Friday, April 18, 2008

The Office Continues

One of my friends has to write a paper on a pop culture staple, and she mentioned doing her paper on The Office.  That got me seriously thinking about the show and its impact on our television and everyday life.  Some peoples Thursday's revolve around the latest episode of The Office.

The show was born from the British version of a show I believe of the same name.  BBC has produced some of the best humorous television, which the Brits know best.  It's amazing how quick the show rose in popularity.  No one on the show was really well known when the show first aired, the only actor I had heard of was Steve Carell.  Now, however, the stars have branched out into movies and elsewhere.  John Krasinski is perhaps the most famous from the show.  However, Rainn Wilson and Jenna Fischer are quickly gaining fame.

On the latest episode, it was mentioned that an engagement is coming up.  The relationship of Jim and Pam has been a cliffhanger since the premier episode of the show.  Every viewer knows they belong together, and it has been a constant roller coaster.  The episode that it came out that they were dating was an amazing step for the show, and now to know that a ring has come into the picture is brilliant.  The writers can drag it on for as long as they want. 

I think this show is here to least for a while.  The show has become such a television icon and so quickly.  Everything about is funny, and it is something that can easily stay funny.  The characters are great and the actors are so talented.  The best part though is the writing.  Nothing gets better than the ridiculous situations and witty lines that the writers come up with.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Office is Back

Some people may be confused, but it is still the middle of the fourth season of The Office.  The first episode post- screenwriters strike aired last Thursday.  

The episode was very surprising to me.  It wasn't very typical for the show.  First, the episode mainly took place in Michael's home not at Dunder Mifflin.  Because of the set change, much of the cast was not included in the majority of the story.  The only characters were Michael and Jan, Jim and Pam, Andy and Angela, and later Dwight.  These are the main characters, however a lot of the humor comes from the minor characters.  It is surprising that they were cut out of the show's return.  

The plot was surprising as well.  It is not that it wasn't funny, just very unexpected from the characters.  Much of the plot focused on Michael and Jan's tension at home.  They were both out of character.  Michael wasn't trying to be funny and failing at it.  He actually spent most of his time mad at Jan.  Jan acted the same way towards Michael.  They were both blatantly disrespectful of each other, where as they usually try to remain calm in public.  

I think the plot was a good one, but I think it made it difficult in that it premiered the last half of the fourth season.  I feel like it could have been written all along, and there just happened to be a long break in the season.  I think everyone was expecting to be reunited with their favorite characters and then spent the half hour in Michael's house with Jan.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Apparently, 21 has remained at the top of the list for the past two weeks.  I am not really sure why.  I enjoyed the movie, but I didn't think it was well put together.

My only qualm is the sluggish plot.  The story progressed so slowly, I found it hard to stay interested.  It isn't that the story wasn't worth documenting, its just I feel like a lot of screen time was wasted with cards and numbers.  

The "big names" Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburne didn't really help the story move any faster.  The students were well casted, however.  The two main roles: Ben and Jill were perfect.  Jim Sturgess is a favorite and Kate Bosworth has proved herself.  The background players and Ben's best friends were great.  

The movie is only bearable when you realize that its based on a true story.  Yes, the idea is a good one, but it is only interesting to watch because you know it really happened.  I enjoyed unfolding the story and figuring out how these students beat Las Vegas.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I feel like Penelope is a modern day fairytale.  It would work so well in a storybook.  The "ugly duckling" story line makes the film appealing for the younger generations.  Maybe this type of story has been told a million times before, but the fresh takes are usually a smart move.  The girl with the pig nose is definitely a new kind of hero.  Penelope works on so many levels and for so many ages. 

I guess her parents did what they thought was best.  I mean, their child did have a pig nose.  However, hiding her away was not the best for Penelope.  All she had to live with was her nose.  Penelope had to leave her family to find her life.  It is interesting that the news assumed the world would take the news of a pig-nosed girl as a horror story wasn't accurate at all.  The world loved Penelope and her parents fears for their child were entirely untrue.

The morals make the film acceptable for all ages.  I am glad that she gets a normal nose in the end.  After what she went through, she totally deserved it.  It would have been a bummer if Penelope didn't lose her nose and stayed with the guy.  It would be very similar to Shrek in that Fiona won her man but had to stay an ogre.  I guess there wouldn't have been any sequels then, but that could have been a good thing.  

The humor works for the older audience.  There are moments of suggestive material that probably wouldn't have been in the storybook.  It was interesting to go see the film with a guy.  He couldn't say he liked it, but he also couldn't say he didn't.  The basic facts of the story are attractive. It obviously had some appeal to a college age male.  However, it could have been Reese Witherspoon.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Into the Wild (spoiler!)

Into the Wild.  The book has been around for a long time. Everyone said it was great.  Sean Penn couldn't leave it alone, however he produced a decent book-to-screen adaptation.  Nominated for two Academy Awards, the film better be good: best Supporting Actor for Hal Holbrook and Best Editing.

Penn made some really good decisions.  The cast was wonderful, maybe even predictable.  Penn chose previous costars like Marcia Gay Harden, old classics such as Hal Holbrook, and newcomers like Emile Hirsch.  Penn also had a good idea with the flashbacks.  It was a smart move dynamic wise for the evolution of Chris McCandless into Alexander Supertramp.  

