Movies

Movie Review: Our Idiot Brother

Posted on December 22, 2011. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Ever since Clueless I have been a big fan of Paul Rudd. He is just my kind of fellow, don’t know how else to describe it! I usually do my best to catch all of his movies as they hit DVD, I’m not much of a theatre-goer otherwise I would definitely check them out there. Netflix finally delivered Our Idiot Brother to my home – and what a joy! The movie was a comedy but also a bit of a life lesson. We all have these people in our lives that we look for and we look to but can sometimes we such an incredible inconvenience but in the end we appreciate them and grow to love them as they are, that is My Idiot Brother.

Paul Rudd, playing Ned, starts the movie getting arrested for distributing drugs to a police officer. He lived on an organic farm with his dog and his hippie girlfriend. It is clear from the arrest forward that he doesn’t have quite as much going for him as one would expect. His family immediately comes to his rescue offering shelter, food, love and support. It is clear that the family is a bit off though and has a plethora of issues themselves. His three sisters are all striving for something completely different in life. One, Zoeey Deschanel, is a lesbian, but maybe more of a sexually charged bisexual, or maybe straight, but she really wants to be a lesbian. Another sister, Elizabeth Banks, is a journalist and is the highest reacher of all the siblings. She wants to make it big and really lives an upscale, city, business lifestyle. The oldest sister, Emily Mortimer, is a mom, she is the only married sibling and her husband has a few quirks that immediately make him unlikable to the audience.

Ned is a very happy guy. He has an extremely positive outlook on life and doesn’t get in too deep in anything. He takes everything on the surface and does his best to really roll with the punches. His brother-in-law gives him a job working as an assistant as he films a documentary. Ned does his best to go along with but never seems to do things good enough for his brother-in-law. He exposes their children to television and games they would prefer their kids don’t see and quickly lands himself getting shoved out of their house and onto the next sister’s home.

He spends time in each of his sister’s homes and one by one manages to mess up the one thing that they each seemed to have wanted the most: a valuable relationship, a career advancement and a happy family. Ned doesn’t see these as his fault but really focuses in on dishonesty, lack of morals and ethics and a lack of trust. Ned makes a really great point for each of these things. With time his sisters do internally reflect a bit on his actions and the reactions and make peace with what has changed in their lives. It really seems like they for once open their eyes to their behavior and internalize what could make their lives better, stronger and more fulfilling and how to see life a little more through the rose-colored lenses that Ned has on. In Ned’s time of need his sisters pull through – you cannot beat a strong family bond, especially when you see that your ‘idiot’ brother was really trying to do his best.

It was a really funny movie with some great lines. Through the humor and strange situations there are some great messages and if you view it at the right time there are definitely things I could reflect on that each of the sisters did that I may also be guilty of, giving me just a small dose of a life lesson. It was a fun, entertaining movie that certainly did not drag on at all. I really enjoyed it and if you see it – I hope you do too! Keep on rocking Paul Rudd!

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Movie Review: 127 Hours

Posted on October 6, 2011. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

If you know this true story keep reading on, if you don’t know the story and were hoping to see the movie then you may not want to read on as I will mention the outcomes, being that it’s based on a true-story this is only a semi-spoiler alert. Word to the wise on this one – if you dislike blood or are a bit squeamish this may not be the movie for you. That being said this film is not outright gory or disgusting but the central plot is about a man who is trapped a few hundred feet below ground as his arm is crushed by a boulder, there is blood and there is amputation, it’s a central plot that may disturb some.

I’m personally, not quite that squeamish and I really enjoyed the movie. I knew of the director Danny Boyle but hadn’t really thought much about his work one way or another until this film. All I have to say is ‘Wow’. This was an excellent movie, well done all around! If his other flicks are as visually intriguing and gripping then I am a huge fan!

