January 3, 2011

Long Weekend in Reviews

I had one of the most productive do-nothing weekends ever.  How many movies did I manage to watch?  Less than I'd planned.  As I suspected I might, I was derailed by the lure of TV on DVD. 

30 Rock - My four days of sloth started out slow because I had errands to run and then I made homemade potato cream cheese soup and had my family over for dinner so in the midst of running back and forth to the kitchen, I decided to skip the movie and watch 30 Rock on NetFlix Watch Instantly.  I'd never watched 30 Rock before because my Thursdays have always been over-crowded and I thought it was time.  Unfortunately there was a tiny snaffu and I ended up watching 9 episodes of the second season before I realized it wasn't the first season so I went back and watched the first dozen episodes of the actual first season.  So far I enjoy the show a lot but I prefer the second season to the first.  I think the pieces of the show came together into a much more cohesive whole in the second season and the laughs-per-episode count went up considerably. 

The Town - I've already reviewed it here so I won't rehash except to say that it held up to a second viewing very well and I really, really hope that Blake Lively is recognized by The Academy for her work in this because she was truly fantastic. 

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - I don't think this movie was particularly for me in that it was super comic-booky and that's not typically my thing.  But what I really appreciated about it was how stylized it was and how it adhered so well visually to the medium(s) on which it was based.  Everything about it was like a comic book page or video game had come to life in front of your eyes which was the only way to tell such a fantastical story and make it feel genuine.  I don't think I loved the movie as a whole but I appreciated the hell out of it and I thought that Kieran Culkin was, as always, a dream. 

Knight and Day - This was the worst movie I saw in 2010, hands down.  It wasn't funny, the action was stupid, the plot was ridiculous and there was so little chemistry between Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz that I would believe you if you told me that neither actor was actually in the movie but was, in fact, portrayed by a hologram.  Technically speaking, the movie did have a plot (something about a battery and a nerd and espionage) but mostly it was just an excuse for Diaz to scream and for Cruise to swoop in and rescue her in some insane and ridiculous way.  I'll be starting a petition later today to have this credit permanently removed from the cv's of Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano and Celia Weston. Please do not ever watch this movie.

The Kids Are All Right - I'm not sure I loved this as much as a lot of people did.  I liked it a lot but never fell in love.  The adults felt a bit like caricatures to me.  It didn't exactly feel judgmental toward them in the way a lot of stories that start from this kind of shorthand would but it made for very little in the way of surprises as the story unfolded.  I guess I don't need the story to be surprising, but I expected something that garnered so much praise to be a little less formulaic.  It's possible this movie may have McMullen'd* me.  That said, I adored the kids and thought that neither was rote or bland.  And in particular, as The Academy doesn't seem to be getting on the bandwagon, I'm going to go ahead and award Mia Wasikowska the award for Outstanding Face Acting In A Motion Picture for her final scene in the movie.  Her chin quivers were beyond perfect. 

The Holiday - Jude Law at his most attractive (in glasses!).  This movie manages to make everyone cute - even Jack Black and Cameron Diaz.  The scene in the video store when Jack Black is scatting the scores to random movies makes me weak in the knees. 

The A-Team - I love a good mindless action movie (hello, Transporter franchise!).  I also love Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and shirtless Bradley Cooper.  You would think that this movie was tailor made for me but...eh.  I mean, it was fine.  Stuff blew up and plans came together and the good guys won in the end but there may have been a bit too much effort placed on making the story kind of complex what with the multiple villains and the shell game and whatnot.  And that scene with all of the containers being blown off of the freighter was comically fake-looking.  But then in the end, Jon Hamm.  So obviously I'm looking forward to a sequel in which Jon Hamm is the villain.  If you have a choice between this and anything in the Jason Statham oeuvre, go with Statham.  But if this is the only action movie on and you're in the mood to watch shit explode, you could do worse...I guess.

