Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It Happened One Night (1934)

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring young man on the flying trapeze! My goodness, I cannot get that out of my head since I watched this the other day. Which is nice, since it's made the film stick with me even more than the first time I saw it years ago. Based on a story by Samuel Hopkins Adams, Capra's It Happened One Night tells the tale of heiress and spoiled brat Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), on the run from her father Alexander Andrews (Walter Connolly) in Miami, who disapproves of her elopement with showy aviator King Westley (Jameson Thomas). She has run away before, but never for so long or over such a great distance, and she is unused to being treated like a regular civilian. She loses her luggage and most of her money while en route to New York to meet King, but refuses to contact anyone for help at the risk of being found by her father's PI's or the police.

As she travels she keeps running in to the slick Peter Warne (Clark Gable), a recently-fired reporter who recognizes her and plans on using her story as a way to get his job back. She accepts his help, not caring about the news story as long as she is reunited with King. They travel by train, bus, foot, and stolen car for several days and nights, conning their way into motels for some nights. On their journey they oscillate between laughing camaraderie and hostile bickering: Ellie is excited to be spending so much time alone with a clever man, but easily offended; Peter thinks she's cute and refreshing but loathes her upper-class affectations. Obviously they'll fall in love, but will their social statuses and stubborn natures keep them apart?

This was ostensibly the first screwball comedy, and at the time no one really knew how to handle it. Nobody (including the stars) liked the script, nobody thought it would amount to anything, yet it went on to win all 5 major Oscars and has since become a classic example of the perfect romantic comedy. The performances are excellent: Gable and Colbert carry the film completely, playing off each other really well amidst sharp dialogue and some great physical gags. Gable is perfect in the snarky, pragmatic role of Peter, perpetually wearing a slightly amused expression. Colbert carries herself loftily, but makes Ellie sympathetic, torn between her desire for independence and lack of real-world experience. The whole film is shot with a softness of composition and light common to Capra's movies, creating an interesting experience in both subject and scene.

It's a simple love story told with enough wit, humor, and fun that, combined with the fantastic performances, make for a memorable classic film. Also it contains a pretty risqué stripping scene involving Clark Gable that purportedly led to drastic drops in undershirt sales, so, what more do you need?

4.5/5





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Monday, January 26, 2009

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

I'd wanted to see Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! for a while, generally because of its awesome title and awesomer poster. It focuses on three go-go dancers who get their kicks driving around recklessly and abusing anyone who annoys them. Their leader, Varla (Tura Santana), gets annoyed easily, and has a firm hold over Rosie (Haji), who loves her, and Billie (Lori Williams), who'd rather be dancing or fornicating. They meet Tommy (Ray Barlow) and his bubbly girlfriend Linda (Sue Bernard) in the desert, and he races the three women. In danger of losing, Varla runs him off the track and proceeds to beat him to a pulp, eventually killing him.

They take the petrified Linda with them, and regroup at a gas station where the chatty attendant clues them in to a local handicapped old man (Stuart Lancaster) sitting on a huge amount of money. Varla plots to keep Linda with them for now while they ambush the old man and steal his fortune. However, they get tied up at his house, forced to deal with his crotchety paranoia as well as his two sons, the slow-witted body builder "The Vegetable" (Dennis Busch) and the bitter but upright Kirk (Paul Trinka). Now it's a battle of endurance and stubborness between Varla and the old man, while Linda tries to escape the clutches of both. A lot of people will probably die.

I went into this movie wanting to love it (for reasons listed above as well as its lauded cult status), and I generally really enjoyed it, but found some of it lacking. The car scenes and fights at the beginning and end were great- exciting and well-shot. I dug the characters, especially Varla. She was badass and unapologetically hard. Also she shouted almost every line, which I found amusing. I kind of want to be her for Halloween? Almost everything about the characters and dialogue was harsh and mean, which was kind of cool because it's different than films I'm used to.

What bothered me was the general layout of the plot. It starts off exciting and scary, but then falls flat. The middle section is mostly all of the characters hanging out at the old man's house, talking in circles, being angry, and getting nowhere. A lot of the character interactions don't really make much sense, either, or are not expanded upon. Then it picks up again at the end. I feel like the writers knew they wanted to get from point A to point B, but weren't sure exactly how, so they ended up meandering a bit. I understand this is one of the main examples of an exploitation b-movie but I don't think I'm wrong in expecting a more gripping story. Also, the ending was pretty bullshit. It's not a big enough problem to be totally detrimental to the movie, and I'm assuming most people are watching Faster, Pussycat! for the lady-fights and big boobs, not the plot. Overall it was pretty awesome and interesting, with memorable performances, dialogue, and action sequences. And boobs. Big ones. I wonder how the remake will be handled.