For those that may not know, this is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid canyoneer that was trapped for 127 hours in a Utah canyon. Aron was a bit of a cocky young fellow and didn’t tell anyone where he was headed, how long to expect him to be gone, went alone on this expedition, was in one of the most remote canyons in the US (miles from the nearest unpaved road) and in a dangerous area that is susceptible to quick flash floods from rain and warns that it can take hours for anything other than a ‘self rescue’ to happen should you stumble into danger. Don’t get me wrong, it seems like Aron was great at this hobby, but a little hubris would have done him well in this situation. Aron has a book detailing this expedition available called Between a Rock and a Hard Place ( http://www.amazon.com/Between-Rock-Hard-Place-Ralston/dp/0743492811 ).

With that back story being covered, the movie adaptation of this real-life survival story features James Franco as Aron. James Franco plays off the cool cockiness that Aron admits to having in his younger years, and overall Franco does an excellent job going through the emotions of a man left with two defeating choices: death or amputation.

The movie quickly moves into the central plot, within the first half-hour (give or take my timing) Franco is trapped in the canyon and his arm is wedged between the canyon and the boulder. He quickly puts the survival skills he has been taught into use. He knows with the amount of water he has left how much he needs to drink to survive and how long this will actually keep him alive. He also understands that he has a few options for trying to move the boulder – none of which are working but he seems careful to conserve his energy as much as possible. He isn’t armed with a great knife so his first amputation effort is short lived. He does have a camcorder and a camera so he records things the is thinking in case the end really is near – he wanted to preserve that he was thinking and the importance of those in his life.

During his time in the canyon we get some insightful glances into his thoughts. We are taking to memories past, premonitions of the future (children with a one-armed man), and recent memories of small things he could have changed if given the opportunity. There were many ‘if only I had done this …’ times and you really sympathize with him in those situations. Aron is finally at the breaking point and realizes after he ‘sees’ a child with a one-armed man that he wants children and he wants a life. He knows that is what he wants and he fully understands that in order to save himself he must do something nearly impossible to survive: amputate his own arm.

After the amputation he is free, but he still needs to get out of the canyon and hike to his car which is many miles away and then hopefully find help in a reasonable enough time. The desperation in his walking during this part is so apparent and you are really pulling for him to survive – the hardest part is over! Aron reflects back on this event in his life and realizes that life was worth living and fighting for and also realized that a little slice of humble pie will go a long way.

It is a tough way to learn that lesson but an important lesson to learn. Overall, the message within the movie really has you question your own will power and the choices you make on a daily basis. How many times do we inadvertently put ourselves in danger for no apparent reason?

The movie was very artistically shot and while the subject matter was extremely grim and dramatic the movie was compelling and visually stimulating. The director did a wonderful job splicing in multiple scenes into one screenshot to really get you inside his head. The music was also wonderful. It was a little unconventional but really worked. I would definitely watch this movie again, maybe not one I would own but I would watch it again. It was an excellent film and an excellent story, very motivating!

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Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Posted on September 8, 2011. Filed under: Books, Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

It has been a long while since I last read a Nicholas Sparks book. After Nights in Rodanthe was a box-office flop I took a break from his stories, but this one was amazing. For anyone who has read his books before, have no fear, it takes place in North Carolina and is a bit of a love story…

The story starts out with the mysterious ‘Miss Katie’. She is a waitress in a small town in North Carolina. She keeps to herself and really tries to be invisible as much as possible. As for her past and history, well that’s a closed book and she isn’t giving away any secrets. Sparks opens this book shrouded in mystery surrounding Katie. We know she has run but we aren’t completely sure what it is she’s running from. As the reader we are looking over our shoulders with Katie while doing our best to chip away at small details she gives away to figure out what her story is.

Much of the beginning of the book if focused around this North Carolina town she has found herself in. It’s a small town so gossip is rampant, which is part of the reason for Katie to stay as tight-lipped as she is. But the town’s smallness also lends itself to be quaint, and homey and just what she needs to calm her nerves from whatever it is she is running from. We quickly meet the local widower, Alex, who is struggling to keep up with his two young children and the general store he manages. There is no secret that right from the beginning of this story we are expecting something, anything, to happen between Katie and Alex. This is a Nicholas Sparks book after all, so it is no shock when she walks into his general store that he is intrigued, and is determined to break through her shell and learn about who she is.

