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Archive for June, 2009

breaking_bad_05You know that I like a series when I spend three hours watching all of the episodes available on the disk.  So is how it went for the amazing series Breaking Bad. Not only does it have great characters and great actors portraying them, but it is also very visual.  Instead of lamenting about the main characters diagnosis of lung cancer (Bryan Cranston as Walter H. White), the show decides to present the information visually, which is my opinion makes much more of an impact on the audience.  And it does this a lot – telling you the story through images instead of words (the very end of the third episode does this extremely well).  And what a concept for the show – a once seemingly brilliant, but now haggard high school chemistry teacher who has been beaten down by life (by his students, his bosses, money and even his wife at times), gets a sentence of death and makes an unbelievable choice.  The main character in Breaking Bad chooses to be a drug dealer out of a sense of desperation (much like the series Weeds, although one could argue that Nancy’s reasoning is much more superficial than William’s), relying on his chemistry skills to help him “succeed”.  Gripping, yet sometimes hard to watch, Breaking Bad is a series well worth checking out.  5 out of 5 monkeys

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WeirdAlI like Weird Al; I think that he is strange and interesting and little bit over the top at times.  I LOVE the fact that he plays the accordion and I have great respect for how well he produces his music.  But after today, I have a new found admiration towards him.  If you are ever in a situation where you need to get the attention of young boys in a summer camp (science camp atmosphere helps), throw on the song Yoda and you will be home free!  Even if they have never heard it before, they will love it!  Trust me on this one.  So, I love Weird Al and not just because of Spatula City, but because he made my day at summer camp that much easier!  Thanks you accordion maestro you!  5 out of 5 monkeys

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New In Town (2009)

newintown_584I knew it was going to be bad going in (figured that out from the previews), but every once in a while I like to give bad movies a chance.  Renee Zellwegger plays Lucy Hill, a Miami businesswoman who is sent to deal with a factory in Minnesota.  See, she’s from Miami where it’s WARM (and humid and crappy – I freakin’ hate Miami) and she is going to Minnesota, where it’s COLD.  Get it, it’s funny, right?  And Lucy is of course a career woman who has everything going from her, a great job, fabulous clothes, a comfortable lifestyle, so the only thing that is missing is a man.  Because as we all know, the only thing women really want is a man.

Once she gets to Minnesota she meets a cast of stereotypical characters, all with the same Minnesotan accents and small town ways (poor Frances Conroy and J.K. Simmons, you were so good in the past).  But you see, they are so endearing that Lucy can’t help but warm up to them.  And in walks Harry Connick, Jr. as Ted Mitchell, the union representative that she is “forced” to work with.  Normally, I would be into the idea of Harry as a love interest (any guy who can croon like that gets my mojo going), but he was so scraggly in this film and the chemistry between the two characters was so lack luster that all was lost.  If I was casting a romantic comedy, the first thing I would do would be to have any potential love interests act out all of the really romantic scenes to see if they got it (also because I like to watch people make-out).   Something that would have also helped the film would have been providing the audience with more information about Lucy. As it was, there was no depth to her and she wasn’t very interesting to watch.  They tried to get into it briefly in a scene with Ted, but he talks more about his dead wife and we feel more interest towards him instead of the main character.

I would have also much rather preferred to re-watch other films set in Minnesota such as Fargo and Drop Dead Gorgeous. You still have the stereotypes with these films, but the characters have depth as well.  And they make fun of each other.   2 out of 5 monkeys

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Admiral (2008)I walked away from this film wanting there to be more passion between the two main characters, but then I started to question my American sensibilities.  Russia is not a culture full of joi de vivre, the focus is more on loyalty to one’s country; family and friendships are dispensable.  The filmmakers established this from the very beginning of the film (the sailors were there to die for the greater good), but it makes for one sweet and powerful army (one that we as American’s have been glad to have as allies on more than one occasion).  The story is of real life Russian naval commander Admiral Aleksander Kolchak (the eventual leader of the anti-Bolshevik White forces during the Russian Civil War) and his mistress Anna.  It is a story of war and devotion and Russian pride.  It made me want to do some research on the Russian revolution, but not much more.  I wanted to know the details behind these people, so I would really understand their place in history.  It peeked my interest in Russian history, which is a positive thing in and of itself.  I kept however, going back to the film Doctor Zhivago, it had such an essence of this film that I couldn’t help but feel that the authors had ripped it off a bit. And I don’t even like Doctor Zhivago that much.  2 and 3/4 monkeys.  Yes, I can do that.

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500daysofsummerI am a red-blooded American woman, so I enjoy a “romantic comedy” here and there, but the ones that I am not ashamed to talk about involve a little bit o’ quirkiness, mixed with a little bit of darkness.  That’s why I enjoyed watching (500) Days of Summer so much.  It had me from the very beginning of the movie, although I don’t want to give away what made me laugh so hard (and the whole freakin’ audience), but I will say that it involved text on the screen.   I think that this film is very relatable, but not in the “normal” way that Hollywood likes to do it.  I think it will strike a note with my generation, at least for those of us who are romantics at heart, but who also like to listen to The Smiths. You know who you are, admit it.  We can’t stand movies like He Just Not That Into You (review to come soon) because they are so completely predictable and they insult our intelligence.

