Tuesday, June 24, 2008

August Rush

Movie: August Rush
Like/Don't Like: It was a little much

I once went to the tea room at the Huntington Library with some friends. They have this sensational buffet with all sorts of yummy tea snacks like wee little sandwiches and tarts and scones and fruit. And they have this cheese tray. Oh the cheese! We probably spent a good two hours in that tea room eating our weight in cheese.

I thought, at that moment, that I would never in my life ingest as much cheese as I did then. I was wrong. There was so much cheese in August Rush that I prayed I would suddenly become lactose intolerant so I would have a medical reason to stop watching it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Iron Man

Movie: Iron Man
Like/Don't Like: Like

Did you know I hate guns? I mean, I really don't like them at all. If I had my way I would have everyone turn in their guns and we'd melt them down and build schools out of the metal. And I don't like movies that have a lot of guns in them. All that shooting makes me really jumpy and uncomfortable. So through the first part of this movie I kept thinking in my head, "All those people who told me this was a great movie clearly don't know me AT ALL. Have I no friends? How did I become so misunderstood? I thought I was pretty clear on all of this."

But I DO have friends. (I'm sorry I doubted you. And thank you for still being my friend even though I sometimes spout off extreme opinions.) Because that first part of the movie was just a ploy to make all of you see my side of things. That weapons of mass destruction are bad and we need to be accountable for the evil things we put out in the world. Even if the accountability comes through Robert Downey Jr. putting on an robot suit and chasing down bad guys. That it a message I can get behind.

I can also get behind great acting. I thought this movie had plenty of it. Good acting is what puts an action flick ahead of the rest in my book. Because we all know what to expect with them, right? There's going to be a lot of explosions and fighting. But it's the scenes in between that need to be good and if there's just bad acting,then all you have are explosions.

Robert Downey Jr. was AWESOME in this role. I've always been a fan. He just has a way of making any character he plays completely believable. And not just that he's believable as the character but that his character is believable as a real human being. He played him strong throughout. He was a type-a in the beginning and him getting a conscience did not change that, it just redirected his energy.

And Gwyneth Paltrow was terrific. And that's telling because I usually find the female lead in action movies to be annoying (Kirsten Dunst in Spiderman, Katie Holmes in Batman, Kate Bosworth in Superman) mostly because they always overact it on the tough-as-nails part but in the end all they're really good for is standing there either screaming or looking pretty. Gwyneth did look very pretty (I liked her with the red hair) and she screamed a bit, but she was so good against Robert Downey Jr. She was vulnerable at all the right moment and sassy when she needed to be. Plus, she did most of the action scenes in 6 inch heels. Just that she can walk in those was impressive.

And let's talk about Jeff Bridges. Who knew that his face was so large? Was it that big in Tron? It's like the size of a hubcap. And not like a compact car hubcap, but an SUV hubcap. He's like the Denali hubcap of faces. Maybe it was the combo of the bald head and the giant beard. That beard took up half the screen. Am I going too far with this? Well, whatever made his face balloon up like that, it really helped with the who bad guy thing.

My one complaint, besides all the gun shooting, was that it seemed more like a prelude to a franchise than an actual movie. Like a pilot episode where they just introduce the characters and tell how they got to be the way they are. Obviously there will be sequels and I'm happy about that. But I just wish that they had spent a little less time introducing us to everything and more time making a movie that would stand alone.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Host

Book: The Host
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Like/Don't Like: Um, kind of a medium here

I'm going to have to come up with a new category for this one because I can't say that I actually liked it, but then I didn't really dislike it either. I should say up front that if you recognize the author as being the one who wrote those Twilight books, I have not read them. I specifically read this one first because I didn't want to get sucked into a series if I didn't really like her writing style.

And I don't. Except that it's not all bad. See what I mean. It's tough to categorize. I think most of my problems with it is that it needs some serious fine tuning. She's got it in there, she just needs to learn how to edit herself. There were a good 300 pages that she could have cut to tell the exact same story. And it would have been a better story for it because she would have had to use less prosaic terms to describe things. She certainly would have had to cut out all the times she described characters' eyes as "denim" or "sienna" or "chocolate". Well, now I'm just being picky, except to be fair, I think the exact same thing about J.K. Rowlings. Their editors need to start reading the manuscript and stop looking at the dollar signs attached to it.

The story was an interesting one and I wanted to finish it but the characters were dull as cardboard. They were so one-dimensional and she never gave us any background on them to let us know why they were that way. Or any hint as to why they weren't changing. It was all very manufactured conflict and I found myself wishing that something drastic would happen about every 20 pages. A cave-in, a bomb going off, a hang nail. Anything.

I would like to hear from people who have read both this book and the Twilight series and let me know what you think. The girl who recommended this one to me said that she liked it better than the series so that doesn't give me much hope. But her taste is a little different from mine so I don't know.

Grey Gardens

Movie/Documentary: Grey Gardens
Like/Don't Like: I liked it so much I'm going to be Little Edie for Halloween

Liz had good reason to be afraid to watch this by herself. We all agreed afterwards that if any of us had attempted a solo viewing we would have burst into tears from despair over such a tragic story. But watching it with several very funny friends made it more than bearable. Hilarious, in fact. Because these ladies are CHARACTERS. Staunch characters. It's a crazy mother and daughter who live in this dilapidated mansion in East Hampton with a bunch of raccoons and cats. I really can't describe it. You just have to watch the clips. And then throw your own party (we all wore fabulous head wraps like Little Edie), because you will weep if you're by yourself.

My Antonia

Book: My Antonia
Author: Willa Cather
Like/Don't Like: Like

You know how people always say nice things about Midwesterners? How they're straightforward and honest and good natured? That's how this book is. No pretense or guile. Just a simple, charming story about real life on the prairies of Nebraska. It was a joy to read.