Archive for Movies & TV

Movie Review: The King’s Speech

It’s up on my other blog.

I am moving movies

I know there are about three of you out there who still read this blog. I feel for you.

I’m moving movie reviews over to Basket of Kisses. The first review in the new place is True Grit.

I am keeping Property of a Lady open for Pagan, spiritual, and personal musings, and event announcements (speaking engagements, etc.). I imagine that will remain infrequent.

Thanks for your patience.

Monday Movie Reviews: The Kids Are All Right and Laurel Canyon

I saw High Art a couple of years ago, and I was blown away by it. So after I saw The Kids Are All Right I decided to look up Lisa Cholodenko and see what else she’d done; I was surprised to realize she was responsible for High Art as well. Since I liked two out of two Cholodenko movies I’d seen, I added Laurel Canyon to my Netflix.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) 10/10
Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Benning) are a long-standing couple with two teenagers. When the kids decide to seek out the sperm donor who “fathered” them (Mark Ruffalo) the family structure is shaken.

» Read more..

Dueling Movie Reviews: RED versus Salt

Over recent weeks, I’ve seen two movies with striking similarities, so I’m reviewing them both at once. This also helps to catch up on my enormous movie review backlog.

Salt stars Angelina Jolie as a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy. Rather than allow herself to be taken into custody, she goes rogue, exhibiting superhero-level abilities in the process. An excellent supporting cast includes Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

RED (technically, it’s “Red,” but the title is revealed to be an acronym), stars Bruce Willis as a retired CIA agent marked for assassination. Fighting back, he assembles a rogue team, exhibiting almost superhero-level abilities in the process. The astounding supporting cast includes Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, and Karl Urban.

So, you can see why I’d place these two movies side-by-side.

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Be specific

I hate vague, meaningless movie titles. Inception, Defiance, Out of Sight, Conviction. I don’t want a movie title that makes me ask, “Is that the one about….or is it the other, similarly-titled one about something else?”

A great title is specific and particular and probably can’t get past focus groups. A great title identifies the movie; for good or ill, you won’t be mistaking it for another movie (except for that time I went to the video store for Edward Scissorhands and came home with Ed Wood).

Proper nouns really work in movie titles. Saving Private Ryan. Schindler’s List. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? The Outlaw Josey Wales. Erin Brockovich is a great title because you definitely don’t mix it up with anything else, but of course, Hollywood thinks women are icky, so Betty Anne Waters gets renamed Conviction. Which might be the movie about dreams with Leonardo DiCaprio, or it might be the movie about adultery with Diane Lane. Or some other movie.

I would much rather see a marquee with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford than Life As We Know It, or You Again, or As Good As Dead. With the first one, I see a filmmaker and production company with the courage to stand behind their film. With the others, I see producers afraid of nouns. If you’re afraid of nouns, you probably aren’t making a very ballsy movie.

Monday Movie Review: The Town

The Town (2010) 8/10
For Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck), Jim Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), and their friends, bank robbery is the family business. They live in the Charlestown section of Boston, a center for bank and armored car robbery. Now Doug wants out. He’s falling for Claire (Rebecca Hall) and the FBI is looking into his last robbery. But getting out isn’t going to be easy. Directed by Ben Affleck.

The Town
makes an art of gritty, but it still looks good. Maybe I should say Affleck can’t make up his mind, but instead I feel like he recognizes the fine line between realistic and annoying. There’s certainly a trend towards documentary-style, hand-held, muted colors, and the like, to broadcast to the audience, “Hey, we’re authentic!” Yeah, sure. What Affleck does is cut in little bits of grittier filming, blended with a more conventional look, and it works. It’s important, because it’s the kind of movie where people say “the city is a character,” and so you do have to feel the locations. There’s a strong sense here of alleys, bars, shops, crappy apartments, gentrification—the whole way in which a city lives, breaths, and grows.
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Monday Movie Review: Inception

Inception (2010) 7/10
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a team of dream extractors, who use cutting edge medical technology to manipulate shared dreams. The team is hired to attempt “inception”—creating, rather than extracting, an idea. But Cobb is haunted in dreams by the presence of his late wife (Marion Cotillard), endangering the team. Written & directed by Christopher Nolan.

There is no question that Inception is a would-have-could-have-should-have movie. It screams from unrealized potential. At the same time, it’s smart, beautiful, and enjoyable. Arthur and I have been talking about it for a week, and that’s a lot of engagement for one movie.