Give me some Russ Meyer recommendations, please! I'm moving onto Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (after I watch the first one) next.

4/5

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Mallrats (1995)

Mallrats is the main movie that always brings my oldest friend and I together. So after a fancy dinner date we retired to her boyfriend's house to take advantage of his big TV! Kevin Smith's second film, Mallrats follows slacker best friends TS Quint (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Jason Lee) on an adventurous day in their favourite hangout, the mall. In the morning Brodie's girlfriend Rene (Shannon Doherty) breaks up with him because he'd rather play video games than be with her and, though he still lives with her, won't introduce him to his mother. Quint's girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani) breaks up with him because he can't deal with the fact that she has to be on her father's dating game show because the original contestant died. So now the day finds everyone at the mall, with Rene on a date with asshole/pseudo gentleman Shannon (Ben Affleck), Brandi and her dad waiting for a stage to be erected to film the show, and the guys walking around aimlessly talking about sex and comic books while trying to figure out a way to get their girlfriends back.

They commission resident mischief makers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) to destroy the stage, resulting in various failed elaborate plans and run-ins with security. The guys run into lots of other mall mainstays, including the adorable and foul-mouthed Gwen (Joey Lauren Adams), 15-year-old sex researcher Tricia (Renee Humphrey), and William (Ethan Suplee), who's been searching for the sailboat in a Magic Eye puzzle. So now Brodie has to prove to Rene that Shannon is a dick and he cares for her while Quint has to convince Brandi that their relationship is strong enough to withstand her dad trying to break them up. It's all quite inspiring. Stan Lee even shows up to give a pep talk!

Hahaha! You dumb bastard. It's not a schooner, it's a sailboat.This movie is pretty rad, all around. It's got Jason Lee quipping up a storm, Kevin Smith using the force, Jeremy London attempting to act, and Shannon Doherty attempting to not be a complete bitch. It has Smith's usual male-centricity: the two main guys are pretty much clueless egotistical jerks, so their girlfriends were right to dump them, yet here I, the viewer, sit rooting for them to all get back together again. Not that I mind. There's tons of fun, geeky dialogue and a nice, tight pace considering the relatively simple story. It's probably my favourite Kevin Smith movie, actually. It's more exciting than Clerks and has less Ben Affleck than Chasing Amy. And Brodie is probably one of my favourite comedic screen characters in general. It's quotable almost to a fault, so that you have to watch it a large number of times to catch everything, and then several more so you can memorize it and quote it to impress everyone you meet.

Oh also something odd that we noticed: Shannon Doherty changes clothes like five times in this movie, and we were all "WTF? She never leaves the mall!". But then IMDb told me this: "While shopping, Rene Mosier (Shannon Doherty) is seen wearing at least three different outfits. Doherty had a clause in her contract that she could keep everything her character wore, so came up with the plan that her character should wear everything she bought on her shopping trip." Which is like, one of the stupidest but also kind of amazing things I've ever heard.

Anyway. Awesome, hilarious movie.

4.5/5

"Build Me Up Buttercup"- The Goops

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

I guess I'm a sucker for cute animated films, so my pal Rebecca and I regressed about 13 years each and sat in a nearly-empty theater for The Tale of Despereaux. Based on the book by Katie DiCamilo, the film is set in the mythical kingdom of Dor, where medieval denizens live for their head chef's soup. One day the friendly, light-loving rat Roscuro (short for Chiaroscuro, which is awesome!, and voiced by Dustin Hoffman), accidentally causes the death of the queen. In retaliation, the king outlaws both soup and rats, causing the an eternal cloud to form over the city (no sun, but no rain). So now Roscuro is forced to live in the dingy dungeons with the other carniverous rats and the whole kingdom sits around being depressed, especially the fair Princess Pea (Emma Watson). Meanwhile, the residents of Mouse Town (located in the lower levels of the castle but not as low as the dungeons) are suffering from little Despereaux, a mouse born courageous. In mouse schools they are taught to fear everything, with emphasis on cowering and scurrying, and conformity is mandated.

Despereaux refuses to live up to his heritage and remains brave and adventurous, eventually meeting the princess and dedicating himself to rescuing her from her sadness and longing. Considered a danger to his peers, he is exiled to the rat dungeons, where he meets Roscuro and tells her of the princess. The rat is repentant and travels to her room hoping to make amends, but she freaks out because rats are illegal and refuses to listen to him. Roscuro is fed up with trying to talk to these stupid humans after he's been living in awful conditions for that one honest mistake, so he plots revenge. He convinces the maid Miggery, a feeble-minded girl who obsessively dreams of being a princess herself (often stealing fancy things from her room so she can play dress up), to kidnap Princess Pea and feed her to the rats. It's up to Despereaux to save her from the rats and Roscuro from himself, while figuring out a way to restore the kingdom to its soup-filled, sunny self.