The truly amazing thing about the film is Hirsch's performance.  I'm not sure anyone knew that Emile Hirsch could handle such a substantial role.  Alexander Supertramp transforms .  Emile Hirsch sacrificed a lot for the role.  He physical ability and training skyrocketed.  He loses a substantial amount of weight by the end of the film.  He is truly skilled at protraying the tranformation of Chris.  The reality of Supertramp's situation is not apparent until the end of the film.  Sorry for the spoiler, but the point where he eats the poisonous plant leads to his subsequent death.  He has never been thiner, sicker, and more pathetic than at this point in his life.  He has accomplished his goal, only to be too weak to find food.  His success is in his death.

I have been to Alaska and hiked up to a glacier, however after watching the film, it doesn't seem like much of a feat anymore.  It is a beautiful as depicted on screen;  it made me miss the open spaces.  The real beauty of the film is in the landscape.  The story means so much more when you feel a part of the atmosphere.  It is hard to comprehend the enormity of Chris's decision except in the context of the vastness of Alaska.

Monday, March 31, 2008

No Country for Old Men

I am still trying to figure this one out.  One, what is the story really about?  Two, how did this film win Oscars?  Oscars as in four total:  Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem).  The Coen brothers have another hit.  It just may not be obvious to most.

There are several things the film has going for it.  The cast is definitely a good one.  Tommy Lee Jones is a justified skilled actor.  Woody Harrelson shows his serious side (which is actually good) in this film.  Even the younger generation, namely Josh Brolin and Kelly Macdonald, are fantastic.  

Comparing No Country for Old Men to the other nominees for the Oscars, I am not sure that the film deserved the clout it received.  Best Picture and Best Screenplay obvious go in one package.  A film doesn't earn one without the other and usually Best Director goes with it as well.  The Coen brothers have no doubt produced some amazing successful films.  Raising Arizona is one of my favorite films ever, and Fargo is also a good one.  Also, O Brother Where Art Thou? and The Ladykillers, both by the Coen brothers, were filmed in Mississippi.  No doubt they are talented, but this movie seems over analyzed by the Academy.  They expect the best from these two, and it is hard to believe that they might not have produced the best film.

However, the film does deserve some recognition for the brilliant performance by Javier Bardem.  The Coens' talent really shows in their casting.  Where they found this man, I have no idea.  He has mostly been in Spanish films, but his beginning in American film was Collateral.  This is definitely his best performance yet.  He is the perfect blend of blunt seriousness and horror.  As the serial killer, everything about him is creepy.  He absolutely deserved the Oscar.

The problem for me was that I did not understand the point of the movie.  It granted no satisfaction.  When it ended, I felt drained for nothing.  I sat through two hours of nonstop suspense and violence only to be confused to the point of frustration.  

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

Quite possibly my favorite movie this year is The Darjeeling Limited, written and directed by Wes Anderson.  Wes Anderson has always been my favorite director ever, and this film could be his best yet.  Although he has been around a while, this is only his fourth film.  He writes and directs every one himself, so he covers every detail.

Anderson's films are not very mainstream.  They tend to portray quirky family stories with complex characters.  They all pay very close attention to detail, whether it be sets and costumes or lines and character traits.  The Darjeeling Limited follows the three Whitman brothers on their spiritual journey through India on none other that the train the Darjeeling Limited.

The one quirk about Anderson is his tendency to use the same actors in all his films.  Jason Schwartzman was in his first film Rushmore and stars in The Darjeeling Limited as Jack Whitman.  Owen Wilson has been in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and he stars as the oldest Whitman brother Francis.  Angelica Huston and Bill Murray were also in Anderson's last two films.  The newcomer in The Darjeeling Limited is Adrian Brody.  His awkward stature is perfect for the unusual look Anderson goes for.  He is my favorite in this film as Peter Whitman.

What's interesting about this film is the collaboration with Jason Schwartzman.  He helped Anderson write the script but also a short film that prefaces The Darjeeling Limited.  Hotel Chevalier tells the story of Jack Whitman before he goes on the trip with his brothers.  It focuses on his relationship with his girlfriend.  It comes up often in The Darjeeling Limited with several references to his girlfriend and Jack's common practice of wearing his Hotel Chevalier bathrobe on the train.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Last King of Scotland

I know I am on a rant about James McAvoy, but I have found it is with reason.  On my flight home, even Delta's magazine featured him as the most talented rising actor.  I have talked a lot about his latest movies, which are all of the romance genre.  However, I am recently reminded of his earlier work of a different genre.  Over Spring Break, I watched The Last King of Scotland for a second time.  It had been a long time since I viewed the film, and I was amazed at my intrigue in the film the second time I watched it.

The film covers the dictatorship of the Ugandan president Idi Amin in the 1970s.  The film approaches the difficult subject from the perspective of his personal doctor, based on the fictional book by Giles Foden.  McAvoy plays Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor pulled into the web of Amin's political action as his doctor.  McAvoy was lucky to not have to work on an accent, as a Scot himself he was simply able to fall right into the role.  

McAvoy did amaze me at his level of talent so early in his career.  His emotional range and character meshing was unbelievable.  I am a fan of all his films, but he is most convincing in his most challenging role.  That proves to me his worth in the acting field.  To play such a monumental role in such a controversial film is truly an accomplishment.

The real talent in the film, however, is Forest Whitaker.  The man has been in many films of every genre and even graced television in several successful shows.  He is a very talented actor and blends into any role presented to him.  In this film, he couragously approached the role of Ugandan president Idi Amin, considered one of the most brutal rulers in history.  Whitaker makes this horrible man come across as a humorous, concerned ruler of his people.  He plays him exactly as the Ugandans and others viewed Amin in his time of power.  They were blind to his horrible ways as is the audience.  His excellent portrayal earned Whitaker his first Oscar.