Charlie St. Cloud - I may be alone in this but, back in 2005 I watched a short-lived show on ABC called Life As We Know It.  It wasn't a great show, but I liked it enough that not only was I disappointed by it's cancellation but when the 13 episodes were released on DVD, I bought them and have watched them many times since.  In one storyline (spanning two episodes), Amanda Crew played Polly Brewer - a very pretty, slightly trampy girl who wanted to enjoy a very superficial make-out-without-conversating relationship with Jonathan (Chris Lowell), much to his consternation.  In the 5 years between Life As We Know It and Charlie St. Cloud something very strange has happened to Amanda Crew.  Either her top lip shrunk or her teeth grew substantially but that girl's mouth was a million percent less noticeable when she was Polly Brewer. 

Oh I'm sorry, did you want to know what I thought of the movie?  Your priorities are so skewed, but ok.  I'm sure the reveal is meant to be a surprise but if you couldn't see it coming from the goose poop scene (or the trailer!), you might need to watch more movies.  The story was a little corny and saccharine but Zac Efron is really likable and cute and a fairly competent actor so he manages to make movies more enjoyable than they have any right to be which is what he does here.  Donal Logue is in the movie too which is kind of awesome, though he's criminally under-used.  I think I'd recommend watching this on cable when you're in the mood for something sappy and there aren't any Nicholas Sparks movies on. 

Easy A - On second viewing, it's slightly less charming than on first.  But Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci and Thomas Hayden Church are still unbelievably winning.  If someone made a television spinoff of the Penderghast family just hanging around their kitchen being hilarious, I would watch it.  Every week.

Everwood - I am one of the most suggestible people you'll ever meet.  All I have to do is hear the name of a show and I will suddenly be overcome with a desire to see it.  So on Friday, when Zap2It's Tierney Bricker tweeted about missing Everwood, I instantly knew that the rest of my weekend would be spent watching that. 

If you haven't watched the show before, please for the love of pizza and puppies, do so immediately.  It is one of the most wonderfully affecting and beautiful television shows the world has ever known.  It's the story of Andy Brown, a world-renowned New York City neurosurgeon (played by Treat Williams) who is so busy being great at his job, that he doesn't have time to spend with his family.  In fact, it's while he's working late one night that his wife, on her way to their son's piano recital alone in a terrible storm, is killed in a car accident.  Andy is left to raise their 15 year old son Ephram (Gregory Smith) and 8 year old daughter Delia (Viviene Cardone) on his own after years of being mostly absent from their lives.  He quits neurosurgery and moves them to a small mountain town in Colorado where he opens a family practice and tries to have a relationship with his children for the first time. 

What I've just told you is the first 4 or so minutes of the pilot episode.  It's the start of a story that develops into something so layered and wonderful that I can't even tell you about it without crying. The Browns are only part of the story.  The town of Everwood and the Abbott family round this out into a show that never stops tugging at your heart strings. 

I watched the whole first season on Saturday and then the first and last quarters of the second season and the last quarter of the third season on Sunday.  I get to skip around to my favorite episodes because I've already watched it in its entirety many times.  But if you haven't seen it before, you won't want to miss a minute of it.  Every episode will make you laugh and make you cry.  In fact, some of them will make you cry so much that people might worry about your emotional and/or mental stability, but it's worth it. 

Rent the DVDs (or buy them - I promise you'll be glad you own them) and see if you can make it to the end of the pilot without falling in love.  I bet you can't.  Frankly, if you can get through the scene where Andy and Ephram fight in front of the house without feeling physically ill and sobbing hysterically, I don't think we have anything left to talk about.  I just got all teared up thinking about it.  It's that good, you guys. 

*McMullen'd - Many years ago I heard a lot about how great The Brothers McMullen was.  Critics were tripping over themselves to tell you that this was the independent film that was going to prove to the world why independent films are better than anything the studios could make.  To hear people talk, I thought this was maybe the best movie anyone had ever made.  Then I watched it and man-o-man did I think it was as steaming pile of mediocrity.  I hated it.  And I've always suspected that the build up had risen my expectations to such a level that no matter how good the movie had been I would have been disappointed and might therefore have actually liked it much less than I would have if I'd never heard anything about it before watching it.  And that's how I came to refer these types of disappointing movies and television shows as McMullens (and thus the act of being McMullen'd). 

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