Archive | November, 2010

Four Years

28 Nov

It takes a special kind of grandmother to make each of her grandchildren feel like they were her favorite. And that’s exactly the kind of person my Bubby was. She made each one of her seven grandchildren feel like they were the center of her world. Today, on the fourth anniversary of the day she left us, I miss Bubby more than usual. No one loved my grandmother as much as I did, but the thing is, I know I’m not alone in that sentiment; my sister and my five cousins would probably tell you the same thing about themselves. And isn’t that the ultimate tribute to what a great woman she was? Each one of us wants to be the person who loved her the most. All these years later, we’re still competing to show who had the closest relationship with her, and who loved her more.

I will tell you I still think of Bubby every day. I still find myself wanting to call her and tell her something exciting. To make her laugh. To make her happy. Today especially, I just want to hug her one more time and have her tell me how much she loves me. What I wouldn’t give to hear her voice again.

Four years later, and I still love and miss my Bubby very much.

Show Girls

26 Nov

The good news is that Burlesque is not the big, hot mess it might appear to be from its trailer and poster. And sure, that’s damning with faint praise, but c’mon … this film just looks like it’s going to be awful — or at the very least, tailor-made for a certain demographic that’s not the one I’m a part of. It’s got Cher as the owner of a burlesque lounge in Los Angeles, and Christina Aguilera as an impressionable-but-smarter-than-she-looks, small-town girl, diamond-in-the-rough performer, whose undeniable talent saves the club when it’s in financial dire straits. And as if that’s not enough, Stanley Tucci plays a gay sidekick (again). But I kinda liked the film anyway.

In her film debut, Aguilera does a decent job. She’s not great, and not awful. She has her moments, but really, it’s all about her singing. Those pipes are hard to deny. The best parts of the movie are, no surprise, whenever she’s on stage performing — probably because they’re like good music videos. The soundtrack features a few songs that burrowed themselves into my brain and are still swimming around (damned ear worms). And there’s eye candy for both genders — the cast also includes Julianne Hough, Kristen Bell, Eric Dane, and Cam Gigandet. Some credit does go to the film’s writer/director, Steve Antin for not asking anyone to do much heavy lifting (other than the singing and dancing, of course), and generally taking his film seriously enough to deliver something that’s sometimes very enjoyable to watch.

That said, part of me kind of wishes Burlesque actually was the hot mess it promised to be. That might have made it a more fun way to spend my time. Sometimes it comes close — some of the dialogue is groan-worthy, Aguilera’s character inhabits so many screen cliches in the first 15 minutes, and Cher’s big number late in the film is a great time to take a bathroom break. The plot itself strains credibility more often than it doesn’t. And I wish there was less handheld cinematography; at times, the film was harder to watch than Cloverfield was.

But in taking itself seriously and not going over the top, Burlesque ends up being a mixed bag: It’s not the kind of film that’s going to win Oscars, but it’s not a prime target for Razzies, either. It’s odd wanting a movie to be worse than it is, but that’s because Burlesque caught me a bit off-guard. I liked it enough to rate it a B–.

I’m Thankful for …

24 Nov

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, so I’m going to continue my annual tradition of giving thanks for some of my favorite things. Here’s a partial list, in no particular order: Continue reading

It’s a Russian Novel

23 Nov

When Love and Other Drugs first begins, you may think you’re in for a very long next two hours. After all, there’s Jake Gyllenhaal dancing around an electronics store to the sounds of Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes.” Ugh. But damn if the film doesn’t eventually win you over. In the movie, Jake plays Jamie, a charming, slutty sales rep for Pfizer, who meets Maggie (Anne Hathaway) during one of his sales calls. We learn during that first meeting that Maggie has Parkinson’s Disease, and despite that, even though it’s completely out of character, somehow Jamie falls for Maggie. Of course, that’s after the two have sex. Lots and lots of sex. Let’s just say if you need a reason to see this movie, that’s it, and because you see plenty of the two actors. (Not that I’m complaining; they both look great.)

But anyway … with Maggie’s illness looming, you know Love is going to take a more serious turn eventually. And thankfully, the movie doesn’t become a total weepie. That’s partly because Anne and Jake make such a winning couple, and the script by director Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, and Charles Randolph isn’t a total downer. Zwick has made a film with plenty of intimate, sexy moments, and he’s drawn some good performances from his two leads. Yes, there are some missing details, and some plot points that strain credibility, but Jake and Anne’s great chemistry (yes, better than they had in Brokeback Mountain) makes it easy to overlook them. Thankfully, Love is much better than its opening few minutes would lead you to believe. I’m giving it a B.