This is a sweet, unique story constructed as a series of interconnected characters and events that come together in unexpected ways. It's layered and fairly complex for a children's movie, which I personally appreciated. I think a lot of kids' movies are too simple and condescending. It made it more interesting for me, but I guess it might be a little bit much for really young children. Which brings me to its rating: G is not at all appropriate; there are some truly frightening scenes and characters (especially this guy), with various deaths/near-deaths. I'm not bashing the movie for having those things, but I've seen various comments about how scared people's kids were and such, so it's important to know. Otherwise, it was a pretty fun time. Not Wall-e or anything, but a unique fantasy adventure with a strong voice cast.

I felt the animation was just so-so. The backgrounds and textures were noticibly wonderful, but the character design (specifically the humans) consisted mainly of pasty, angular, shiny faces that looked too hard. Despereaux's look was the most detailed and well-designed, and Roscuro's was pretty well-done. Which reminds me: Roscuro was awesome, and I kind of wish this could have been his movie. Despereaux was cute but simple, Miggery was creepy and obsessive, and Princess Pea was useless. Maybe it was Hoffman's marvelous voice, but Roscuro was the most interesting, coolest character. I liked the chef too, and his unexplained magical vegetable demon. Anyway, it's a pretty good movie, if it's your kind of thing. No great strides in animation but a nice adventure tale.

3.5/5

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pizza Planet Double Feature: Toy Story (1995) and Toy Story 2 (1999)

Sitting alone in Pizza Planet can really raise a girl's appetite for a Toy Story double feature. Groundbreaking for its use of CGI and notable as Pixar's first feature-length, Toy Story imagines a world in which every toy comes to life when humans leave the room. This particular story's human is Andy (John Morris), an 8-year-old boy with a penchant for the old west. His favourite toy is Woody (Tom Hanks), a cowboy doll with a drawstring speakerbox. Woody is the friendly leader of Andy's toys, who include the decidedly unscary dinosaur Rex (Wallace Shawn, who doesn't have an IMDb photo, really?), the smart-alecky piggybank Hamm (John Ratzenberger), steadfast Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), aggressive Mr Potato Head (Don Rickles), and Bo Peep (Annie Potts), the only female toy I could spot (realistic for a boy's room, I suppose). For his birthday Andy receives the super-hip, super-cool space action figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), who quickly replaces Woody as the favourite. To Woody's severe annoyance, Buzz doesn't realize he's a toy, and keeps trying to fly and stun-gun everyone; the other toys find this impressive. After a Randy Newman montage Woody's jealousy gets the best of him and he kicks Buzz out of the window, only to be excommunicated by the other toys. Soon he and Buzz are kidnapped by the evil toy-destroying Sid (Erik von Detten) from next door, and they must put aside their differences so they can save themselves and get back to Andy!

In the sequel, Woody and Buzz are now best friends and the family has a dog. Andy goes away to cowboy camp without Woody because he'd accidentally torn his arm. While he's gone, his mother has a yard sale and the gross toy store owner Al (Wayne Knight) steals Woody as he's rescuing another toy from being sold. It turns out the cowboy is a collectible figure from the 50's television show Woody's Roundup, and is worth tons of money when sold as part of the whole set of character toys. He meets playful loyal steed Bullseye, still-in-the-box Prospector Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammar), and the energetic yodeling cowgirl Jessie (Joan Cusack). After Woody is fixed up, they'll all be shipped off to Japan to be part of a toy museum. Buzz and the gang show up to rescue him, but he's torn between staying and helping out his new friends (who'll be packed away again if they can't be sold) and going back to Andy, whom he's afraid will outgrow him soon. Decisions, decisions. Also, adventure! It's so nice when a sequel stand up next to the original, eh?

These movies are awesome. Well-written (Joss Whedon helped pen the first one!), funny, impressively animated and designed, and highly entertaining. They take a familiar concept and infuse it with lovable characters, humor, and relatability. Definitely part of the "fun for parents as well as kids" film club. I love their adventure aspects, especially. The first one manages to give us exciting thrills in the confines of two suburban homes and a pizza restaurant. Everything we find small or trivial is massive and dangerous to them. The sequel sports escapades that are out of their element, through backyards, across highways, and within a toy store, high-rise apartment building, and even an international airport. Exciting stuff! But at its heart the series is about the toys' relationships with each other and mission in the world, namely to make a child happy.