The only way the audience can see this man's true character is through the perspective of the physician.  He is a fictional character but his position poses an interesting aspect on Amin's rule.  Initially, it is obvious that Garrigan is mesmerized by the president's extravagance and power.  Although Garrigan starts out his work in Uganda in a village clinic, he has no problem adjusting to the private house and convertible given to him by Amin.  Amin has a love for Scottish culture and military history, so grows very attached to him.  Garrigan is one of the only people to see almost every aspect of Amin's life.  For the purpose of exposing this dictator to the world, Garrigan works well as fictional eyes and ears in Amin's life.

The story of Idi Amin, however is very true. There is no doubt that he is one of the most horrible dictators.  In 1971, this man took power as a man of the people after a military coup against President Obote.  The Ugandan people loved Amin, but by the end of his rule in 1979 he was responsible for around 500,000 Ugandan's deaths.  After being kicked out of Uganda, Amin settled in Saudi Arabia until his death on August 16, 2003.  This movie was released only three years after his death.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Be Kind, Rewind

Be Kind, Rewind is a story of three unlikely friends in an unlikely situation.  The movie is a very unusual comedy about one man's dedication to his video store.

Jack Black and Mos Def star as the unlikely friends Jerry and Mike.  Jerry is a humorous troublemaker while Mike stays tied to the control and simplicity of the video store.  Once they begin making videos, Alma joins the crew.  She is played by newcomer Melonie Diaz, known only to me from A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.  The three mesh well together in a comedic form very unusual to such a diverse trio.  They all come from such different backgrounds, personally and professionally, so it is a surprise that their witty conversation and jesting screen presence blend well.

The flick even included old favorites such as Danny Glover and Sigourney Weaver.  She ironically starred in Ghostbusters, the first film Jerry and Mike remake. Perhaps the most surprising part was Miss Falewicz, played by Mia Farrow.  She is an unlikely but pleasant addition to the diverse cast.  Everytime I think of this timeless actress, I picture the elegant sleekness of The Great Gatsby.  It is very broadening to see her play such an original character.

Probably an unnoticed dynamic of the film is the racial diversity.  Not only is it evident in the choice of well-known actors, but in the story as well.  The town is very diverse, but interestingly, the three main characters represent the three largest racial groups of our nation.  The town comes together at the end to produce a masterpiece and if you look closely, the lines of racial tension fade away.  The film is more than just a humorous take on extenuating circumstances.  The movie is about togetherness and accomplishment.  The short films that Jerry and Mike produce begin to include the entire town.  No one has to solve a huge problem alone because people are always there when you need them.  Even if your problem is remaking movies on erased tapes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dear Frankie

Dear Frankie is the story of a mother and her son Frankie.  Frankie writes letters to his dad who works on a ship, but in reality, the mother pretends to be the dad and writes back.  Frankie's father left the family when Frankie was a baby.  When the boat comes to their town, Frankie's mom must find a man to play his dad, a man who changes their lives.  Frankie is so special:  very clever but deaf.  As his mother puts it, Frankie's deafness was a gift from his real father.  

Although this film is a wonderful, intriguing story, what is so amazing is its portrayal as a reality.  The movie is so cleverly crafted that it seems that the audience is there beside the characters as a part of the story.  The Scotland setting also plays into the beauty of the film.  The actors: Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera, 300) are two of the freshest British actors out there.

The characterization of the film is very little.  There is not a lot of detailed history about the family or other characters.  It is as if this story was just picked up by a passerby and continued for all to unravel as they go along.  The incomplete characterization plays as role as one of the themes for the mother.  She does not want to know anything about the man who will pretend to be Frankie's dad and she does not want him to know about him.  They have spent their whole lives running from Frankie's real father that they don't know to stop.  They moved from place to place without explanation or settling down.

The presence of Frankie's "dad" changes everything for the family.  He is the first male figure to love and embrace Frankie and his mom.  They do not know how to open up and love, but this man fits so perfectly into there lives.   Even though they both know this man is not a real father for Frankie, they feel much closer to this father figure and he changes their lives forever.

One important feature of the film is the silence.  The movie is very reminiscent of everyday life, with reasonable pauses and moments that are often ignored in plot time.  Several scenes take a long time to unfold because they play out as real life.  Several times when the mother is picking up the mail, half a minute goes by before she receives the post.  Even the moment before Frankie's "dad" and mom kiss is painstakingly long, however it is a legitimate time period.

Also, many of the scenes unfold without much conversation.  The most significant moment is when Frankie watches his mom and "dad" dance.  The music fades away and becomes muffled.  This scene is meant only for Frankie, and the film depicts it from his point of view.  All of the silence is for Frankie.

Frankie is the narrator of the story, which is slightly ironic because in the film, everyone just wants to hear his voice.  They only way of communication is in his letters to his dad which his mom receives.  She continues her facade because she cherishes his voice.  In the end, she does regret that she carried it on so long in Frankie's life.  Frankie is smarter than everyone in the film though.  His last letter solves all of the mysteries for Frankie.  He figures out that his real dad was dead, his mom had been writing the letters, the man he met was not his real dad, and that everything was going to be okay.  Frankie is still happy to be where he is because he knows now he'll get to stay. 

