messed up, deserted hospital, with no one around but dead people. Or undead people, however you like to look at it. Zombies, anyway. It's pretty cool that the word 'zombie' is never mentioned during the whole season, by the way! Anyway, the series follows Rick meeting other survivors, trying to find his wife and son, and killing quite a lot of zombies on the way. You know how these things work.

I'm not the world's biggest zombie enthusiast, but enough so to get interested in a series like this. The zombies in The Walking Dead are pretty cool and some impressively gross. The characters are not the strongest area of the show, as most of them feel very indifferent or even annoying, at least to me. My infamous Main Character Syndrome is at work once again: I don't really care for Rick (you should be back in London, chasing Keira, man!) and Sarah Wayne Callies's Lori is probably my least favourite character. She's cold and colourless and I don't like the look on her skinny face. Back when she was hanging out with Michael Scofield I actually liked her a bit.

A character I do like is Glenn, who answers for most of that scarce comic relief in the show. I know it's mostly the ethnicity factor, but he reminds me a lot of Miles from Lost. Daryl Dixon is another favourite, whom I've by the way named a Sawyer, just with less sex appeal than the original one. And there are many other Lost archetypes I spotted, too. It's funny how that show still sneaks in the back of my head and affects the way I look at the world. Or TV shows, at least. It's quite easy to try and find parallels with these two, as they are quite similar in nature. (Lost is better, though. Way, way better. Okay, I'll shut up.)

I was a bit surprised to go to the internet and read that people like the show, yes, but hope for more action and zombie killing, and less talk and character moments. I guess it's just my distinctive character-driven taste, because I thought that the action and the drama were in a pretty nice balance, and that just enough zombies got killed. Actually, majority of the most poignant, most memorable moments have to do with zombies, yes, and killing them, yes, but with some deeper thought or story behind the act. The mindless slaughtering with flying guts and dropping heads and splashing blood is fun for a while, but I don't like it as the main point. The word is there will be more of that on season two (because apparently I'm one of the fewer viewers who'd like to see more group dynamics and learn about the characters), so we'll see how that works for me.

Well, anyway. It was nice to watch something other than Glee for a change (not that there's anything not-nice in watching just Glee), as I gave up watching the second season of True Blood due to a total lack of interest, and I still haven't found a cut-price season three box set of Mad Men. The Walking Dead is a pretty interesting and fresh show, and I'm looking forward to the next season, however bloody it will be.

P.S. After being inside by myself all day, watching the show, I went out and imagined that all my neighbours were zombies. I had a very exciting walk to the corner shop and back.

May 21, 2011

8½ (1963) - proper post coming up (in approx. 20 yrs)

directed by Federico Fellini / starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo

is part 5/12 of my resolution for 2011.

Let's just be honest from the start. This will be a very lousy, short and futile post. I had an early lecture today and an exhausting exam right after and then I came home and thought I'd watch the classic of May, which I kind of knew to be a bad idea but I went for it anyway. Like half way through I took a nap. The game was lost long before the nap, but that sealed it. I was in no mood for artistic Italian movies, and I doubt there would've been a more suitable moment later this month. Or this year. Or this decade?

I didn't hate it, alright. It was much lighter and much less high-brow than I expected. I saw that it's very well made and at times I thought "this would be so cool if I wasn't so damn bored". It's not a bad film, it's just not for me at not, especially not right now. When I wasn't falling asleep I felt restless and the rapid and loud Italian jabber made my head hurt so I had to turn the volume down.

So, May on this noble mission of 2011 was not my proudest moment. I'd call it a fail. A big fat fail. Which is why hereby promise that I'll watch again within the following twenty years and then maybe write an actual post with actual thoughts about the film in it. Wouldn't hold your breath, though.

P.S. Guido reminded me a lot of Colin Firth in A Single Man, with those glasses and all.

P.P.S. Guido's last name is Anselmi! How did I manage to miss this funny fact up till now? Maybe has something to do with the fact that I slept through most of the film, or something, hmm...?

May 18, 2011

10 of my favourite musical moments in non-musical movies

I haven't made a list in a half a century! Or in other words, five months! Gee! It's about time to make another one. I know I usually specialize in Top Fives, but again, five turned out to be nearly not enough. Ten is not enough either, put I wisely drew the line there. I will now present to you ten of my favourite musical moments in non-musical movies. 'Musical moment' in thise case can mean either singing or dancing. Or lip-syncing.

Enjoy, if you please!


10. Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You in Ten Things I Hate About You (1999)

 This first one is kind of a black sheep... The others are strictly my own personal favourites, and while I think 10 Things I Hate About You is an okay movie, it's not one of those I watch again and againa and whose lines I know by heart. However, I HAD to include this, even if only for number ten, because this particular scene is just wonderful. Thanks to Heath Ledger and his disarming awesomeness.

9. Thriller in 13 Going on 30 (2004)

(The option here was Jingle Bell Rock from Mean Girls. Yeah. And I do feel kind of saddened for having to let it go. Seriously!) 13 Going on 30 has been one of my favourite romcoms for a long time. Sure, I haven't felt like watching it for a looooong time, but I know one of these days I'll pick it up once again. Jennifer Garner's Jenna and Mark Ruffalo's Matt dance the Thriller to spice up a company party, and it's pretty catchy, isn't it? The highlight is of course when Gollum aka Andy Serkis steps up to show some of his sweet moves.

8. You Make My Dreams in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

In a film that in many ways likes to bend the traditional ways of storytelling, it makes more than enough sense for a character, in the height of falling in love, to suddenly break into a gleeful, Disney-ish dance number, joined by the by-passers and even an animated little bird. And Han Solo.

7. Pop! Goes My Heart in Music and Lyrics (2007)

Hugh Grant is hilarious, and he has some awesome hips, that man. I've gotten so many laughs out of this clip, I can't even begin to tell you. The best part is when they once or twice almost lose their poker face. And who can blame them! That's one pretty ridiculous music video.

6. I Need A Hero in Shrek 2 (2004)

The second Shrek is my favourite of the bunch (though the first one is good, too), not least because of its awesome music. This is a fun, catchy scene, where Shrek tries to outrun time to save Fiona from Prince Charming.

5. Hoist the Colors in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

The guaranteed goosebumps in the opening sequence of the third PotC movie guarantee Hoist the Colors the middle spot on the list.

4. Jump in Love Actually (2003)

More Hugh Grant's hips! Sorry! This is legendary. The shortest moment of the bunch, but maybe, just maybe, the most viewed one (by me). It never gets old.

 (No embedding available, click here.)

3. Titina in Modern Times (1936)

This marks the occasion when we hear the Tramp talk for the first time. Or not talk, to be exact. Sing. In gibberish. Yet the point and the story come across, because he acts it out simutaniously. It's one more proof of the genius of Charlie Chaplin. As if we needed any more of those.

2. Super Freak in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The brilliant awkwardness of the scene, Abigail Breslin's dance moves, the general context and how well it fits in the whole movie make this moment almost worthy the top spot. It's really quite an anti-climactic climax, but that's the awesome thing about it. The film keeps it real at all times, always avoiding melodrama and cliches, and yet this sequence ends up being quite rousing. And awesome. Just awesome.

1. Twist And Shout in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

My newest favourite of all of these ended up snatching the number one spot. Why? Because this is actually the scene that inspired me to make this list in the first place. Because in the film, this is when Ferris finally won me over, too. Because - don't argue - this embodies everyone's ultimate fantasy. Because everyone deserves a rockstar moment.

(The Twist and Shout part begins at about 2:00.)

I'm eagerly waiting for your comments, protests and additions!

May 17, 2011

The War Game (1965) - cautionary images of horror

directed by Peter Watkins

This 1965 documentary paints a picture of a gloomy fictional scenario, where nuclear war hits Britain: we see the Government's feeble attempts to prepare the people for the approaching danger, and then the full impact a strike has to an avarage English town - the immidiate destruction and the chaotic aftermath, the physical and mental damage men, women and children all suffer.

First when I heard about this I thought it sounded fascinating; what-if scenarios always are. It also felt a bit far-fetched. If you want to do a documentary about nuclear strikes, why not use the real life examples, as we unfortunately have had two of those as well? But yeah, it's pretty clear. For a western person, Japan and everything that might have happened there feel so far away. Only when the horrors are brought to your own neighbourhood, that's when it gets real. That maybe says something about the general lack of empathy in the world, but yeah, whatever works... I can't say if you should look at this film as a cautionary tale or propaganda or what, but the point gets across loud and clear: nuclear war isn't very nice. I can imagine how terrifying watching this documentary must have felt like for the people in the 60s. Hopefully they also remembered that while it's fiction to them, it's not fiction for everyone.

