Friday, June 29, 2012

People Like Us (wow! lots of movies this week!)

Okay People Like Us, another new release this week, can be boiled down to a very simple story line: a son dealing with the death of his father and that he has a half- sister whom he needs to deliver a $150,000 inheritance to. If only it were that easy! But it isn’t and that is what makes this Alex Kurtzman film such a gem.

People Like Us stars Chris Pine (Star Trek and This Means War) as Sam, the slick salesman son who resists coming home for his own father’s funeral and Elizabeth Banks (most recently of Hunger Games) as the daughter/half-sister, Frankie, who is having a rough time of life. Michael Hall D’Addario provides an amazing performance as Frankie’s son, Josh. I’d like to go on record stating that we will see a lot more of Michael in the coming years. Michelle Pfeiffer shows that she can tackle being the mother/grandmother with as much finesse as she did the love interest in years past and Olivia Wilde, still known to me as Thirteen from the House tv series, rounds out the cast and fills in the cracks that the storyline forces the characters to cross.

Pine, however, stands out in this film as a surprise. He does an excellent job, as shown in his movie credits, of playing a self-absorbed ladies man. Pine brings this edginess to People Like Us making the audience a bit uncomfortable and unhappy with Sam for a good portion of the movie. That is the film’s secret weapon! It is the internal change in Pine’s character that takes what could have been a shallow feel-good movie and brings it into the realm of last year’s The Descendents.

While the movie includes the obligatory relationship confusion including the generic soap opera scene where half-sister makes a play for her unknown brother, the formula is balanced out by solid character development and surprising tidbits of music throughout the movie. It can be boiled down to this: don’t let the clich├ęs keep you away from what is truly a heartwarming and well thought out film.

I’d also like to give a serious nod to the musical references. Diverse and eccentric. Probably meant to give insight into the deceased father who laid the foundation for the premise of the movie.

My suggestion: make it a date night. The kids won’t want to see it but you shouldn’t miss it.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Magic Mike versus Ted (movie stuffs)

this week I saw two sneak previews: Magic Mike and Ted. one I'll see again and one I will sadly never forget.

Magic Mike is full of male stripper hype. I got to give it to them, the movie is packed with sexy men! however, the storyline is laughable and the characters are so stereotypical that the movie itself comes off (no pun intended) as a parody of what a real stripper movie would if someone would actually make one. needless to say, the movie does have some good qualities: all of them visual. despite THAT, I would have preferred a bit more editting and a little more thought into the cinematography. at one point the camera angle made me nauseous, and yes, it was the camera angle and not the movie itself. also, the dance scenes went on way too long. after reading a CNN article, I learned that Channing Tatum's "big break" was in Step Up. everything makes a lot more sense now but doesn't change my view that the dance scenes could have been cut down. do strippers really do an entire fully clothed dance number, tear off their clothes at the last minute and then get drowned beneath a waterfall of bills? oh, I could also have skipped Matthew McConaughey singing. do strip shows usually have musical interludes? you tell me......I don't plan on going to do the hands on research (yes, that pun was intended).

my suggestion: Magic Mike is perfect for a girl's night out......that starts with a few friends, a few drinks........a few more drinks......

Ted, on the other hand, was hysterical, and not because someone truly expected me to believe that a teddy bear had magically come to life but just because it was FUNNY! full of potty humor and real characters that found themselves in real life dilemnas (stuffed animals aside) about relationships and priorities but all done with a great sense of humor. and did I mention it was funny? Both Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis played the perfect straight man/woman to Seth McFarlane's fuzzy lead. yes the movie was a bit too sexual and mature to take my boys (though they would protest otherwise) but that is why it was rated "R". the 80's music and movie references might be missed by the younger members of the crowd. even I missed some of the jokes as I wasn't a Flash Gordon fan, but it did not reduce my enjoyment of the movie. so, despite the excessive amount of fart jokes and turnip abuse (I think it was a turnip......I was too busy laughing at Bill Smitrovich's deadpan) I really enjoyed the movie.

my suggestion: leave the kids and turnips at home. and if Patrick Stewart's foul mouthed narration isn't enough for you, keep an eye out for a few cameos.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something dishonest about Abraham Lincoln (movie review)

Last night I was able to see a sneak preview of the movie, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter that comes out on Friday. Sometimes I know ahead of time if I am not able to catch a preview that I will be forking out the cash to see it anyway. This was one of those movies.

