Monday, May 29, 2017

Checking Out of "Bates Motel"


When this first came out, I was intrigued and excited to check it out (no pun intended). I'd never seen Psycho and since scary movies aren't my thing, I thought this was worth a shot. Especially since it was a limited series so there wasn't going to be a big commitment.
I remember also voicing outrage when they said it was going to be more than the 13 or so episodes originally aired. Surely, this whole prequel to this classic movie could be done in a couple months.
But in the end, everything worked out just as it should. The ending especially. It was looking dodgy a couple times in the final few shows, but once the ultimate resolution was revealed, it all made sense. And all things considered, it did the best possible by all the characters involved. Although Chick and Romero both got the short end of the stick I think... that's what was so great about the series. Weirdoes and bad guys made you root for them (not that I ever saw Romero as a bad guy).
In the beginning... 
 
This is going to sound so cliché but it's true.
At the start of the series, it was just Norman and his mother Norma Bates. She buys a motel and large house on a hill in the small Oregon town of Pine Creek Bay. This is something she does completely on a whim and doesn't even consult Norman about until they are there. As is the case with any teenager, Norman is not happy about these circumstances. And of course, Norma finds out rather quickly that she got a lot more than she bargained for.
 
I saw the pilot, I think, on the following weekend- not the day it actually aired. Knowing my Mondays, schedule conflicts most likely came into play.
I think one time I saw 2 or 3 back to back. It's seriously addicting once you start watching. I'm not a binge-watching person typically (I don't have Netflix- yeah shock/horror- and it's exhausting and time consuming) but this series is ABSOLUTELY binge-worthy if there was ever a candidate.
Ironically, the only other show I've binged... it's the one I'm covering in my next post.
 
Back to our characters though... Norma is so high maintenance and prone to overreaction, you want to kill her yourself. 
But she finds herself in trouble with the former owner of the motel (I think he lost it to bankruptcy which is why it was a bargain that Norma couldn't resist). What happens and how it resolves... there's a reason why it's on at 10pm. It was kinda startling at first. But that became part of the show's unusual charm. Barring any nudity and f-bombs, they're not afraid to "go there". [One episode later on had a "viewer discretion is advised" disclaimer and it was in reference to a final scene where a teenage girl attempts to seduce an older man... this, however, did not carry over to a 2-3 other episodes where sex or rape scenes occurred].
And drawing reference to the other series I will cover in a future post: it pushed the envelope of explicit content in the comedic department.

Also in the show we get to know Norman's friend Emma who has cystic fibrosis (she always had an oxygen tube around her nose and her tank was extremely portable-- her character lived with the disease, but never let it damper her demeanor), the town sheriff Alex Romero and Norman's half-brother Dylan. All things considered (Norma being Norma, Norman being more than a little off and the fact his father is Norma's brother) Dylan's surprisingly the most normal person in the family. I didn't like him when he was first introduced (can't remember why- it was so long ago) but it got to the point with him where I just hoped to God he survived to the end of the series. After all, Norman didn't have any siblings in Psycho.
 
The Psycho Connection 

**This is where the spoilers begin to pop up, but the biggest one is to the movie itself. For the series itself, I gave away nothing major**
 
Of course the house is practically a replica of the original.
But knowing what I knew about the movie (and then finally seeing it- what I know about that world) one thing was obviously going to happen. In the end, one or another, Norma wasn't going to be alive to see it. Heck, there was a preview to a finale where it looked like she might not make it... but she lived for another season and that particular finale was kinda effed up. Not going to sugarcoat it. But that's the thing about the series- you spend enough time with these people and you start to feel disoriented yourself. That's just how good it is.
The biggest love letter to the movie itself was in the final season where Norman runs the business as if nothing was wrong. But then Marion Crane comes to town and the shower scene happens... but it's not how you expect it. Norman did rack up a lot of casualties (I never counted but I think it's 10 or slightly less) and romance was never in the cards for him because of his mental issues. But the shower murder had a motive behind it which made him somewhat redeemable. Let's just say the person actually deserved it opposed to just being unlucky to cross paths with him.
 
Descent into Madness
The acting is amazing and so is the fact that Max Thierot, Nestor Carnobell, and Freddie Highmore each had a few turns in the director's chair (Freddie even wrote one of the last episodes- the acting was even more exceptional).
 
But the best thing about the series was how Norman's character was slowly developed over time. At first, you're led to believe- you know, his mother is a nut job and insane control freak, how can anyone turn out remotely functional living with her?  But as you spend more time with Norman, all those little things about how he was raised and how he reacts to certain situations, they all begin to add up. 
He has blackouts that grow steadily worse and it isn't until the final 2 seasons you see what happens to him during those times. 
Over time, Norma becomes more aware of these blackouts and that things aren't quite right with Norman. But in doing so, she pulls the apron strings even tighter and Norman never fully gets the help he needs until it's the last resort. Like when Norman goes to get his drivers license but Norma stops the driving test by telling the instructor about it and the whole thing gets derailed. Norman rebels but he never gets fully away from his mother and his home. It's comparable to a ghost that can't leave a house and is left to haunt it because that's where they died and it's impossible to solve their unfinished business. Except Norman is alive and the manifestation keeping him bound to his mother and the Bates Motel is in his mind.

On the other side of the coin-- Norma is certifiable in her own right, but aside from racking up dead bodies, Norman shows how unstable he really is when he agrees to check into a mental hospital for one of the later seasons. The reason he ultimately works to break out is discovering Norma got married. Granted, her past relationships have always ended in disaster and none of those men were particularly nice to her (although there was one to a very nice man that she broke off because... well, she found an excuse somewhere, I'll just say that cuz I don't remember)... but Norman is under the impression no man is good enough for his mother other than him, so he does everything to maintain the dynamic the two of them always had. Needless to say, it has some deadly consequences. I had a feeling that Norma would end up with another main character and it wouldn't end well for either of them... just based on the end of the Psycho script where it said Norman killed his mother and her lover.
However, I thought it was a tad unbelievable that White Pine Bay was led to believe Norma committed suicide... but we were there to witness the whole thing as the audience and the only other person to know the truth was conveniently thrown in jail to atone for various crimes he committed in his own career. I guess they needed to have that final season and that was the only way to assure it.
Perhaps the craziest part was how it took so long for most of the corpses to be discovered. Never mind that Norma (and Norman under the influence of "Mother") is so good at sterilizing the crime scene and how Norman's taxidermy hobby comes in handy. Or they just happened to be located near this big deep lake.
Season two, I believe, his favorite teacher wound up dead. He could be placed at the scene of the crime but he's cleared by DNA evidence that somehow doesn't match his. I'm still not entirely sure if she seduced Norman or it's all in our heads (his and the audience) but that was one of the bigger breaking points in the series. One of those no-point-of-return moments for Norman. He's so upset about the situation he can't go to school anymore and Norma homeschools him until he can get his GED. His illness is exacerbated because he never leaves the house or the motel he now plays concierge to.
 