Other stuff: I know Randy Newman is like way annoying and shows up everywhere, but one must admit the songs in this movie are catchy and suit the mood well. I remember digging it as a kid, anyway, which is more important. The animation is truly surprising, looking back on it now more than a decade later. It is easy to see the incredible dedication and attention to detail seeping into each shot: the reflections on Buzz's helmet, the labeled books lining Andy's shelves, the posters on Sid's walls, the level of expression on each face (toy or human). Considering this was the first of its kind, the animators could have easily slacked off on some of the minor stuff without anyone noticing, but they instead created a solid, beautiful world that holds up to a lot of other computer-animated films being made today. As much as I lament the passing of cel animation (though here's hoping it gets a comeback in a big way with The Princess and The Frog), watching this reminded me of the excitement and overall coolness generated by this then-novel technique. Now I'm all geared up for Toy Story 3!

Both Films: 4.5/5

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Monday, January 19, 2009

The TV Set (2006)

*Some spoilers ahead, since the ending is critical to my opinion of the movie*

Jake Kasdan's satirical exploration of the television business is funny enough to make me laugh but feels true enough to make me hopeless. Struggling writer Mike Klein's (David Duchovny) new, autobiographical TV script has been tapped by a major network for a pilot.
The movie follows him through the stages of casting, filming, and being picked up amidst a sea of compromises. He sees his first choice for the male lead get handed to over-the-top Zach (Fran Kranz), but talented comedienne Laurel (Lindsay Sloane) gets the female lead. Abrasive station exec Lenny (Sigourney Weaver) is worried that because the comedic show involves a suicide, it won't sit well with audiences. Mike believes the suicide is an important part of the main character's personality and motivations, and is an incredibly personal issue since his own brother killed himself. New exec (I forget his exact job but it was Important) Richard (Ioann Gruffud) does his best to be on Mike's side.

When actually filming the pilot, Mike encounters more problems with the director's style, child labor laws, Zach's hamminess, debilitating back pains, and that looming downer of a suicide. Eventually he is persuaded to write an alternate script replacing the brother's funeral with his mother's ("and when the person who was your mom suddenly has a heart attack and dies slightly before her time, it really makes you think"); he intentionally makes it awful. Both versions are filmed and audience tests are run to decide which one is the final product. Guess which wins. Due to a programming glitch there's suddenly space for a new show, and Richard succeeds in getting Mike's on the air. Now Mike is the creator of a successful sitcom with absolutely none of the ingenuity, subtlety, wit, or heart he had written into it. Through it all he is pushed by his inept manager (I think that's what she was) Alice (Judy Greer) to make compromises, and prodded by his pregnant wife (Justine Bateman) to maintain his dignity.

I liked The TV Set, in general. It had some very funny moments made even better by its excellent cast. Judy Greer stands out as she does in any movie, and naturally Justine Bateman was adorable (though seldom onscreen). Ioan Gruffud provides the Welsh eye candy, and Duchovny offers a sympathetic, understated performance. But for me Sigourney Weaver was the most memorable. I haven't seen her in too many other movies besides like Ghost Busters, Dave, and Galaxy Quest (yeah, I haven't seen any Alien's, so sue me), but she was so funny and unapologetic as the ignorant, self-absorbed Lenny that I instantly became a fan! Also, check out Seth Green's rad cameo at the end. Other good things about the movie... it's a realistic (or so I've heard) but interesting look into the apparently awful world of television programming. I know a few people hoping to get into this business and I guess I'll just have to root for them harder.

The main thing I didn't like was the ending: I understand that Kasdan is making a point about how mainstream entertainment is all about compromise because the people in charge are afraid of originality and the audience is dumb. It's easy enough to see where the movie is heading after Mike gives in more and more to the powers that be. But to me it made the whole movie seem pointless. I'm not saying it needed a happy-go-lucky Hollywood ending, but some sort of clue to how Mike dealt with the show as it aired or something might have been helpful. Would he sell out completely or drop out and keep his pride? I think another problem was it came on quickly (or felt as such), so I just wasn't ready for it. The pacing was off, and a lot of time was passing between each segment. Further drawbacks include Zach, who was too annoying to be funny, and Richard's family subplot, which wasn't bad but felt out of place, especially since none of the other side characters got much for their own stories. Anyway, I'm rambling. The TV Set was good and funny but had a rushed and lackluster ending and was sort of forgettable overall.