Friday, March 7, 2008

Penelope vs. Atonement

Atonement releases on DVD this week while Penelope opens in theaters.  One film with numerous Oscar nominations tells a dramatic story of crime and distance, another excellent film with Keira Knightley.  The other a playful, fairytale-like story of a girl's search for acceptance and love.  Penelope is played by Christina Ricci.

Both films are on my list of movies to see, although they are quite the opposite.  What, then, do these films have in common with one another?  James McAvoy is the male lead.  

James McAvoy has quickly become one of my favorite actors out there.  He has suddenly become a sought after man for every genre of film.  He has not been so popular for very long.  His first big film role was Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia.  Since then, he has made film after film that has proved him a worthy subject of the screen.  

His next film and perhaps my favorite, is The Last King of Scotland.  He portrayed a doctor for a Ugandan dictator.  The film was amazing and no doubt Forest Whitaker earned the Oscar for best actor for the film.  McAvoy pleased the audience as well though.  He since then has starred in several romances, including Atonement and Penelope.  He has been in comedies, dramas, and romances and has yet to fail to shine.  

Becoming Jane, his first romance, was not a very good movie in my opinion.  The plot line was rough and characterization was lacking.  However, I loved to watch McAvoy interact with others on screen.  He has a presence that made me endure and even sometimes enjoy the movie.

Keep your eye on this rising star and this week enjoy Atonement and Penelope.  This is just the beginning of James McAvoy's budding career.  

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

I am confident that the book is always better than the movie.  I have yet to see a film that proves better than the film.  A few have satisfied me as justifiable renditions of the book.  Pride and Prejudice is about the only film that I really enjoyed as much as the book.  Books leave the pictorial story up to your imagination, which I always take that for granted.  I get some scenes stuck a certain way in my head, so when the movie comes out I don't like it.  The characters and plot lines are never developed in the movie enough to satisfy me.  It seems that the movie also takes out my favorite parts of the book.  I have gotten to where the movie ruins the book for me.  That is why I am apprehensive to go see The Other Boleyn Girl.  

The Other Boleyn Girl is one of my favorite books.  I am intrigued by English history, and Phillipa Gregory writes excellent historical fiction.  All of her books are based on real historical figures and events, but she flowers the stories with her detailed style of writing.  I was particularly drawn to this book because it addresses the story of Anne Boleyn.  She is one of the most fascinating women of history in my mind.  I just don't think any filmmaker could do the book justice.

The film itself has the potential to be an excellent film.  With a great cast and storyline, the movie will no doubt do well.  However, many people that I have talked to have never heard of the book.  Everyone I have talked to is excited about the film release, but I cannot convince them to read the book.  They just don't know what they are missing.
I am not saying that the film won't be good; I will just have to take it as a separate entity from the book.  Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman have yet to displease me, and newcomer Jim Sturgess, known mainly for Across the Universe, is brilliant as well.  
Perhaps the only thing I doubt is the casting of Eric Bana as Henry Tudor.  He has been in several movies that are popular and well made; Troy and Munich are two. However, he has always been outshined by costars or content.  Then there is Hulk, which was just terrible all around.  I think they could have picked a stronger actor to play the part of the king.  I don't think he is the best main character actor.

I find, however, that reading the book after the movie can be very interesting.  The pages of the book have much more space to fill in the details and expound on characters, relationships, or even plots.  I really enjoy filling in the gaps from the movie with the book.  It has become a hobby of mine to read the book before the movie, especially with Harry Potter, so I can analyze and compare the two mediums.  I will definitely have to go back and read The Other Boleyn Girl after I see the film.  I want to see what the movie left out.  

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mississippi Film

Most people turn to Los Angeles or New York for the best in film.  Mississippians are trying to change that.  Over the last decade, the state of Mississippi has taken large strides in putting itself on the map in the film industry.

Many films have been already filmed in Mississippi, chosen for its earthy and natural landscapes, antiquated towns, and hospitality.  A Time to Kill, My Dog Skip, and O Brother Where Art Thou? were filmed entirely in the state.  Even Walk the Line was partially filmed in the Magnolia state.  These films have opened the door for Mississippi as a premier filming location.

The state has taken several measures to increase interest in film.  The state now has an Office of Film and Culture that handles all projects and promotion of film for the state.  The state has plans for a full scale production studio that competes with Hollywood in the city of Canton.  They hope the facilities will attract outside film makers to the luxuries of a large production facility.  The state has also started and incentive program that encourages filmmakers to the state financially.  

Mississippi has alot of supporters of the filmmaking industry running businesses in the state.  Many people are trained in work behind the scenes that are available to out of state filmmakers.  The state has a catalog for interested filmmakers of local people available to do any kind of work that may be needed on a set.  Some are individuals and several are companies.  One company that has put itself on the map state wide for its expanding film business is Eyevox.  Eyevox is a small production company that offers its services locally and for outside projects moving in.  They have producers, editors, set builders, animators, and camera men all on staff.  They have done it all:  from small company commercials to working with DreamWorks and HBO.

The state also supports its local filmmakers, however.  Locations statewide hold annual film festivals to showcase and promote local work.  The largest is probably the Crossroads Film Festival held in Jackson, the capital of the state.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Eighties

 This weekend I watched several eighties movies and realized how set apart they are.  They basically form their own genre for their common threads.  They seem to have the same actors, story, even music.
St. Elmo's Fire is one movie that comes to mind that is a prime example of the typical eighties film.  All of the stars were at the top of their game during this time.  Emilio Estevez, Demi Moore, Ron Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy,  and Mare Winningham were the perfect age for the relationship films of this decade.  They have all starred in other films together in this era as well.  Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson were in The Breakfast Club, Rob Lowe and Demi Moore were in About Last Night.  Rob Lowe and Ally Sheedy were in Oxford Blues.  Eighties movies tend to have the same people in them.  Several actors and actresses became very popular during this era and have not been seen in anything recently.   With a few other stars, such as Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, these people dominated the circuit in eighties Hollywood.  You can find one of them in every popular teen and young adult film of the decade.