Final Thoughts
 
Other than that I don't have much to add without spoiling the ending of the series. 
Even for those who'd seen the movie there are some surprises in store. In the end it all makes sense and it was the best resolution for everyone. Doesn't mean it wasn't sad though.
I have to get up at 5:30am to go to work, but I had to stay after the show for a cast discussion. You really get to know and love these characters, it's hard to leave, even if it's the best thing for all of us.
The part that's always trippy to me... hearing Freddie Highmore being interviewed. He is so good in this role, you forget that he's British and that he got his start in movies like "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory" and "Finding Neverland."
I also found out that Olivia Cooke, who played Emma, was English. That really threw me for a loop. Both of these actors are so good, you'd never guess they were putting on American accents.
Also need to give it up for Vera Farmiga- not just for being crazy good at being this nutjob of a woman :P but she's the one who recommended Freddie Highmore for the role. Not just great judgment on her part, but certainly a testament to his talent. This is going to be a tough role to top, that's for sure.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Theatrical Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


Date: Sunday May 7 2017
Time: 1:45 pm
Party: mom, aunt and I 

Writer/Director: James Gunn

Cast:
Star-Lord- Chris Pratt
Gamora- Zoe Saldana
Drax- Dave Baustisa
Groot- Vin Diesel
Rocket- Bradley Cooper
Nebula- Karen Gillan
Yondu- Michael Rooker
Ego- Kurt Russell
Mantis- Pom Klementieff
Starkar Ogord- Sylvester Stallone
Ayesha- Elizabeth Debicki

Duration: 138 minutes (+2 trailers)

Write-up

Opening comments 


As is often the case with these movies (sequels in particular) there's always going to be those negative reviews that bug me. 

One said this had a lot of the things from the first movie that worked. But also criticized it for not really getting to the plot (which I'll add includes the reveal of who the central villain is) until later on and the final battle is inane and runs too long.

Another article wasn't so much about this movie in particular, but a genre of movie that's apparently new and annoying people. (Who these "people" are- I have no idea but I don't want to know them). The article criticized movies sub-genred as "needle-droppers" where a song starts to play, the movie becomes about that song and you're so swept up in nostalgia that you forget the movie is crap.

First of all, I'm not saying this movie is perfect. Second of all, this is not new. Saturday Night Fever- in my opinion- was a terrible movie. It's best remembered for John Travolta kicking ass on the dance floor and The Bee Gees. The movie itself was dark and not particularly fun unless there was music playing. Purple Rain could get the same argument, but the movie was designed to highlight the music as well as introducing Prince to the world beyond MTV. The plot was always kinda secondary behind him, the characters (and most are characters- not 100% accurate to the people in real life) and the music.

Third- I just don't like how this article sees this sub-genre as a bad thing... whatever gets people to see movies, what the hell does it matter why they go to begin with.

As for this movie's music--in my opinion, for this to be a "needle-dropper," the songs have to be memorable. Other than "Brandy" which got played twice- I couldn't remember any. The previous movie I at least could name 3. [But I was already familiar with the Jackson 5 and Pina Colada song, just to name a couple]

Now onto the actual stuff people care about...


We were among maybe 21 people and it was kinda miserable outside so the escapism (which this movie essentially is) was much appreciated 

Trailers 

One was a super tease for the new Star Wars movie. A narrative by Mark Hamill and brief moments with the new characters. From what I've heard, Luke isn't willing to teach Rey about The Force at first. I just hope Oscar Isaac gets a lot more screen time in this movie 

Then there was a trailer for the new Thor movie which I hadn't seen until now. His hammer gets broken and he's forced to be a gladiator and fight the Hulk. He's cheering, saying that he knows him from work and it was hilarious. Can't wait- too bad it's not until November 

The Main Event 

 I guess in a way you could compare the handling of the plot to the novel "Twilight".

 Stay with me on this... 

 The book read like this:

Bella is new in town. She becomes infatuated with Edward Cullen, the two of them get to know each other, she meets his family and suddenly the plot happens.

One could argue (I could) that the plot was about Edward and Bella getting together and in the last third, they're trying to deal with this new threat to their happiness.

Guardians of the Galaxy this time around is a lot like that--except a lot more action-packed and the only thing not really highlighted is romance. Maybe hinted at, but part of me will be kinda disappointed if Star-Lord and Gamora get together because it's so damn cliché.

But we have various plot lines and character arcs happen and maybe it takes a little too long for it all to come together in the final third of the movie.

But if that's what you care about (namely: things making sense), this might be the wrong movie for you.
 
This movie is about character interaction, crazy space battles, and... basically that's it 

Those who care about a plot...

Star-Lord meets his father Ego (no spoilers but this guy lives up to his name in more ways than one).

At the start of the movie, the Guardians are contracted by a golden somewhat regal alien race to defeat this monster who wants to go after their energy source- super special batteries. As much as I love Groot- in this case Baby Groot- the movie focusing on him dancing to music (can't even remember what song-- at least in the first movie the song, in a similar moment, was memorable) instead of the actual fight... it just made the fight seem pointless.

So did the fact Rocket stole some of these batteries... because of his character? Or because we needed to make this race of aliens an enemy for the Guardians... which is more likely to play out in the next sequel. (I did love the methodology of their ships and how they conduct their battles-- the ships are drones and the fighters are on the ship in virtual reality pods, like a more interactive first-person space shooter game).

This first space battle leads to a crash landing, half the crew goes to Ego's planet and the other half eventually gets captured by Yondu's raiders... except Yondu ceases to be in charge after a point. This is due to his favoritism of Star-Lord and past transgressions that get fully hashed out later (which is another nice touch- completing that story arc begun in the first movie).