The first few chapters are really focused on where Katie is, the struggles Alex has gone through loosing his wife, his interactions with his children, and the way the entire town interacts. As a reader I wanted to find out what Katie was running from, I had some hunches and ideas but nothing concrete and it was a bit frustrating not to have that laid out for me after a few chapters. Then, just as my frustration was about to peak, Katie has a new neighbor, a female named Jo that Katie opens up to. At this point we have it – we know why Katie is running, we understand what she is up against and we truly want her to succeed.

Sparks takes a moment to introduce a new character at this point. Up until now we have only heard from Katie and Alex, but it is time to get into the head of Kevin, Katie’s husband. Not hearing from Kevin until quite a ways into the book was definitely an interesting point to the book. Since we had hints about her past and then learned it in full it really gives the reader time to develop a concrete feeling on this new character, and when he is finally introduced we have a firm opinion on him, and the thoughts he puts into the book confirm our thoughts and really solidify them. Once Kevin is introduced the book takes a bit of a turn.

Katie and Alex are becoming close, she has a dear friend in her neighbor Jo, she is starting to grow roots in this new location and we are now hearing from her husband and have a direct insight into the mind that Katie is trying to read from miles away. We want Katie and Alex to love deeply and for Katie to trust Alex with all her heart and love him as much as he immediately loves her but we understand the difficulty. We learn her secrets and watch as she grows stronger by the chapter. And at the same time we watch Kevin’s actions and then the story gets really good and you are definitely involved.

Without giving away the ending, or much of the middle, I will say that this book was more riveting and page-turning than any other Nicholas Sparks book I have ever read. I literally could not put it down for quite a few pages because I was glued. The narrative switched between Katie and Alex in North Carolina and Kevin. We could see both sides of the story and we could only read one word at a time as the worlds collided. Nicholas Sparks did an excellent job developing all of these characters in a way that we had opinions of them that matched their actions and our opinions were so incredibly strong that we felt involved in the outcome. The book was heart-wrenching while at the same touching and at the end you feel proud at what was accomplished by the characters. I really did not know how it was going to end and that helped keep me glued to the pages.

I cannot say enough that while this is somewhat of a love story, it is less about love as it about learning to love again and learning how to trust. There are times when the story is a bit graphic, not from a sexual point of view but from a violent point of view but it is done in a very tactful way that makes you really understand the characters and their inner-feelings.  It is a good story with a lot of meat to it – perfect for those that like drama, good for Sparks’ fans and really good for just about anyone who has agreed with my book selections in the past. The action, drama and love packed into this book truly would make a Hollywood movie proud, according to the author’s website movie rights have been sold, hopefully the movie lives up to the book! Enjoy!

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One Day – Book & Movie Review! (Two for one special!)

Posted on August 20, 2011. Filed under: Books, Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

In anticipation of this movie coming out I quickly ordered the book of the same name. Lucky for me it arrived the day I finished a book so I was ready, and eager, to jump in upon opening that smiling Amazon box. After tearing through the book I only had to wait a few short weeks for the movie to come out, and last night my date with the husband was a trip to see this movie. Now that I’ve seen and read both the book and movie I am eager to report how much I love this overall story.

One Day by David Nicholls is a brilliant concept! In short, it is the story of Emma and Dex  that spans 20 years. What makes it so different and consuming is that we only get to check into Emma and Dex’s lives once a year – July 15th. Each July 15th we check in with our characters to see what has changed, what is new, and what may be in the imminent future. As a novel it truly keeps the reader on their toes because you have to use your context clues to really put the pieces together and figure out what has happened since the last year you heard from them.

This kept the reading at a fast clip for me because I wanted to know. The characters talked in the story with tomorrow being only a day away so there were many times when I was dying to see what took place on July 16th, but alas I had to wait until the next year, or years, to put the pieces together. I could see how this would be frustrating to some readers but it truly kept my interest.