The movies tend to cover similar subjects, nothing too heavy or controversial.  Each movie throws together a group of people from different backgrounds and by the end of the movie they end up together.  Eighties movies were all about relationships.  

They also tend to have soundtracks with only  music from that era.  Movies today seem to find a good mix of oldies, goodies, and up-to-date music to complement the film.  The movies of the eighties stuck with the synthesized pop tracks popular in that day.  The songs serve to set the mood and reenforce the ideals of the eighties film.  

It seems as if no one wanted to experiment with topics in that day.  Not that I have seen every film of the eighties, but all of the popular titles cover basically the same story.  No one tried anything new or different because the films worked as they were.  I am thankful that not every popular film today covers the same story over and over again.  I do enjoy the eighties movies, but simply for the reason that they are so genuinely eighties.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flight of the Conchords

I follow and purchase movies much more often than I do television shows.  I always thought buying seasons of popular television shows was unusual because most shows stay on television in reruns for a long time.  I prefer to watch them online now, so I didn't have a need to buy them for myself.  Also, they are very unaffordable.  However, I have grown attached to a few shows.  I find myself wanting to watch them all the time.

These shows are all comedies.  I find it hard to watch several episodes of an hour-long drama series.  It is much easier to stay interested in shorter episodes of a more comic nature.  Right now, at the top of my list is The Office and Flight of the Conchords.  Most are familiar with The Office, for it is award winning and stars Steve Carrell.  The show is lucky to have such a talented and popular cast to drive the humor and wit each episode has to offer.  This show has a strong following and I indulged in purchasing all three seasons.  I am now very popular on my hall with all my friends.

However, the other show is in one way even better than The Office.  Flight of the Conchords is overlooked because it only airs on HBO.  Unfortunately, many people don't get the channel and miss out on the great shows HBO has to offer.  Most shows are serious in nature about controversial and often overlooked topics.  They also tend to support smaller productions in hopes of promoting shows of a more "indie feel".  Flight of the Conchords is the channel's first move towards a comedic half-hour show. 

The show follows two New Zealand musicians in New York in their hopes of becoming a popular band, called Flight of the Conchords.  The show is obviously small budget, with a max of five reoccuring characters and only one or two solid sets.  Bret and Jermaine, who actually created the show and star in it, are so hilarious.  Each episode is filled with witty humor in awkward circumstances.  The best thing about the show is the music.  The two musicians sing their songs as a part of every episode.  They randomly break into song and sometimes dance, reflecting their current situation.  The songs are of every genre and every subject and provide the most laughs in each episode.

The minor characters are just as funny as Bret and Jermaine.  Their band manager Murray works at the New Zealand consulate while simultaniously managing their band.  They only have one fan, an obsessive love-struck Mel, that follows them around everywhere.  

I bought the first season of this show for a reasonable price.  One, it is my favorite show on television at the moment, and two, I want to spread it around.  I hope this show can become more popular and gather a larger following so it can gain the recognition it deserves.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Across the Universe

One of my favorite films of the year so far is definitely Across the Universe.  Surprisingly enough, I listened to the soundtrack for the film for a month before I saw the picture.  I fell in love with the creative covers for the Beatles' songs.  However the feeling and emotion of the film is even more a part of the music.  You can really only watch and listen to both.

Director Julie Taymor has perhaps never taken on such a monumental film production before.  Known only for this film and the Oscar-winning Frida (six nominations and two wins).  Across the Universe was no doubt a risk for the talented director, but she obviously had no fear in pushing the boundaries.  Her grasp and execution of the legendary music and Sixties era has never been presented in such an eccentric and emotional way.  I think she told a beautiful story, but what really stands out is her display of the era.  She managed to include several aspects of the Sixties:  the Vietnam war, the psychedelic atmosphere, and even the racial riots.  Her detail to sets, costumes, and locations makes the era come alive.

Nominated this year for only Best Costume Design, I feel this film deserved more recognition in the musical and directing areas.  However, the legendary costume designerAlbert Wolsky joining the crew did magnify the splendid screen presence of each character.  He craftily presented the era of the sixties and added to the personality of each character with his elaborate hippie attire.  

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the soundtrack.  The movie showcases fresh takes on thirty classic Beatles' songs while weaving a story around the message that each implies. Taymor chose unknown actors for her lead roles, wanting to find talented singer/actors and not just have big names tied to the project.  She chose two Brits Joe Anderson and Jim Sturgess has her two male leads.  They are both young and crazy enough to pull of the roles of soul-searchers Max and Jude.  The more famous Evan Rachel Wood plays Lucy, and although many know she can act, this is her first singing role.  All three shined as the lead trio, and their voices were amazing.  Perhaps the best musical sequence comes not from the stars.  The movie's interpretation of the Beatles' Let It Be solos two unknown African American singers.  A young boy and older woman belt this song better than any other character in the film.

Everything in this film portrays the Sixties in such a real way.  Taymor made every aspect of the film a part of the Beatles' classic songs.  Every character name was from a song, and several were references to other famous musicians of the time.  Janis Joplin is portrayed through Sadie, and Jimi Hendrix is portrayed through JoJo.