Character Discussion and Development

Don't quite know why, but the non-humanoid characters are my favorites. I loved Rocket and Groot from the first movie and that's still true. Although Groot not quite as much as Rocket. Which is even stranger because Groot is so cute and Rocket is not only a jerk most of the time, but a lot of what goes wrong is his fault. Also in the review I read, it said playing Rocket is the easiest money Bradley Cooper will ever make. I didn't know what was supposed to mean, considering how hot and cold the article was- but he is so good in this role... I just forget that Bradley Cooper is the one playing him. (I'd only been a big fan since seeing him in movies like "The Words" and "Burnt"- the critics and I are complete opposites on those- but I won't necessarily go out of my way to see one of his movies. The premise has to grab my attention).

Drax was a character that was almost as much a surprise as Groot- he's not always easy to like, but he got a bit of a following after the first movie came out. I think I read somewhere that an autistic boy said he was his favorite character because they had one thing in common-- they take things literally and don't often understand sarcasm.

In this movie, it would seem like Drax had been spending too much time with Star-Lord and Rocket because he makes one or two jokes that are actually kinda funny. But he still doesn't have a complete grasp of the obvious.

Then there's the whole dynamic between Gamora and her sister Nebula-- which is extremely confrontational but also mired in jealousy.

Elizabeth Debicki plays Ayesha, the leader of the regal alien race (whose name I don't remember or feel like Googling) and judging from the post-credits scene (one of FIVE-- so stay to the end of the credits), we won't be seeing the last of her.
For me, it was great to see her again... I hadn't seen her around since she played Jordan Baker in "The Great Gatsby" (she was my inspiration to get a Gatsby 20's haircut-- which I had gotten practically once a year since 2013).

Don't think I'll give away much more than that. But the final third of the movie... so much happens. Not just from a visual effects standpoint, but the character development as well. It's action packed, but there's also a running gag that spans maybe 3 minutes between Groot, Rocket and Star-Lord (it is so stupid and unnecessary, but most people who love these characters won't care) and you feel almost every emotion possible with what's revealed and the results of these final battles.


Grade: A-
[Looking back at the last review I wrote, I gave it the same score... both Guardian movies are great, but for different reasons. That's not something you can often get with sequels, which is nice)

 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Theatrical Review: Beauty & The Beast

Date: Sunday March 19 2017
Time: 1:30pm 3:55pm
Party: 3 (mom sister and I)
 
Director: Bill Condon (of Breaking Dawn and Dreamgirls fame)
Screenwriters: Stephen Chbosky (wrote "Perks of Being a Wallflower", the book as well as directed the movie that Emma Watson co-starred in) and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Composer: Alan Menken (lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice)

Cast:
Belle- Emma Watson 
The Beast- Dan Stevens 
Gaston- Luke Evans
LeFou- Josh Gad
Maurice- Kevin Kline
Lumiere- Ewan McGregor
Cogsworth- Ian McKellan
Mrs. Potts- Emma Thompson
Duration- 130 minutes ( +2 trailers)
 
Opening remarks 

It's finally here!
I almost feel like it'd been looking forward to this movie than any other- at least in a long time. I think the thing that came closest to this for me was twilight. Seeing that world I came to love in the books and its characters come to life.
As a kid I think Ariel was my favorite Disney princess- even if i always cry at the end of the little mermaid. (The goodbye at the wedding always kills me).
But beauty and the beast was always something I enjoyed but didn't have any major fandom over. But I will say as I've gotten older I love this story so much more. I see myself in belle more than any other Disney princess- we have the same appearance (brown hair brown eyes- that's the one thing about Emilie de Raven's once upon a time portrayal of belle that's amiss for me- she doesn't have brown eyes!!- otherwise she's amazing and perfect in the role).
And of course there's Belle's love of books. I really didn't get to love books as much as I do now until I was in my 20s- where I always had to be reading or was looking forward to the next installment of the series I was reading at the time. And I only recently "got" in the last couple years that people in Belle's town thought she was weird cuz she was always reading. Like what the hell is wrong with that?! Seriously...
 
Anyway-- it should be noted that we didn't get to the movie until almost 4.
We completely screwed up by not double checking the movie times. We got there and the movie had already started. We thought it was 1:30 and it was really 1:05.
Like wtf! Who starts a movie at such a weird time? (But I suppose if I went through old ticket stubs I might find some really random times).
So anyways my mom said "I'm sorry" a hundred times as we turned back to go home. I thought about maybe going back for the next 3D showing so we wouldn't have to wait as long. I found a review that said it didn't have enough going for it to warrant the price. So here we wait- and hopefully some other mishap doesn't happen between now and 3:55 when the next showing starts.
The Arnold Palmer invitational was the perfect way to kill time (yeah I'm such a dork- I like to read and enjoy golf and figure skating).
 
A bunch of people still coming into the theater despite it being one of the later showings. A few families with a bunch of little kids I hope will stay quiet for the whole movie. At the moment it doesn't sound promising.
Three people in their mid 20s or early 30s took a seat two rows ahead of us. Two girls and a guy-I wonder if he really wanted to see this or he lost a bet.
Also we're back in the theater from that notorious "La La Land" showing with the audio issues.... we'll see how it goes
 
(Spoiler alert: both went fine. Although some kids rows behind us were making farting noises with their mouths at one point and one of the parents in front of us crossed the aisle to tell his kids to be quiet because the BIG number- you know the one- was about to start)
 
Somewhere between 40 to 50 people showed up to the theater for this... which is pretty darn impressive considering this isn't the first showing of the weekend.
Trailers 

"Coco" is the latest Pixar film. Looks like a boy and his dog wind up in the realm of the day of the dead and he admires this man (who may or may not be his father) who is a great guitar player- mariachi type.
 
Then a lengthy trailer (much more than a tease) for the last Pirates movie. Complete with Johnny Depp himself in what will be his most famous role ever.
Looked impressive but I don't know if I'm sold enough to buy a ticket.
 
The Main Event 
 
We finally arrived!!
 