It's confusingly difficult to say what I think about the film or how it made me feel. I mean, it's fiction, right? This never happened, it's only a worst-case scenario. The Cold War is long gone and I don't think the Britons today need to worry about Russian nuclear bombs. We feel pretty safe here in Europe, don't we? Of course we, like every other person on the face of the Earth, should be scared, like really scared. I don't even want to imagine how many times the number of nuclear weapons has multiplied since the 1960s. And with those red buttons always close at hand to the great leaders of all those great nations... Knowing our species - the dangerous human impulse and paranoia and the general stupidness of man - I'd say we're pretty much screwed. It's terrifying to imagine how very close to total destruction we are, every moment, including right now... It might only take a tiny little push for the first finger to move to the button and press it down, which could only lead to a vicious circle and that's that then.

I don't know why I don't feel absolutely terrified. Maybe I still feel I'm pretty safe, and there's certainly more immidiate dangers around to worry yourself with. I mean, a nuclear war? Maybe the concept is just too bizarre and terrible to grasp. You can only cross you fingers and toes and everything and hope it all remains just a distant, alien menace, a warning from the past.

Have you noticed there's recently been a trend of me watching these amazingly cheery and feel-good documentaries? Nothing like a nice little tale of Holocaust or nuclear war to make your day...

May 16, 2011

What else I saw in April

Definitely, Maybe (2008)

This was one of the better romcoms of the recent years. Ryan Reynolds is divorcing his wife and when their daughter is taught about the birds and the bees at school, he ends up telling her the story of the women in his life. Abigail Breslin is as awesome as always. And uncharacteristically for romcoms, I wasn't entirely sure with who he'd end up with! I mean, sure, my first guess was correct, but at times I had doubts. One thumb up for that. Otherwise, the movie was quite forgettable, and one watch was enough, but that one watch was quite enjoyable.

Hard Candy (2005)

Well. Look what Ellen Page was doing before Juno got her knocked up! She did nasty things to nasty old men. And she did it well! The movie is quite creepy and a bit revolting, but it keeps you in its grip while it lasts. It also has one of the coolest posters ever!

Jane Eyre (2006)

Technically this is a TV mini-series, but anyway. I watched this to revise for an exam. Why studying can't always be like that, haha? I wasn't sure about Ruth Wilson playing Jane, but she won me over eventually. And I didn't despise this Mr. Rochester nearly as much as the novel's equivalent, hurray! The exam didn't go as well as planned, but at least the revising was fun. Now I'm looking forward to the newest version of Jane Eyre, coming out this year. We'll see how repulsive Mr. Rochester will be this time, haha.
Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Baz Luhrman might have directed one of my favourite movies ever, Moulin Rouge!, but that's pretty much the only decent thing he's ever constructed, it seems. I mean, this one? It was okay, I guess, but just okay and nothing else. A bit silly, it was, and not in a good way. Dance flicks are always nice, but this one didn't fire me up at all. I'm now trying to come up with something nice to say, but nothing comes to mind. Hmm. It's been a few weeks, was it really this bad? I guess it was. Shame. Kind of.

The Last Song (2010)

So, I watched this to celebrate my blog's first anniversary, and what a lousy party it was! Haha. No, but... Yeah. It was. Anyway, I was curious to see 1) whether Miley Curys would still piss me off even if I really tried not to get pissed off, and 2) what Gale will be like in the Hunger Game films. The results: 1) yes, and 2) still no opinion. So, a really great watch! Truly worthy my time! Let's see it again, NOW! ... Okay, it really wasn't so miserably bad. A little, though.

May 15, 2011

A Comeback Attempt 2.0.

A quote from my last post I wrote on April 28th:

"P.S. Can I begin my Wappu now? The exam book says no. Everything and everyone else says yes. I'm confused!"

Well, I did begin my Wappu pretty much right after posting that, and even though the party went on a few days longer than planned (which was just awesome, I love when things go so not according to plan!), I can't really blame it for my weeks of absence. And I don't think there's really a need to blame something or someone, there's just been a lot of things to do and think about and get your head distracted with. This is now my second comeback attempt (first one was right after my Wappu but I never finished that post) and I'm not saying I'll be super productive from here on (because there are still a lot things and thoughts and distractions), but I'll do my best not to appear dead.

A random and shamelessly unrelated picture of a flying Darren Criss. I needed a picture and this is what I first found. Let's just say, for example, that this symbolizes me jumping back in the game, to the blogging front, full of glee and ideas and enthusiasm! ... No, let's just be honest and say that I just love to look at him.