500 Days follows the character of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card writer, as he pursues the girl that he believes to be his soul mate.  They seem to have everything in common (great taste in music, quirky sense of humor, etc.), except for the fact that she doesn’t feel the same way about him.  They are Sid and Nancy as she puts it – she is Sid.  We journey along with Tom, feeling his extreme happiness (dance sequence of awesomeness) and his utter depression (let’s write some greeting cards about funerals now).  I don’t want to give much else away and ruin the ride for you, let’s just say if you like to wander around Ikea and play house, commenting about the Chinese family living in your bathroom, then this movie is for you.  4 out of 5 monkeys.

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Revolutionary Road (2008)

revolutionary_roadI have issues when in comes to living in the city versus the suburbs, but that is a story for another day.  Instead of jumping on my bandwagon (go city life),  answer these questions: how much do our surroundings (where we live) really affect our relationships with our family and even who we are as a person?  Or are some people so flawed as human beings that they will be screwed up no matter where they live?  This and many other questions I pondered after watching the film Revolutionary Road.  So many young couples even in today’s society (the film was set in the 1950’s), struggle between their want for the excitement of city life versus the stability of the suburbs.  Factors such as children often seem to play a role in this, especially if you have more than one.  But based on your personality and what kind of life you wish to have with your family, what is the right place for you?  That is a question that I believe all of us need to answer truthfully.

Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) are both flawed individuals like many of us, but what makes them different is that even though they choose to live in the suburbs, they do it as elitists.  They believe that they are better than everyone around them and therefore create a greater sense of urgency and frustration for themselves over the years.  Why do we make the decisions that we do in life?  In the Wheelers case, they met when they were young dreamers living in New York City.  They both had aspirations of doing something big, but in Frank’s case, he never really knew what that THING was.  Therein lies the rub.  Frank is like many people that I knew in college, young “artists” who basically talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.  They are young men who really have no clue who they are and often turn into frustrated adults as a result.   All Frank does is talk about things, how things should be run, how people should live, etc., in reality though, he never actually does anything.  Does he really truly want too?  Watch the film and decide for yourself.

April is a contrast to Franks’ character because she has more of an idea of what she wants (she is studying to be an actress), but is also forced into the female role of being the supportive wife and mother.  She ends up giving up her dreams for the sake of stability.  The films picks up seven years later and April is at a crossroads. She seems to loath her husband, but still sees the man in him that she was once attracted to.  April wants to believe that her husband is a greater man than he really is.  Many married people have been in similar situations, frustrations with children and certain compromises they have had to make, but the Wheeler’s do it in such a volatile way, that I think the film can be a sort of therapy session and cautionary tale for modern couples.  To add tension to the film and to further question the main characters, in walks John Givings (played by Michael Shannon).  John is a frustrated soul himself, a fumbling madman who seems to be the only one telling the truth.  The Wheelers are drawn to him during their moments of enlightenment and frustrated by his blatant honesty during moments of weakness.   It was a brilliant and deliberate choice on the part of Richard Yates the author, to make the crazy person the only sane person in the film.  4 out of 5 monkeys

Revolutionary Road

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arrested_development2So the speech was disturbing, the food was inedible, the service lousy especially after GOB found out he wasn’t going to get any tips, and that old racist woman choked on Buster’s thumb. All in all, it was one of the Bluth’s better parties.”  This line in many ways encompases what makes the television series Arrested Development one of the greatest comedy series of all time.  Yes, I said of all time.  It is a series that you can watch numerous times (which I have) and still see things that you missed.  It’s brilliant, so, of course it was canceled after three seasons.  It has a wonderful cult following now, but I have a hard time trying to figure out why wonderfully layered series like these have such a hard time staying on the air.  Is it too good?  Can the American masses only handle comedies that are about idiotic man boys and their sarcastic wives?

Arrested Development follows the Bluth Family, a wealthy Orange County family who, due to the shifty financial decisions of their father George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), are hanging on by a thread.   The business survies thanks to the only level-headed member of the family, son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and his teenage son George-Michael (Michael Cera).  No one in the family makes Michael’s job easy, whether it be his mother Lucille (Jessica Walter) who tries to continue to live beyond her means (penthouse, furs and booze), George “Gob” Bluth II (Will Arnett), the oldest son and “magician” who has daddy issues, Lindsay Bluth Funke (Portia de Rossi) and her husband Tobias (David Cross) and daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat).  A fan favorite is the emotionally stunted Byron Buster Bluth, the youngest child and mamas boy who has so many issues that they are too numerous to mention here.  Each character in the series adds such a layer of comedy to the antics of the family that you can’t help to love and mock them at the same time.  They are painfully endearing.  5 out of 5 monkeys

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