Everyone knows the story by now so I won't go too much into it.
First off the visuals are AMAZING. Definitely see a bunch of Oscar nominations in the future. For production design and possibly makeup (unless The Beast makeup is CGI- in that case maybe special effects).
Seeing the sets from the animated film in real life... it was halfway between fangasm and "I wish I could live there."
Of course Emma Watson was great as Belle. And she was definitely a strong confident woman like the character demands. In some aspects more so but that's what happened when you have the freedom to go behind what's drawn on a page.
Luke Evans oddly made me like Gaston for the first half of the movie. Not in that way but I didn't find him as repulsive. Not until he had the town believing Belle's father was crazy. He just needs to walk into a room and give his opinion and people automatically follow him. (I'm sorry but these townspeople are so fickle and stupid sometimes).
Dan Stevens embodied the beastly side of his character really well. But he also had some help from the script he was given. There were a few changes in his early interactions with Belle between the two versions that I didn't appreciate and made it harder to really like him or imagine these two together. This time around anyway I wasn't thoroughly convinced that they belonged together. There just came a point where I threw my hands up and just said "to hell with it."
Other than the romantic side (I can see how they can become friends but falling in love... not so much) everything else worked so well. There was plenty of nostalgia with the songs and the score at certain points (that transformation scene at the end in particular... that was an especially powerful moment in the original and those feelings came rushing back).
I was able to recall a lot about the original and relish in how it was adapted for this version. And I was also able to let go and appreciate the changes (well most of them) as they came.
One massive improvement- LeFou and his relationship with Gaston. Josh Gad couldn't have been any better in this role. He felt like one of those characters you see in a musical where you don't expect them to steal the show and they just do. His character arc was so great- both cause for celebration, laughs and fist pumps (in particular- the battle scene in the castle at the end).
Ewan McGregor was really great as Lumiere and "Gaston" and "Be Our Guests" and "Beauty & The Beast" were all highlights both carried over really well from the original but also bettered with the special effects. Definitely worth a round of applause.
And there are also some great twists about the townspeople and how they have connection to people in the castle.
We also get more backstory from our two main characters that don't, personally, slow the story down but add to the film's length tactfully. One or two songs ran a little long and one of the new songs maybe felt unnecessary.
Overall this is a movie and story for escapism and suspending belief and for me it did its job. Makes me wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow and see the movie again. But I'd more than enough time away last week with the blizzard.

And when the movie finally ended, a bunch of us in the theater clapped, which pretty much says Disney did their job and nailed it.

Grade: A-

Monday, February 27, 2017

Oscars 2017

I "live-blog" during figure skating all the time, so I figured... why not try to do that with the Oscars this year?
[I'm keeping the politics out of it- I started to but changed my mind... everyone else can worry about that]


So far for best dressed... I always gotta have a couple favorites...

Nicole Kidman- love how she's classic Hollywood elegance. Loved her being interviewed with Keith Urban and so gracious and supportive to one another. They're so cute together- I cannot stand it :P

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And Emma Stone, omg, gorgeous! From the waist down, she looks like a chandelier and that's an absolute compliment.

Image result for emma stone oscars

And Viola Davis- such a gracious interviewee, amazing red dress. Being a three-time Oscar nominee (and loving her so much in "How to get away with murder"), I REALLY hope she wins this year.


Image result for viola davis oscars


As for picking the winners and such... I really haven't gone through the list and done that for myself... I just might pick who I want as the names are being read off.

I hope "La La Land" wins Best Picture because I went and saw the damn thing (loved that damn thing...). But something in my gut tells me "Moonlight" might pull out an upset. Reading briefly about it, it sounds like a powerful movie whose story deserves to be shared. I also want to see "Hidden Figures," "Fences" and "Lion" at one point.

Justin Timberlake opened the show with "Can't Stop the Feeling" in an AMAZING performance. I'm so sick of that song, but he made it fresh again. Got it off to a really positive joyous start.

Jimmy Kimmel gave a great monologue that teetered from hilarious to "oh god no" back to hilarious. They teetered on political a few times, I held my breath, the joke was usually in good taste, but managed to rein it back in each time.

Okay, Best Supporting Actor... I dunno who I pick to win this one...
I want Dev Petal, but it'll probably go to the guy from "Moonlight."
It's the guy from "Moonlight"- Mahershala Ali.

He looked like he was on the edge of getting emotional, so kudos to him for keeping it together and giving a nice solid speech.
I guess that's 1 for me.
I planned, before running out of time, to go through all the nominees on the Wikipedia page and do my picks. I found his name and clicked it. I'd previously seen him in "Mockingjay" as Katniss's boyguard.

Best Makeup and Costume is up next.

Kate McKinnon looks amazing as a presenter. With the right amount of her brand of awkward.
Best Makeup- Suicide Squad (cuz we just saw the movie :P... and we got it! we had a quick celebratory moment about that)- I love that these guys are European and I pick out their accents.
Best Costume Design- La La Land (just because... even though they weren't anything spectacular)... nope, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find"... Colleen Atwood- so great to see her win cuz she'd worked on a bunch of Tim Burton movies. Amazing designer. She'd been nominated a bunch of times, but I don't remember her winning before. (She had won three times- "Chicago," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Alice in Wonderland").

Best Documentary- presented by the tri-form of "Hidden Figures" actresses- and they actually have one of the actual Hidden Figures women on stage- wow!
Feature- OJ: Made in America (boo! I would've given it to "Life, Animated" or "I am Not Your Negro"... can we just stop talking about OJ and glorifying his story?)

Dwayne Johnson gave a great speech and segue way to the performance of the "Moana" song "How Far I'll Go"
Lin Manuel Miranda rapped his intro to it, really done well.

The actress who played Moana sung it so beautifully with some great visuals behind her. A golden sculpted sun and people waving large blue plumes to resemble waves. It was so sweeping and beautiful- I wanted the song to win instead of both of La La Land's songs :P never doubt a good Disney ballad, even if it's not "Let it Go."

Jimmy Kimmel just had this whole Ellen Oscar moment- but instead of ordering pizza, he just had all this candy rain from the ceiling- junior mints and red vines in parachutes ;)

Sound Editing- La La Land (wouldn't it be crazy if with all this hype it was ZERO...)...
Nope, Arrival... (I really hope this isn't "American Hustle" all over again- I picked it to win all its awards and it won ZERO of, I think, 8 nominations).
Sound Mixing- (trying this again) La La Land...nope, Hacksaw Ridge (good for them, I didn't think they'd win any).