What Inception does right is commit fully to its concept. Yes, it’s exposition-heavy, but it grips its dream reality with two hands and doesn’t let go. This is a smart, well-made movie by a master of movie logistics. It doesn’t falter in its delivery of Chris Nolan’s theme, the theme of all of his films: A haunted man struggling with the unreality of a life transfixed by grief. Whether that haunted man is struggling with memory loss or insomnia, whether he’s Batman or a magician, Nolan’s motif is pretty clear, if not always successful.
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Monday Movie Reviews: The Italian Job (x2)

In both the original and the remake, a master thief is killed, and his final plan carried out. In both cases, and famously, the final caper involves Mini-Coopers going up and down stairs, through tunnels, and other places where only Mini-Coopers can go. Surely the remake was inspired by the re-introduction of the car in question.

The Italian Job (1969) 6/10
Charlie (Michael Caine) was in prison when the failed job took place, leading to the death of his mentor. He is financed through a crime lord, Bridger, who is not at all slowed down by being in prison.

This is a very weird movie. » Read more..

Monday Movie Reviews: Macho Men in Tough Situations

I’m going to be doing some shorter reviews of multiple movies to get myself caught up here; it’s been a long time.

Breaker Morant (1980) 9/10
Harry “Breaker” Morant and two other Australian officers are court-marshaled in an act of scapegoating during the Boer War.

This true story of honorable behavior in insane circumstances is told without sentiment; harsh, rough, and compelling. If you know Edward Woodward best as the weaselly cop from The Wicker Man, his dignity and strength here may surprise you.

The Hill (1965) 8/10
During World War II, a military prison is run with the harshest possible discipline and sadistic punishment.

An early Sean Connery attempt to break free of James Bond typecasting, this is a difficult movie to be with. Evil Prison Guard is as macho a story as can be told, so in that way, it’s still an expected Connery movie, but his Joe Roberts is no 007. Director Sidney Lumet does a remarkable job of portraying heat, exhaustion, and the physical effects of abuse.

Apache Trail (1942) 6/10
An Arizona outpost throws people together when the Apaches are on the way.

This is the Stagecoach model of Western—a bunch of people, some good, some bad, some destined for romance, are stuck together because of Indian attack. It’s Western as Lord of the Flies, with everyone revealing themselves as the plot unfolds, and it’s the revelation, not the plot, that’s the point.

It’s a middling movie but entertaining.

Monday Movie Theater Review: Love, Loss, and What I Wore

Love, Loss, and What I Wore
An intimate collection of stories by Nora & Delia Ephron

Love, Loss, and What I Wore is presented as a theatrical reading: Five chairs in a line on the stage, with lecterns in front of them. Oh, geez, I thought, I’m seeing this? I’m not even seeing a play? I needn’t have worried. The show is presented with a rotating cast of 28, and every cast, as far as I can see, is stellar. We saw Carol Kane, Jayne Houdyshell, Fran Drescher, Didi Conn, and Natasha Lyonne.

Stories, anecdotes, and characters are presented through the context of clothing and accessories. We open with Gingy (Carol Kane), who decided during (an illness? insomnia?) to sketch outfits she remembered. As she showed each outfit, she reminisced. From Brownie uniforms to bridal dresses, Gingy told her life through clothing. None of the other characters stay on-stage past individual tales, so that all five are voicing many women, but every woman’s memories are intertwined with what she wore.

We left feeling like we had shared in a full range of woman’s lives. Houdyshell even presented a character who has just never related to or remembered clothing. Only one item of clothing ever stuck in her mind, and yet that item moved us to tears.

I don’t do the “sisterhood” thing very well. I don’t find myself on board with a lot of what passes for sharing women’s experience or women’s empowerment. As often as not, I feel marginalized by it. But here, honestly, I felt so connected to other women, to being a woman, to sharing womanhood through the vehicle of this text and these performers.

Mostly we laughed. We laughed a lot, and loudly, and sometimes we spontaneously applauded, but yes, there were tears. These were stories about loving black, and hating your purse, and wrangling with your mother over what you’re going to wear, and buying a bra in anticipation of breast reconstruction, and maternity dresses, and prom dresses, and these are women who love and hate their mothers, their bodies, their men, and their lives. Unsurprisingly, these women skew heavily towards Jewish New Yorkers like the Ephrons, but characters portrayed also include a lesbian and a Latina, and in the joys and laughter are also stories of rape, the loss of a child, the loss of a parent, and really bad therapy.

Much more laughter than tears, though. I have a bad laugh. I have a series of bad laughs: Snorts and barks and squeaks and guffaws that burst forth from me at inappropriate moments, and the theater audience got to share every one of them. And I shared theirs.

Fran Drescher kind of stole the show. Everyone was great, but the revelations were Drescher and Lyonne, both of whom had more raw performance power than I could ever have anticipated. Drescher owned. Drescher cracked the other women up so they momentarily lost their places. What a pleasure!

So, on I go to Amazon to buy the original book upon which this show is based, and if I find a text of the play I’ll buy that too, because I want to experience these stories over and over. While wearing black.