Taymor has commented that of the over 300 Beatles' songs, she only used 30 in this film.  She's up to teaming up with the same cast to continue the story.  

Friday, February 15, 2008

No Reservations

No Reservations is just another romantic comedy.  With a cooking twist, the story is a typical love story, but with a little girl thrown in to the mix.  The story follows a successful, yet stressed chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) whose life is thrown off by the sudden death of her sister and subsequent adoption of her neice (Abigail Breslin).  The young girl develops a relationship with Kate's assistant chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart) and they help Kate realize what is really important in life.

Zeta-Jones is talented in any role she takes on.  She has had many hit movies and many that have bombed.  I'm not sure if this movie will put more stars on her career, because the real delight are her co-stars.  Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin really light the screen.  I have not really followed Aaron Eckhart in film, so I was really surprised at his talent in the romantic comedy.  Even more so, his talent with children.  He had such a chemistry with Zeta-Jones and the young Abigail Breslin.
Now here is a star worth bragging about.  She is not even hit her teen years, but she has already hit the red carpet with an Oscar nomination.  Little Miss Sunshine was Breslin's debut, and the film went straight to the top.  She has quickly risen as the most talented child star out there right now, thankfully replacing Dakota Fanning.  Breslin has the sweet child face and manner, yet her roles are emotionally complicated and smart.  I think she will remain in the spotlight for a while.  Her next film, Definitely, Maybe, will boost her screen image as well.

This movie may fade into the many romantic comedies meant for a girl's night at home, but I think it deserves more merit.  In twenty years, I think people will look back at this movie and discover the start of a brilliant career for Abigail Breslin.  Look out for her, for she will continue to succeed on the screen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lost Popularity

Nothing has lost popularity, but quite the opposite.  It is amazing to me that ABC's "Lost" as maintained its fan base and now become one of the most popular show on television.  The network did an excellent job of putting off season four.  I am surprised that the fan base reaction wasn't anger for making them wait so long, but the delay seemed only to widen the fan base.  Everyone on my hall that has never seen the show is catching up starting with season one.  With thanks to ABC Online, every season of "Lost" is available in HD online for any viewer.  All of a sudden, everyone feels the need to see from the start the confusing tale of Oceanic Flight 815.  Lost parties happen every week, and everyone wants to know what will happen to the stranded passengers.

I watched the show religiously for the first season, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It mainly covered each passenger on the island in their life before the crash.  As I started the second season, however, the show included every twist, every conflict, every surprise possible.  I grew more confused with every episode.  New mysteries were introduced without the old ones being solved.  The most unusual discoveries were made on the show, none of which made any sense to me.  I couldn't stand watching the show anymore.  My roommate, the most devoted Lost fan I know, states that the confusion only continues.  However, more people flock to their televisions to see what twist in the plot lies ahead.

It is curious also that with the popularity of the show, the actors and actresses haven't made a stronger name for themselves.  It seems that they are all very talented, but only one has made several movies and become very popular.  Maggie Grace, or Shannon, has only recently debuted in The Jane Austen Book Club, and Naveen Andrews, who plays Sayid, was in Bride and Prejudice that was quickly overlooked.  With some research I even discovered new characters from the recent seasons.  Elizabeth Mitchell, as Juliet, has perhaps the most films under her belt, but still she stays mainly under the radar as a Hollywood star.  The actor gaining the most fame from his beginnings in "Lost" is obviously Matthew Fox, who plays the main character Dr. Jack Shephard.  He has been on more magazine covers with Evangeline Lilly for the show than any other characters.  Yes, he and Lilly are perhaps the main characters, but the series is an epic following the lives of many characters and the show seems to stay attached to all of them.  Fox is the only one to gain notoriety off the island as well as on it.  Fox had a humble start on "Party of Five," a long running television series that no one seems to remember.  Since his popularity on Lost, Fox quickly gained several film roles, boosting his career.  

We Are Marshall was his first major picture to hit the screens.  I was pleasantly surprised at his portrayal of the grieving assistant coach.  He did a fantastic job, although his role as Jack has definitely trained him on acting in a tragic situation. He also has a movie releasing on Febuary 22, Vantage Point, also starring Dennis Quaid.  We shall see if he can branch out of the struggling, complicated soul sort of character.  Hopefully, the other stars of "Lost" will not go over looked.  I personally would like to see Jorge Garcia, more commonly known as Hurley, on the big screen with a hit comedy.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Women in Power

It all started with Sex & the City.  Women were cast in the spotlight as working women who want it all:  the money, the man, the job, the respect.    This show let women know that they should go for what they want.  As popular as it was, networks caught on to the female needs.  Women want to see other women get the power they deserve.  And so began a string of shows, starring "women of power."  These women have it all:  the dream life.  However, the real issue is the struggles that women face in a man-driven world.  While these women have it all, they fight to keep a smiling face.  Now I know women love to see other living the dream, but it seems almost a turn off after seeing what these women go through.  I don't know if it's worth it.

The Recent Lineup

Two new shows started this winter focusing on women in the workplace.  The first is Cashmere Mafia, produced by Darren Star who also produces Sex and the City.  The plot follows four successful New York businesswomen in all walks of life.  Two are moms, two are looking for love, and all are fighting for power in the business world.  The women are taking over the New York scene.  I can't decide if these shows are empowering women or making them feel less like women.  No doubt that the shows are catered to a female audience, men don't usually prefer Prada and Gucci.  However, these shows cast hot, rising stars to portray their "women of power," so maybe men are attracted to the show.  