Okay, so that's three awards La La Land hasn't won... is it too early to be concerned?

Great speech- Kevin O'Connell said his mom got his first job in sound and when asked how he could thank her, she said work hard and win an Oscar so you can thank me in first of 10 million people... that's me paraphrasing, of course.

Best Supporting Actress- oh yeah, I wanted Viola Davis to win this one... but my gut is saying Naomi Harris from "Moonlight"... looking at all the clips, I don't think you can go wrong with anyone here...
three times the charm, baby! :D
oh man, it was almost surreal to see her finally win and give this great speech. I almost got choked up a couple times because you knew she believed and breathed every word of it. Definitely have to see this movie now.

They had this cute bit where talking about the theme being inspiration- then they had a clip of Charlize Theoren watching "The Apartment" and saying how Shirley Maclaine inspired her with that performance. And the two of them presented the next award together and had some funny banter.

Best Foreign Language Film- Elle (because it won the Golden Globe... oh shoot, it's not even nominated... I guess The Salesman...)

They had Sting sing "Empty Room" which was from the James Foley story- a journalist that was beheaded by ISIS.

Best Short Animated Film- Piper (cuz it's the only one we've heard of)... I guess it being Pixar helped a lot :P when he went to thank people, I totally knew he'd say John Lassester first. One of the biggest people at Disney and Pixar films (also the world's biggest Miyazaki fanboy).

Best Animated Film- I wish it was "Kubo & The Two Strings" but it most likely will be Moana... just because Disney always seems to win. [and of course one of the presenters had to speak out against the wall... damn it...]
Zootopia (boo! we didn't see that one...)

Production Design- LA LA LAND... please! finally won one! Geesh... what a pain...

nice quick speech

a bunch of tourists on a tour bus were brought into the Oscars as a surprise and they'd been leading up to it for the past half hour. They just walked in and they're filming it on their phones, lol
I think Denzel just married a couple, lol and one of them got Jennifer Aniston's sunglasses. Too many great moments to list all of them right now :P And Guillermo is there to usher them through. Definitely going to remember this for years to come.

Visual Effects- tough call between two... or three... oh man, I don't know... Jungle Book... gotta see that one... I thought it'd be Doctor Strange, but then I saw Jungle Book listed and it was kinda hard to say no after that.

Best Film Editing- uhh... La La Land?... I dunno... this is a hard category to call...
wow, two for Hacksaw Ridge... I'm really happy for them, then, getting the acknowledgement for their efforts. And this makes Mel Gibson look even better for Best Director.

They had a cool "inspiration" bit before that with Seth Rogen watching "Back to the Future" and talking about how Michael J. Fox inspired people to skateboard off the backs of cars. Then the two of them came out of a DeLorean on the stage.

Jimmy Kimmel is looking really good as an Oscar host. He had another great moment- this time with the kid from "Lion"- did a quick Q&A with him and they reenacted the "Lion King" moment in the opening of the movie and Mike & Ike parachuted from the ceiling.

They had a Google commercial with the story "Lion" was based on... and it was amazing... almost got teary-eyed on it.

Documentary Short Subject- (I blanked out... I had no idea which one to pick)... The White Helmets... Wikipedia says it's about volunteers helping the civilians in Syria...
Live-Action Short Film- uh... Sing, because it's about music? I dunno... I got that win by luck. According to Wikipedia, it's a Hungarian film that's the "story of a girl who moves to a new elementary school and becomes a member of the award-winning school choir."

Short Films and Documentaries are always so hard for me to pick winners for.

Yikes... there's still 9 awards left to give out and it's almost 11. Bleck... this is gonna be over at midnight, isn't it? I get up at 5:30am for work- this isn't good for me...
On the plus side, the mood of the night overall has alleviated. It kinda picked up after La La Land won its only award of the night so far.

Best Cinematography- La La Land... I'm gonna keep saying it all night, I swear...
okay, that's two so far for this movie... its cinematography really was amazing- the whole glitz and glam and heart of it. I didn't expect it to sweep, but it seems like it's getting the awards it really deserves.

Time for their Mean Tweets segment... hopefully this isn't too bad...
Oh, actually those were pretty great... some were really mean, like the Emma Stone one... but some like the Miles Teller one were great, he even acknowledged that...

John Legend sung the two songs nominated for "La La Land" with Mandy Moore choreography around him... and there was a couple floating in the air like Ryan and Emma did in the movie...
I'm still mad at him for his character did to ruin the movie for me... if there's anything I'm good at, it's holding grudges against actors for what their characters do in movies... (ask James Spader)
Best Original Score- La La Land.... seriously, it helped save the movie when we couldn't hear what anyone was saying in the film in that theater... great job, Justin Hurwitz! nice speech too- he summed everything up really well to save time ;)
Best Original Song- uh... I loved "Audition" but it'll probably be "City of Stars" for La La Land. [yeah, I'm getting the movie on DVD as soon as it comes out... and I'll probably watch it by myself dozens of times].
The speech of the last guy who thanked his mom for letting him quit the soccer team to be in the school movie... that's just great

"a musical Prince leading The Revolution on stage"- what Jennifer Aniston said as part of her summation of the In Memoriam section intro. And she got a quick mention of Bill Paxton.
They mentioned Anton Yelchin and Gene Wilder and Prince was maybe just before the halfway point. They showed the scene where he says "I'd like to dedicate this to my father"... by the end of it, where they had Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds... and the lights went dark... I finally started tearing up.

When I go back to Purple Rain in a month or so, I'll probably do a post here and on my regular blog (same exact post) to touch on what it's like to watch that movie again for the first time since he died. It's going to be hard.
For the most part, I trick my mind into believing he's still alive by listening to his music (where he's very much alive). But there are times like these it's hard to keep those walls up.

Anyway... Jimmy Kimmel is watching "We Bought a Zoo" with Matt Damon and making all kinds of comments said so seriously, but he means them as a joke.

He let Matt Damon on the stage to give the award for screenplay, but called him guest in the voiceover. He's being played off whenever he's talking in the presenting alongside Ben Affleck. Cuz Jimmy Kimmel is leading the orchestra.