Well, I am glad I didn't pay.

The movie is based on a book by the same name from Seth Grahame-Smith about the secret life of our country's 16th president. See, when he was a youngster, Lincoln saw his mother die after being attacked by vampires. From this moment, his life's goal was to seek revenge for her death. Both the book and the movie take the historically known information about President Lincoln and weave into it what we haven't known, up until now. things like the Civil War being a war to stop the vampires' main food supply (slaves) and that Lincoln's own son dies from a vampire, not what ever they tell us on Wikipedia. I have absolutely no problem with this alternate view of Lincoln's life. I don't even have a problem with the random events in the movie that have no link back to the book. I think the idea of this all going on while Lincoln lead our country is an amazingly creative and awesome way. And the execution of this in the book was impressive.

Not so much in the movie.

Where I was left disappointed in the movie was the visuals. Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay and Tim Burton was one of the producers. I thought this would be a great pairing. Instead I feel like the two of them got together and made a mud pile of special effects. One would suggest doing something "cool" and the other would feel the need to one-up him. (and honestly, it may have nothing to do with either of them.....I just have higher hopes from any project they are associated with.) In the end, most of the actual story was pushed aside to make room for an overwhelming 3D, slow motion, splashy, computer generated assault on my senses. Everything felt hyped up and super sensitized. I guess I should have known something was wrong when in the first 5 minutes or so of the film parts of the screen went fuzzy as the camera focused on different people. Why do that?

By the way, I do have to commend both Benjamin Walker and whoever did his make-up on how well they aged him, despite the one scene where he looked like a deranged leprechaun. In fact, all the actors and actresses involved did an above and beyond type performance. Too bad most of it probably ended up on the editing room floor to make room for more special effects.

After screenings, the studio has a person waiting to politely take any and all comments the viewers have to send back to the studio. I waited a bit before approaching her and told her (more simply) how I felt about the excessive use of special effects. I asked if others had said the same thing. Nope. Just me. She did get a lot of "really cool" comments. So perhaps this movie is not meant for people who want a story but instead want to see really neato eyes that kinda glow in 3D?

Next week I get to see Magic Mike. I expect no special effects. I expect no story. I don't expect that I'll be disappointed.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Calories for charity shouldn't count!

as you may or may not know, I have been trying to be very good about the whole diet & exercise thing. having an energetic Dolly at home has certainly helped. she doesn't care if it is raining (or 108 apparently), she wants her walks!

overall I have done well. I have realized that my metabolism isn't what it used to be and I need more exercise to achieve what took less effort when I was younger, but most days I am okay with that. and I needed to focus on what I was eating. I thought I was doing okay. but upon reflections I figured out I had more treat days than not......and often multiple treat meals!

so now I am moving in the right direction with the exception of a few foodie lunches a week (which I do manage to work in to my overall day's strategy) and fundraisers. admittedly, it is my choice to go to things like the Sacramento Zoo's King of Feasts and the Ronald McDonald House Charity's Red Shoe Crawl. they are both awesome causes and the amazing diversity of food bites being offered can't be beat! and it was great attending the Sactown Dining Collective dinner for St John's Shelter. (look! they are doing a dinner almost every month at Plates! how can I resist??) again, wonderful food and totally worth every single darn calorie! but all this eating for a good cause makes it super tough to stay on track!

both the King of Feasts and Red Shoe Crawl are this weekend (I think tickets are still available for both if you want to join me). so if you see me this week don't offer me a treat kind of lunch. I'm saving my calories for charity!