Archive | December, 2010

2010’s Entertainment Stays with Me

31 Dec

A couple nights ago, I re-watched the series finale of Lost for the first time in about four months.

I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it as much, if not more than, I did when the episode first aired in May, and the last time I watched it back when the DVD was first released in August — and that’s not just because I’m still blown away by how great Evangeline Lilly looked in that black dress.

That’s a relief, because when the finale aired, I was lamenting the end of one of my all-time favorite TV shows.

The last episode of Lost not only lived up to the hype, but it endures and continues to be great. Continue reading

2010 Was for the Birds

30 Dec

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s no coincidence that one of the biggest timewasters of the past year was the iPhone app Angry Birds.

That’s because as far as I’m concerned, 2010 was for the birds.

2009 was an awesome year for me, and this year was, well, not.

I started the year alone in my apartment on New Year’s Eve, and then it continued from there. There was disappointment, frustration, challenge, and laziness. Relationships didn’t pan out, I got too used to spending time on my own, I was let down a few too many times, and things I hoped to do I never was able to set my mind to.

Sure, things got better after the midway point, but especially after the year I had 12 months earlier, this year just kind of sucked. Continue reading

The Sad Version

29 Dec

Don’t go to see Rabbit Hole expecting a comedy. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star as Becca and Howie, two parents still coming to terms with the death of their four-year-old son. Whereas he is fixated on the past and trying to deal with his emotions, she is letting go rather than dealing with the loss. Becca finds comfort in the high school student who was driving the car that killed her son, and Howie bonds with another member of a support group (Sandra Oh). As you may assume, the film is not big on laughs. Thankfully, it’s not a total tear-jerker, either, but it won’t be the lightest moviegoing experience you have. If you’ve seen Ordinary People or In the Bedroom then you know what to expect.

Rabbit Hole, which was adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from his play and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, is an intimate, poignant look at grief, and the differing ways it plays out. Kidman, in the role that won Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon a Tony award, is very good, as is Eckhart, but for me, it’s Dianne Wiest, as Becca’s mother, who gives the better performance. It’s hard to say I enjoyed this movie, and I thought there were some moments and scenes that didn’t work, but the whole thing ends nicely, and I walked out of the theater thinking positively about the movie. So I’m giving Rabbit Hole a B.

She’s Truly Great

28 Dec

Here’s the weird thing about True Grit, the Coen brothers’ remake/reimagining of the classic Western tale: About an hour after seeing it, I couldn’t remember much about it. The film just didn’t stay with me. And it’s not that I didn’t like it or anything. It just didn’t have any lasting impact on me. And that’s a shame, because I love the Coen brothers (Fargo remains one of my all-time favorite movies, and last year’s A Serious Man ranked number three on my list of favorite movies), and I’d had high hopes for True Grit. Oh well.

In the film, young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) hires U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges, in the role that won John Wayne an Oscar) to help her find Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father. Also on Cheney’s trail is Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon). Bridges speaks in such a heavy drawl that after a while it’s really off-putting. Damon does his best to keep up with Bridges, but he’s just not a strong enough presence. That leaves Steinfeld, who at the age of 13, blows the other two guys away. She’s really the star of this movie, and the reason I’d give anyone to see it. It’s all the more remarkable when you realize this is her first movie.

Anyway, I wish I had liked True Grit more than I did so I’d have remembered more about it. That’s why I’m only going to give it a B–.

There’s a Place for Him

27 Dec

If you want to know what Sofia Coppola’s latest film, Somewhere, is about, the first two minutes provide a handy (and not too subtle) synopsis. In those opening moments, actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) drives his Ferrari around and around in a circle, and then finally comes to a stop and realizes how much he’s missing when he gets out of the car and looks around. The real plot of the movie is about how Marco’s life is going nowhere until he’s visited by his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), and he decides to change his self-destructive lifestyle.

The thing is, saying Somewhere has a plot gives the wrong idea of what actually happens in the movie. The answer to that question is not much. Coppola is more concerned with atmosphere and style than actual forward narrative movement, so at many times, it seems like nothing is happening. That’s partly because there’s very little dialogue (one wonders if there was an actual screenplay or if everything was improvised), and partly because it takes a good third or more for the plot to kick in, and for Cleo to show up. And maybe it’s also because the story of a self-destructive actor who finds meaning for his life when he meets or reconnects with a child has been done many times before.

I don’t mean to disparage the movie, though. Or at least, not as much as it may seem. Despite any misgivings I may have about the point of the whole exercise and what point Coppola is trying to make, I still generally liked Somewhere. Dorff gives a very natural performance — which is not to say it’s a stretch or maybe even an actual performance, just that it seems very lived-in — and he and Fanning have some good chemistry. The film looks good, very indie chic, and its minimal scoring lets the action unfold without much emotional orchestration. Coppola’s frequent long takes makes it seem like she just set up the scene and let her actors go to work. As a result, Somewhere often feels like you’re eavesdropping on some private, intimate moments.

I doubt Coppola will ever make a movie as good as Lost in Translation was, and Somewhere doesn’t come close. It would be easy to say the movie goes nowhere, but it deserves a little more credit than that. I’m giving it a B.

Strangers on a Train

26 Dec

The biggest mystery about The Tourist isn’t the whereabouts of the guy people think Johnny Depp’s character is. It’s how a movie with so much going for it could be so disappointing. Depp stars as Frank, a Wisconsin math teacher, who innocently meets the mysterious Elise (Angelina Jolie) on board a train en route to Venice. Elise involves Frank in a plot to distract some mobsters and some British Interpol agents, but something goes wrong and of course, the two fall for each other. It all unfolds on land and water in the Italian city, and the film was directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of the Oscar-winning film The Lives of Others.

Sounds intriguing (mostly), but I just didn’t buy it. I’m not sure exactly when the film lost its credibility, but it had to be around the part when Depp revealed himself as the most stylish, sophisticated, athletic, and resourceful math teacher of all time — and he’s from Wisconsin to boot! Is there any reason for him to fall in love with someone who has put his life in danger, even if she looks like Angelina Jolie? Of course not. So I don’t mind telling you that the “twist” at the end couldn’t be any more predictable. And as moviegoers, we’re left wondering why Depp, Jolie, et al didn’t just stay home instead of taking this ill-fated trip. I’m giving The Tourist a C–.

Happy Hanukkah, Greenberg’s Delicatessen!

24 Dec

On this, the day of Christmas Eve, allow me to wish all my non-Jewish readers a very merry Christmas.

My “gift” to you is this clip from Turner Classic Movies, which shows It’s a Wonderful Life as it was originally intended: As a Hanukkah story.

Enjoy, and ho ho ho!