Best Original Screenplay- La La Land... [my dad's laughing at "The Lobster" like he did "My Life as a Zucchini"]... nope, it's "Manchester By The Sea"... that's good for them- they finally got one. I heard the movie's depressing, but also well done.
Best Adapted Screenplay- Fences (but this is another TOUGH category- Hidden Figures or Moonlight could win)... okay, another for "Moonlight"- great job, guys.

Parachutes with cookies and donuts just came down :P and Taraji B. Henson was freaking out (cuz she gave away cookies at the Golden Globes the year she won for "Empire")

Okay, now down to the final big awards... phew...

Here are my guesses:

Best Actress- Emma Stone
Best Actor- Denzel (but right now my gut says Casey Affleck)
Best Director- Damien Chazelle (or it could be Mel Gibson, who knows at this point?)

Best Movie- La La Land (but my gut says Moonlight has a really good shot)

Just end this as soon as you can, guys... I have to get up for work in less than 6 hours.

Everyone kept saying how great Damian was, so I had to go with him (but wouldn't be surprised if Mel Gibson won at all). The youngest ever director to win an Oscar- he was born in 1985, a year older than me. I'm amazed he was so composed about it.

I just had this gut feeling about Casey Affleck- the way they were talking about how good he was... and he gave a good speech as any dumbfounded winner could... but it makes him human, which is a great. I just wish he didn't have to look so scruffy because he's busy filming another movie... or doing a play or something.

OMG- I'm almost crying right now :P I never thought this would happen for her and it did.
A really great speech- she kept it together so well.
Wow, I just can't believe I'd been following her since "Easy A"- maybe not seeing all of her movies, but a bunch of them. And it's led to this point. And I really hope that she continues to get great roles and do well- because not all best actress Oscar winners rebound from that high.

Bonnie and Clyde- Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty are presenting the final award... amazing, that they're still alive 50 years after the movie was done... and they actually look good for whatever ages they are.
(Sorry, so many people have died in Hollywood over the past year... it's hard to keep track of who's still alive anymore, especially among the older members).

So far I have 13 correct guesses... can we make it 14? I think my best grand total was 13 correct guesses... I'll have to double-check...
14!!

Yeah- I've seen and picked three Oscar-winning movies over the past... I dunno... 4-5 years...
La La Land- I think this was their 7th win...

omg, yeah!!! I'm tired, good-night
I'll finish editing in the morning

***

I am SO GLAD I didn't post this last night because this would've been super awkward.
And it's also good that I had all day to let this process in my mind so I could come up with a tactful response.

"La La Land" didn't win best picture... "Moonlight" did... for whatever reason, the presenters were given the wrong card and read off the wrong name.
Halfway through the acceptance speech, the producers came on stage and tell them the truth. It was all kinds of awkward... I thought for sure that one of the guys from "La La Land" had a guilty conscience about winning and said that "Moonlight" deserved it more.

Now- I'll be clear about something- I had a gut feeling after hearing about the Spirit Awards that "Moonlight" might sneak in with a surprise win. And I expressed earlier in this post that I'd be interested in seeing the movie just to see what all the hype is about.

I don't mind that it won- but they should have gotten it right the first time. Not before I celebrated and so many other people did...

Seriously... if the Oscars can't get THIS right... I mean, the whole sanctity of this prestigious awards show is GONE.

People will go on about how this is karma for Hollywood for interfering so much with the election and such.
And several others boycotted because of the Meryl Streep and so many other things.

Truth be told, apart from the "statement" from the Iranian director "The Salesman" (that was a part of the show that really brought it down for me), it was actually done well without too many major political soapbox statements. There wasn't another Meryl Streep moment anyway.

As a host, Jimmy Kimmel was great. I was afraid the whole thing would get overly political and it really didn't. If it did, it was done with a sense of humor and most of the jokes were done with tact. Or the next joke brought the show back up again. And I could appreciate that.
My hope is that he doesn't take this whole Best Picture debacle too hard because up until that point, he was great.
That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

Congratulations "Moonlight"- hopefully I'll see you in the future on HBO or Showtime.

And I got 13 correct guesses on winners-- my record was 14 back in 2014 (hmm... go figure, right?)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Theatrical Review: Lego Batman

Date: Sunday February 19 2017
Time: 12:10pm
Party: 3 (mom sister and I)
 
Director: Chris McKay (of "Robot Chicken" fame)
 
Notable Cast:
Batman- Will Arnett
Robin- Michael Cera
Barbara Gordon- Rosario Dawson
Alfred- Ralph Fiennes
The Joker- Zach Galifianakis

Opening comments 

Who knew that the Lego movie would be so huge that it'd warrant a batman spin-off that won over the box office in its first week (now second week)?
It got such rave reviews- certainly more than the past few solo batman movies.
The theater wasn't as full as I thought it'd be with the amount of cars in the parking lot. But a good number of people- mostly moms and younger kids.
 
Trailer
 
Yeah they've had several commercials for "Beauty and the Beast" (and I'm equally excited every time) but it was kind of a letdown that it was the teaser trailer again. Not quite as appetizing as it was the first few times. March needs to get here like now.
The main event 
Yeah I'm not going to go into too much detail about it, but for the first half hour, it felt over hyped. 
Batman kinda did what Deadpool did in his movie- breaking the 4th wall- but to the extreme. From the very beginning, talking us through the opening credits. Batman is so into the character of Batman you kinda gotta wonder about his sanity a bit.
It starts with this big elaborate heist with all the villains led by the Joker that Batman somehow thwarts. But you get to know the man behind the mask (he's rarely without it in this movie) and how deep down he's lonely but is afraid of his own feelings (and snake clowns apparently).
Things are changing in Gotham with Barbara Gordon taking over for commissioner James Gordon (her father) and wanting to reform Gotham's actions against crime. Batman unwittingly takes in Dick Grayson. And even though the Joker surrenders himself (along with 99% of the other villains) there's obviously something afoot. Otherwise it wouldn't be much of a movie.
Batman takes a long time but he eventually does change and accepts that he can't do this alone and that he needs other people in his life. 
The Joker recruits so many different villains it's hard to keep track of them all (and I don't want to spoil how bizarre a lot of them are since they're not exactly from the same realm of fantasy). But the second half is definitely better than the first. It doesn't get nearly as insane as what they did with the Lego Movie and it makes about as much sense (which is still very little) but sometimes you just have to sit back and go with it.
There were a lot of great jokes (once the movie stopped taking itself so seriously) and it got lots of different laughs. Some were great adult jokes without being raunchy. (One of the villains being named Condiment-man is debatable). Like one part where the computer reads off the emails he has and one was a newsletter from bed bath and beyond. (That got a laugh out of one of the 40-somethings in the crowd).