What’s the Story?

22 Nov

Morning TV news programs get a gentle tweak in Morning Glory. In the film, Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller, an ambitious television producer, who’s hired to breathe life into Daybreak, the fourth-place network morning show. Her solution is to hire gruff veteran newsman Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), who begrudgingly takes the job of sitting alongside the show’s longtime host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), even though he wants nothing to do with the silly antics and lightweight stories. But when the show is threatened with cancellation, all must do whatever it takes to keep Daybreak on the air.

Morning Glory was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, who also penned the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada, and there are plenty of similarities between the two films. For example, both feature a perky, go-getter heroine who puts work ahead of her personal life, and both feature winning performances by their lead actresses. In this case, McAdams deserves all the credit for why Morning Glory is enjoyable to watch, even when the rest of it isn’t. McAdams helps the screenplay seem better than it is. She’s playing such a peppy, high-spirited person — and she does it so well — that I half-expected Ford to bark at her the famous Lou Grant line, “You’ve got spunk!” (Instead, he tells her she’s got moxie.) But it’s true. After starring in Wedding Crashers, McAdams stayed away from the breezy, lightweight romantic comedies she was offered, and she held out for a decent one. I couldn’t help but think that if Katherine Heigl, who starred in another McKenna film, 27 Dresses, had played Becky, this would have been a much worse film.

Which is not to say that Morning Glory is a masterpiece, or even on the same level as Prada. The first half of the film is better than the second, and other than McAdams, none of the other leads have much to work with; they can’t save the one-note characters they’re playing (Ford especially). And, it should be noted, it’s hard to take a film too seriously when it’s centered around a television network with the unfortunate name of IBS. Yes, Becky saves the show and manages not to lose her boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) in the process. But the fact that she makes Morning Glory watchable is her real triumph. I’m giving the film a B.

Step Back Into Christmas with Me

16 Nov

This really is the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, every year I can’t wait to get past Halloween because that means one thing: It’s time to start work on the year’s edition of A Very Marty Xmas.

2010 will actually be the 10th anniversary edition of my annual mix. That’s right, I’ve been making holiday mixes for 10 years (that is, if you don’t count 2008, which I skipped), and many folks have told me my mixes have become an essential part of their holiday. That’s pretty amusing — and impressive — considering I’m Jewish and all. Continue reading

Rock Solid

11 Nov

What would you do to save your own life?

In 2003, Aron Ralston was out climbing in Robbers Roost, Utah, when he got stuck in a canyon — his hand trapped under a boulder.

Six days later, dehydrated, hungry, and nearly out of options, he somehow found the strength to free himself by first breaking his arm and then amputating it from the elbow down.

Ralston told his story in the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and now it’s come to the big screen in the thrilling film 127 Hours. Continue reading

Two for the Road

6 Nov

I wanted to like Due Date, but I’m calling it a disappointment. Not much to say about it, other than I saw it and didn’t love it. My rating’s a B–. How’s that for a short review?

Saved by Bella Swan

1 Nov

In Welcome to the Rileys, James Gandolfini trades in his Jersey brogue for a midwestern twang and stars as Doug Riley, one half of a still-grieving Indiana couple that lost its 15-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident eight years prior. Doug has dealt with the loss by being emotionally distant, and his wife, Lois (Melissa Leo), has dealt with it by not even leaving the house. Then, while on a business trip to New Orleans, Doug meets Mallory (Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart), a stripper with a strong resemblance to Doug’s daughter. Feeling like he has a second chance at the life he was denied, Doug decides to stay in NOLA and take care of the young lady — a move that prompts Lois to finally leave the house and join him.

Directed by Jake Scott, Ridley’s son, Welcome to the Rileys is fine — nothing more, nothing less. The screenplay (by Ken Hixon) has its holes, and at some points, Gandolfini’s accent doesn’t help matters. But he’s alright, and so is Stewart (who shows barely any skin, despite playing a stripper). The best of the three is Leo, whose performance is understated and seemingly heartfelt. I’m not expecting Welcome to the Rileys to stick around in theaters long, and I can’t really say I would have missed it had I not seen it. So I’m giving it a C.

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