The story is lovely. Both characters have good and bad things about them, and I would say their worst qualities both fall on the confidence spectrum. Dex is overconfident, overcool and very image driven. Emma is lacking confidence and that makes her stay in a safety net that you are dying to cut on her behalf. Throughout the book I could picture Anne Hathaway playing Emma, it was a very easy character to imagine based on some of Anne Hathaway’s previous roles. Dex was easy to imagine as well simply because of his priorities – we knew which labels of clothing he wore, how he looked, which women he was with and so on. What makes the story so beautiful is the way that we are able to actually watch these characters grow through triumphs and struggles and as different as they become it is clear that their focus is still with the other person. They never fully lose sight of their relationship with the other person, even if it hurts at times. It truly is a beautiful story.

As for a movie adaptation, again what a wonderful concept! The movie succeeded in making it very clear what year it was and the progression of time. The characters aged beautifully and realistically, we could see them gaining a year or two since our last sighting, which was nice since many movies seem to miss the mark on realistic age progression. The acting was exceptional as well. Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway really showed a large range of emotion and did it in a believable fashion. They also had wonderful on screen chemistry. They truly made the story feel real, and drew you in, they become friends to the viewers by the closing credits. It is a worthwhile movie to see overall, if I hadn’t read the book and had just watched the movie I think I would have really really enjoyed it, reading the book was not critical when watching this movie at all.

Overall, I feel that this story worked better as a book than as a movie. Since we are only checking in once a year the story is in the details. What was mentioned in passing, what has changed, what you anticipated changing, what is different? In an hour and a half movie those details would really bog you down. I know the author was involved with the screenplay which definitely helped keep the credibility of the story but I do feel that many sacrifices were made for this adaptation to work and I did miss the details. There were some very serious character flaws that I was hoping to see played out, especially since I felt they were pivotal to the beauty in the story, but they didn’t make the cut and were missed to an ‘insider’ who knows the full story. I would highly recommend the book, it is a must read!! As for the movie, I still really enjoyed it and may even see it a second time, but as a comparison to the book, it didn’t land as high on my adaptation movie list as I had hoped, but still a great movie!

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Well Hello Again!!

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: Books, Destination: Travel!, Everyday Me, Movies, Personal Reviews, TV Shows | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hello all!

Sorry that I have been gone for almost a year! I lost track of blogging but alas – I’m back!! A lot has gone on in that year, and many many books have been read, a handful of movies watched. But I am back in action and ready to lay my opinions on you!

Lets start back with a quick synopsis of my 2010 favorites:

Favorite TV Show: Big Love – hands down my absolute favorite! I love watching this family and seeing their drama unfold. They start up again in a new season this week, unfortunately I dont have HBO so I’ll have to wait to report on the new advancements until my library has the DVDs

Favorite Book: This category was a little more difficult, there wasn’t one book that really stuck out in my mind over another, so I’ll have to come back to this one…. I’m thinking it is most likely going to have to be Zeitoun , that was a really great book.

Favorite Movie: The Town – amazing! Great story, harsh language (that was a minus) but overall just excellent. There were quite a few other contenders in this category including Love & Other Drugs, An Education, Black Swan and Going the Distance. Reviews on some of these to follow!

Favorite Column: From the WashingtonPost Magazine (weekly) I cannot get enough of Gene Weingarten. He has a great way of writing that really draws you in. I can ‘hear’ his voice and I love it!

Favorite DC Restaurant: Founding Farmers – this is truly great food! It’s an amazing atmosphere and a fabulous restaurant. I cannot wait to write a review on this to tell you more!

Favorite Trip: Asheville, NC. What a beautiful place to go! We had such a fabulous time visiting Asheville and the surrounding BlueRidge Parkway. If you are ever nearby or passing through please do yourself a favor and stop. It is SUCH a great place! I really cannot wait to go back and explore more!!  

There were lots of favorites in 2010 but for now that will do. I have some reviewing ideas on tap and will post as I get them ‘penned in’. Sorry for being such a lame blogger but I promise you – I am back!

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