The cast itself... Will Arnett does the whole Bat-voice and is totally into his character. He's great at what he does here, but it wears out its welcome for me and took a while to win me back.
Michael Cera- I hadn't seen since the year I saw "Scott Pilgrim" and a bunch of his other movies. He's really good at the orphaned Robin character. Ralph Fiennes is interesting as Alfred- a good interesting. It's different from his typical work.
And Zach Galifianakis is the perfect Joker in this. He's brilliant and should really do voiceover work more often.

Other comments I can add...
I liked the use of music in this. I mean, there's no original songs that are as catchy as "Everything Is Awesome" but they're not bad. Yet I remember more that they liked to play "I just died in your arms tonight" by the Cutting Crew whenever Bruce Wayne/Batman sees Barbara Gordon (ok, only twice... but I love that song... I remember loving it when I was a kid because I picked out by the instrumentals that it was from the 80's... the best decade of music in my opinion).
Then Robin had a scene where he wanted to pick a theme song for them to kick butt and fight crime. Including "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley (one of my many favorite 80's songs... and I have dozens :P) and "Fly Robin Fly."
Batman was certainly a fan of heavy metal and beatboxing.
But I also didn't appreciate the fact the code to the Bat-Cave is "Iron-Man Sucks"...

like, HELL NO!
I can only hope that they don't try to reincarnate Iron-Man as many times as they did with Superman and Batman, trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle they had with Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeve.
And for me, it's kinda at the point where I want RDJ to have more creative freedom in his career, so the sooner he stops being Tony Stark/Iron-Man, the sooner he can get that Oscar he deserved years ago for "Tropic Thunder" (yeah... never letting that go).

Grade: B+
(yeah, all the hype it got from the critics kinda ruined it for me... not to mention "Deadpool" kinda beat Batman to this type of movie and he did it a lot better...
I may add "Suicide Squad"  to the list as well, but I gotta see the movie first. And we do have the DVD in the house. Just waiting for dad to get home so we can watch it together... it was his idea).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Theatrical Review: 50 Shades Darker

Image result for 50 shades darker
 
Date: Saturday February 11 2017
Time: 1:30pm
Party: 2 (my mom and I)
 
Director: James Foley (I looked it up and he is the same James Foley who almost directed purple rain- he turned it down and suggested Al Magnoli who went on to do an amazing job with it)
Writers: EL James (novel), Niall Leonard (screenplay) (fun fact: they're married! mind=blown)
Composer: Danny Elfman
 
Cast:
Anastasia Steele- Dakota Johnson
Christian Grey- Jamie Dornan
Jack Hyde- Eric Johnson
Elena Lincoln (aka Mrs. Robinson)- Kim Basinger
Leila- Bella Heathcote (Victora in Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows")
Elliot Grey- Luke Grimes
Mia Grey- Rita Ora
Taylor- Mark Martini
Jose- Victor Rasuk
Kate Kavanaugh- Eloise Mumford
Dr. Grace Gray- Marcia Gay Harden
 
Duration: 118 minutes (+3 trailers)

Write-up:
my review of the original movie for those who are interested... then maybe you'll get an idea of what kind of review is about to follow
Opening comments 
 
I still can't believe how excited I was about this movie and waited 2 years practically counting the days for it. It seriously has to be the guiltiest guilty pleasure ever for me. I should not like it as much as I do.
Of the books it was my favorite in the trilogy just because Christian wasn't as daunting and abusive although he still had his typical control freak moments.
The theater has way more people than the first one did. (A good metaphor for the crowd size: think of it like the mathelete championship in "Mean Girls"). At least 3 couples in their mid to late 20s maybe older. I said last time there was only 2 other people in the theater and they wouldn't have been there if they had anything better to do cuz they weren't terribly into it. [I think both days were particularly rainy ones].
 
The more I watched the movie and it was maybe 3-4 times since (still need to get the DVD back from my aunt- don't know if she even saw it yet- I'd seen it once or twice on HBO for the heck of it) I disliked Christian more. But I still liked it for some odd reason. And of course it gave me 2 great songs. "Love me like you do" especially. I'm using it in my latest figure skating montage. Not because I have those strong romantic feelings for the skater in question but because his skating fits the timing of the music so well- I couldn't not do it. (Hopefully will post it to YouTube soon).
Trailers 
It's kinda lame when they show the same trailers for movies a couple trips in a row. Saw "Julieta" (I tried to look it up online and couldn't find it... but I found out I was googling the wrong name... the lesbian relationship is the daughter and her friend and she's estranged with her mother because she's afraid her sexuality led to her father's death- like God was punishing her)..
Then "love and friendship"(which is based on a Jane Austen novel and looks like a fun thing to get on DVD for a rainy day- when/if it hits DVD it just said coming soon).
Then there was "Amityville Awakening"- why the hell do they have to keep making these movies? And why is this in 50 shades? Is this movie so genre-less and random that they don't know what to lump in with it?

Ok moving on...
 
The Main Event 
(I see a patten developing- I might keep doing that heading for my movie reviews).
 
So the movie picks up exactly where the book said it would- we have a Christian Grey flashback and we catch up with Anastasia Steele 5 days or so after she ran out of the red room. She's got her life together with a brand new job in the publishing industry. Things are good but she does seem kinda miserable at times- for only one conceivable (although not necessarily believable) reason. 
Christian shows up at her friend Jose's photography show and asks to "renegotiate terms." And much of the movie is about that. Anastasia and Christian figuring out their relationship and what they're willing to give the other.
Add in a few chance encounters with Mrs. Robinson, Anastasia's boss Jack Hyde and Christian's ex submissive Leila stalking her and just about anything can happen.