NBC cloned ABC's Cashmere Mafia with a small twist, which is making it only three women.  It is interesting that all networks can adopt this common and popular idea and make it work.  NBC's Lipstick Jungle even has Brooke Shields, who came out of mommyhood to show the world what women can be.  These women are all unexcepted by the men in the executive positions because they "don't belong."  One episode in Cashmere Mafia even went as far to break of one characters engagements over a publishing job.  When the woman got it, the man ran away.

These shows may be changing the way women view the workplace.  I think it may be empowering to most.  It's encouraging to see other women get the job done.  I am not sure that this is the best message to broadcast on every channel.  Because just maybe, women aren't always cut out for the job.

What do others think about the new "women in power?"

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Superbowl is still one of the most watched television events.  Perhaps, many viewers are as excited about the advertisements and they are about the game.  CNN reported an average cost per ad of about 2.7 million dollars.  If all of the companies pooled their money that they spent on the Superbowl advertisements, they might have solved the world's water crisis.  Doesn't the world need the ads instead?  Despite all the money spent, the ads stilled pleased Superbowl fans.

The commercials all went in different directions; they did not follow a pattern at all.  Some companies went with serious, to-the-point ads especially car companies.  One company's ads stood out to me mainly because they were unusual, sometimes grotesque.  One had a woman's heart leave her body and another showed a spider devour its dinner.  Budweiser definitely wins the prize for the spending the most money on ads, however they may also win the prize for the best.  Some funny, some touching, but all were pretty good.  I lost count of how many Budweiser ads showed, but their expenses topped the charts.

Some football players even filmed commercials for the event.  The Patriots joined together My favorite was the story of the oboe player turned football star thanks to his friend pulling him out of his grocery store job.  Tom Brady even made a joint commercial with the United Way.  Although it seemed he couldn't find the time to show up for filming it because his animated cartoon was playing football.

The halftime show was a little classier this year I think.  Steering away from the out of control and towards genuine rock and roll.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are getting old, but their songs will always be classics.  No one took risks this year for a repeat of the Janet Jackson fiasco, Petty pleases everyone.

It's interesting that the ads become so important.  Not that the Superbowl itself isn't, but it seems the talk of the commercials lasts longer than that of the winner.  The game was uneventful until the fourth quarter, so many looked to the ads to keep up the entertainment.  Advertisements are much more about entertainment than promoting the product in some cases.  Now more than ever, people expect for the commercial to please the eye before they will even consider the product or service.  That's why companies pay so much money for Superbowl spots.  It is their best opportunity to reach a wide audience and entertain.

Go Giants!!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Movies for You

I found it very difficult since college started to keep up with the latest movie releases without spending money at the theater.  I have always kept a Netflix or Blockbuster account with my mom to continuously get new releases and classics.  
My grandfather passed away this week and it has had me pondering about how times have changed.  Everything is so much more expensive, even the movie theatre popcorn, but at the same time, it is so much more convenient.  Think about it.  The film industry has greatly evolved.  No more black and white reel films for everything is digital and exceptional color.  That is just the theater.  It almost pays even more to watch in the comfort of your own home.  With flat screen, LCD, HD, and I'm sure many other acronyms with a D, there is no need to go to the big screen for a theater-like movie experience.  Now we have even have surround sound, and my grandfather was lucky to get sound.  
The point I wanted to address was the evolution of movie renting.  With all this technology in film, the movie rental industry has caught on fast.  We as consumers expect the easiest and the best in every industry now.  The days of driving to the closest rental store are over.  Blockbuster offers online rentals and Netflix was created as competition.  It is so easy and even cheaper to rent movies this way.  I have not found anything wrong with the system so far.  Choose how many movies you keep at a time by the price.  Choose you films online.  The company does the rest.  I thought movie renting had met a new level.
Then, it got even better.  Film is now all online.  Networks put all of their shows easily accessible on their websites.  I don't have to worry about missing my favorite shows because I can always watch it online.  Of course, this convenience has led to the screenwriters' strike, which has led to no more new episodes.  It is still such a novel idea on the network's part.  I have even heard that Netflix and Blockbuster online offer online downloads and mailed movies so you can watch your rentals immediately on your computer or wait for them to send them to you.  Movies are the easiest thing to obtain now.  It would blow my grandfather away.
Check out the rates for online movie rentals.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Surprise Oscar Pick

This year's Oscar Nominations produced the normal assortment of previous nominees, press-popular films, unknown foreign films, and then there is Juno.  One of the most creative films of the year and perhaps my favorite, Juno tells the story of a pregnant teen and her developing relationship with the baby's father, her father and step-mother, and the adoptive parents.  The movie had an interesting mix of cast members, combining old and new.  Ellen Page and Michael Cera,  both young and new to the screen, play the teen couple.  Famed middle-age actors Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman portray the adoptive couple, and recognized actors Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons play Juno's parents.  All are from different walks in the film industry, yet they blend together for the quirky feel of the film.  It came as a surprise to me that it nagged several nominations this year for the Academy Awards.
You never know how this movie will do at the Oscars.  Page has won several awards already for her portrayal of the quirky teen Juno, and although her competition is steep, she could come out on top.  Up against Cate Blanchett, an Oscar winner already, and timeless actresses Julie Christie and Laura Linney, Page is definitely the newcomer in the Oscar circuit.  Not that the recognition isn't due, in my opinion Page was excellent.  The absurdness of her nomination, and of course role, could sway the envelop in her favor.  
Juno is also up for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.  After seeing the movie the first time, I immediately appreciated the creative and quirky screenwriting.  Diablo Cody produced a brilliant script for director Jason Reitman.  I thought the movie was a given for the award, but on closer examination, the film may have more competition that Ellen Page does in her category.  Lars and the Real Girl and even The Savages are both the same sarcastic, witty style as Juno.  I am unfamiliar with Micheal Clayton, but the film has had so much press and buzz.  Finally, Ratatouille is the best family film of the season.  It is very difficult to say who has the best bet in Best Writing, but I am pulling for Juno in this category.  I would love for Juno take every nomination, however, it is rare that the out of place movie takes all the awards.  Dramas, in general, take home more Oscars than comedies.  The Academy, though, is known for surprises and even upsets, so I wouldn't place any bets.