Book to Movie Adaptation I'll add this in briefly (I actually wrote most of this post on my iPhone because I didn't want to be stuck behind a computer screen yesterday).
Again, another really good book-to-movie adaptation. But anything that erases Anastasia's "inner goddess" monologue is a huge plus in my book (I think this was the book that combined gymnastics and figure skating terms in one metaphor... just no!).
The storyline follows just about the same way. But obviously there's a scene or two that Anastasia isn't physically in that helps bring more to the story. One of which I was very skeptical about in the book and seeing the visual made me believe it actually happened.

Then after posting this, I forgot a couple things I wanted to address.

First, there's a certain sex toy that comes into play in the movie. One that Anastasia was a fan of... but the discrepancy is that in the movie, she was seeing them for the first time. Whereas in the books, they were first introduced to her in the first book and they make a comeback going to the masquerade ball and she's eager to use them again. [A couple silver balls connected by a chain that- to quote the movie- "don't go up your butt"].

And at the final scene where there's another huge party (this time for Christian's birthday), Kate somehow finds the original contract about Christian's "master & servant" arrangement and Anastasia talks her out of confronting him about it.

That was actually a great touch in the book because it seems like Christian has so much control over Anastasia, isolating her from everyone else in her life. And he was finally going to be held accountable. In the movie, Kate and Elliot spent most of the time away on vacation and communicating via Skype. Almost like Christian had Elliot frisk Kate away on this trip so he could have time alone with Anastasia to get her back... but he left out the part that she broke up with him.
Yeah, that second party was already crazy enough with that all-too brief Mrs. Robinson/Dr. Gray cat fight. [Also kinda funny in an odd way how Kate is so fixated on Anastasia losing her virginity in the first movie yet here she's only concerned that she's happy]

Other commentary

For starters the movie was better than the first one. There's the same amount of sex scenes (counting the ones fully fleshed out- yeah that innuendo was impossible to avoid- if you add the scenes where they're making out and in the next they're in bed covered up with blankets then it's twice the amount of the original). 
I mean I'm still a virgin and nothing has really changed between this movie and the last one from a maturity perspective. But at the same time- the sex scenes were very vanilla for the most part- so they weren't as intimidating as the last movie- but they were actually kinda boring because the first two were in the same position. Going from that perspective alone though just talking sex- the one masquerade ball was the hottest. (It boggles my mind how people can go somewhere during a party, hook up and return to the party. It seems exhausting. I wouldn't have the confidence, let alone the stamina for that).
 
Sex aside... I spent the first 10 minutes of the movie on edge about Christian coming back into Anastasia's life and if she'd be able to handle him. The first few times they were alone together I'm thinking "don't have sex with him"- because that would be okaying him to have his way with her again and just erasing her free will cuz she can't help herself around him. But I give her credit for not compromising right away and even though she did give him some free passes, she at least made him work for it. She also had some good burns on him. One went like "you can't use sex to solve this" (got a laugh from the audience- cuz that's kinda their relationship) and after he tried to take her the same salon he took all his past submissives to and he tried to explain how she's different than the others she says something "yeah I'm so special you tried to take me to the same salon as your other submissives."
As for the other characters, they certainly made things interesting. Like Mrs. Robinson- she's so cordial with everyone else but when she's alone with Anastasia she's such a bitch- putting the idea in her head that she can't give him everything he needs and she isn't good enough. Easy to say for someone who took advantage of him as a teenager and turned him into the sex freak he became. (Yeah it is kinda impossible to review this movie without taking about sex- even in general terms cuz it is the plot and character development).
I cheered at the end of the movie when Christian's mom bitch slapped her when she overhears a certain conversation.
Taking a moment aside from the new characters it was great seeing more of Marcia Gay Harden in this. Since the release of the first movie, "Code Black" has kinda made her a fixture in our house and it brought a sense of comfort. Especially during a scene late in the movie where there's a family crisis.
Rita Ora also gets a little extra screen time as Mia. But I didn't really feel a connection to her cuz the blonde hair was such a random aesthetic change. She was at the masquerade ball and I thought she was Anastasia's friend Kate. Same exact hairstyle. She's not nearly as fun to be around as Alice (the "Twilight" character she's supposedly based on).
Jack Hyde I liked at first. Seemed like a good guy who was very open to Anastasia's opinions. But when he finds about her and Christian, it gets intense. Anastasia taking care of him was another "hell yeah" moment but a bunch of us just said "oh!!" when she did what she did. (Nothing excessive- just enough to get away- in the book she said her mom's 2nd husband taught her special defense... maybe moves she should have maybe used on Christian but won't).
Then Leila- her storyline was just sad and kinda intense- how it all is developed and resolves. I just found it weird we see her stalking for several moments early in the movie and she disappears until we completely forget about her and there's a dramatic confrontation.
My opinion on Jamie Doran hasn't really changed. I'm less intimidated but I'm still not head over heels. With Christian Grey, it's kinda hard to be. (There's a moment coming up in the last movie that I'm not looking forward to because in the book he was so loathsome I wanted to beat the shit out of him).
Dakota Johnson is still great. If she wasn't, I wouldn't be as engaged in these movies as I am. I go through the events of the plot through her. Although once or twice there was slight disconnect. There was one point in the movie I was actually bored but it lasted all of 10 seconds. (And no- it wasn't a sex scene that fixed that- I think it came either before the confrontation or the crisis).
Music and directing

It was a little grittier at points with the change in directing, but it wasn't distinct enough for me to say much more with this script. (If "Purple Rain" had him directing with Vanity still playing the love interest- it'd be a little more intense. It'd be interesting if both versions of that movie actually existed so I could compare them- but I also hadn't watched the one and only version since Prince died so it's a moot point). 
Danny Elfman did the score but it's kinda hard to pick that out when it's not in a Tim Burton movie.
I'm doing the music subheading because of the Zayn/Taylor Swift duet that's been on the radio for a month. It appears in the scene where Anastasia and Christian are on the sailboat. And also the end credits. I didn't really love the song but it grew me when I found it at home- the movie it was created for. It was because of it that I saw a post credits preview of the next movie- which will be out next year. I heard they were filmed back to back but didn't think it'd be that soon. I had to wait 2 years for this one. And it was definitely worth the wait.

Grade: A-
(I had an A yesterday on my iPhone and changed it to A-. I thought a bit about how one or two moments were unintentionally funny and a movie like this, you can't really rate too high. But dammit, we had fun with it for what it was. I gave the original a B+.)