Perhaps the best thing about this film, is the cameo by Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight Schrute of The Office, as a drug store employee named Rollo.  By far my favorite sequence in the movie, Rollo is full of hilarious, rhyming pokes at Juno.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I realize that there has been nonstop buzz about the death of actor Heath Ledger, but I feel his life is worth me commenting on.  I grew up with him constantly in the spotlight, and I realized that this is the first celebrity to die that I have watched from beginning to end.  He rose to stardom just as I reached the age for his teen sensations and passed as I witnessed the Oscar nominee finally gain credibility for his work. 

I will admit that my junior high years were spent obsessing over the latest heartthrob, and at that time, Heath Ledger was the greatest out there.  My friends and I cared nothing for his talent or abilities, we just thought he was beautiful.  Now, however, I have grown out of the teen magazines and tabloid hotties and into a deep analyzation of actors.  I have watched Ledger grow from a teen star to an Oscar nominee.  Always slightly on the edge, Ledger challenged himself with complicated characters and unusual stories.  I think his best work started with the film Lords of Dogtown.  Although the movie was not a hit, I was shocked at Ledger's acting job; he was amazing.  Brokeback Mountain was the first controversial role for Heath Ledger, but when he gained an Academy Award nomination, I knew that Ledger had forever left teen stardom and reached a new level of talent and recognition.  He continued with I'm Not There, the artistic documentation of the life of Bob Dylan, taking on the role one of the most complicated musicians of the century.  With the announcement of the new Batman installment, I knew he had reached yet another level of excellence.  Ledger was not afraid of any role, and he would have continued to wow audiences.  He was just reaching true iconic status, and the world will never know what he could have accomplished.

As a person pursuing a career in the film industry, I think about the future in terms of who I would love to work with and what actors and actresses are talented.  I always thought Heath Ledger was a classic pick as a male lead.  He had sex appeal and genuine talent; I know h.  I had him pegged as a person to follow when I worked in the industry later in life.  Now, it is so surreal to know that could never happen. 

I think the world will quickly move on, for we can count on a new Brittany Spears scandal, but I feel we are truly at a loss.  Heath Ledger is the first actor of our generation to reach beyond the teen heartthrob status and gain a level of credibility in the acting world, and now he is gone. 

Monday, January 21, 2008


A recent late night conversation sparked an interest in a genre of film I usually avoid.  Thriller films are so unappetizing to me, but they remain ever so popular to those who enjoy suspense.  A friend of mine from Germany recommended an old movie called The Hole, and preceded to summarize the scary story.  My friends and I laughed at her description of the film; it did not sound scary at all.  The story was so stupid and confusing; all the thrills of the movie were lost in her storytelling.  It sounded like a movie that I would never want to see, but she thought it was such a great film.  I realized the reason I did not normally sit down to watch a thriller was the actual story.  Aside from the fact that I hate to be scared, the storyline in a traditional thriller is simple and often do not even make sense.  The plot can stay so simple because the suspense drives the story.  There is so little meaning to a typical thriller; it doesn't need an interesting plot for it has the scare factor.  These films are usually short-lasting in popularity, but they remain on the shelves namely for Halloween night movie rentals.

  The thrillers that I find myself willing to watch have more story than scary scenes.  Films such as The Village and Disturbia have an ending that ties all the knots and leaves the audience satisfied.  I think a movie like The Hole is only popular because it is a good scare.  I do not expect much from new thrillers.  I see movie after movie released as "the best scare ever," but I still see no interesting plot.  Sometimes though, I am pleasantly surprised to find a complicated thriller-- one that I can follow to the finish, maybe with a few frightening moments.  

Check out the trailer for The Hole.  Do you think it's as shallow as I do?

It is an early Keira Knightley film, which brings up another interesting aspect of thrillers.  Knightley is considered an Oscar-worthy actress today, so it is hard to believe she began her career in a quickly forgotten horror film.  Many talented actors and actresses get their start in unsuccessful thrillers.  Main characters are easy to cast because they are so undeveloped and exist only to give the horror a victim.  This is another reason I consider thrillers to be so unappealing.  

The undeveloped plot and expendable characters have subjected horror films to sarcasm and parody.  A recent trend is to produce a comic amalgamation of current horror films.  Scream and Scary Movie series are excellent examples.  They portray the idiocy of typical characters and suspenseful scenes.  

Yes, people will continue to pay to see thriller films.  Why?  I think they are just in the mood for a good scare.  I do not expect thrillers to change any, so  I will just wait for the one or two thought provoking and suspenseful films to come out.