3.5/5

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Somehow one of my best friends had never seen this movie, but don't worry, I cleared that problem right up! Directed by one of my favourite filmmakers, Terry Gilliam, and based on one of my favourite books, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a trippy, funny, frightening, wild ride of an adaptation. The frantic plot concerns sportswriter/Hunter Thompson stand-in Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), who is expensing a balls-out trip to Las Vegas to cover a desert bike race, while using the power of the press to get into various events. Traveling with him is his lawyer Oscar Acosta aka Dr Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). The two embark on a series of drug binges, with moods ranging from philosophical to violent. They terrorize hotel employees, bartenders, tourists, DEA agents, young women, cops, and each other. Sometimes they are very silly but sometimes they are nearly homicidal. The plot itself is disjointed, composed of numerous unconnected scenes with a loose overarching narrative. And there's lots of driving around!

Yeah so it's very hard to really detail the plot of this film, since it doesn't have one in the traditional sense. It's sort of like watching two hours of dudes palin' around in Vegas and doing tons and tons and tons of drugs. It's exactly like that, really. The hook is in Thompson's incredible storytelling skills and over-the-top persona coupled with Gilliam's fantastic vision. Like all of Gilliam's films, it features marvelous cinematography (some the imagery influenced by Ralph Steadman's sufficiently freaky illustration), impressive effects, and ambiguity. The wiggly cameras and high saturation give insight into the experiences of a man perpetually on some combination of heavy drugs against the hedonistic, flashy backdrop of Las Vegas. It's one of the best book-to-film adaptations I've ever seen, including the bulk of the book's action and a lot of the specific text. Duke's narration (much of it lifted from the book) flows throughout, providing a bit of method to the madness.

There are tons of fun cameos from the likes of Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Cameron Diaz, and Ellen Barkin. Thompson himself even shows up briefly during a flashback, having spent time on the set helping Depp get into character (he even shaved Depp's head). Which brings me to the absolutely amazing performance of Johnny Depp: man, he was just so awesome! So spot-on! He was mumbly and bow-legged and wide-eyed perfection, I'd say. Give this man an Oscar for chrissake. Del Toro is good too but his character is sort of terrifying. Fear and Loathing is simultaneously hilarious and nighmarish, enjoyable but not fluffy. An endlessly entertaining pursuit of the American dream that has become a loving tribute to a controversial, larger-than-life artistic figure. Check it out, dudes, especially if you're looking for a bit of innovative chaos on your screens.

5/5



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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yes Man (2008)

There I was, alone and directionless in an unfamiliar location (specifically, Downtown Disney, Orlando) and suddenly I spot a familiar and friendly face: an AMC theatre (this being the only other highlight)! Yes! I can see a movie, thank god! I just wanted to relax and watch something I wouldn't have to think about but would find mildly enjoyable. Yes Man seemed the most viable option. After all, my beloved Zooey Deschanel would be there!

Jim Carrey plays Carl, a dude trying his darnedest to avoid serious relationships by maintaining a "no" attitude towards everything. He works as a loan assessor, but seemingly always turns everyone down. He refuses to go out with his recently engaged best friend Peter (Bradley Cooper) and the sex-obsessed slacker Rooney (Danny Masterson) or attend his boss Norman's (Rhys Darby) geeky theme parties, preferring to stay in and watch movies every night. After old pal Nick (John Michael Higgins) convinces him to attend a self-help seminar led by cult leader-ish Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp), he discovers a new world of possibility in the word "yes" after forming a "covenant" enforcing his positivity. His first experiments with yes lead to strange circumstances culminating in his introduction to the adorable, eccentric, scooter-riding Allison (Deschanel), convincing him that yes will always lead to good things.

He opens himself up to every opportunity, including approving hundreds of loans, planning Peter's wife's bridal shower, and receiving a blow job from a senior citizen (such an unnecessary scene, my goodness). He believes bad things will happen if he ever says no, so his friends take advantage of him and he tries a whole bunch of seemingly random things that will later help him out (example: he learns Korean, then helps smooth over a bridal shower conflict by speaking to a salesperson in her native language). He courts Allison, who doesn't know about his covenant, finding her fun and spontaneous and generally cool (she's in a weird indie band and everything!). She digs his willingness to do crazy things and his easygoing nature. But of course, conflict (!) when she finds out he has just been following some weird program that made him say yes all the time! Maybe he never really wanted to be her at all! Can he re-learn how to say no?

This movie was ok. It had some genuinely funny moments, to be sure. Jim Carrey was alright, oscillating between over-the-top and enjoyable. Zooey Deschanel was her cute and hip and please-be-Alex-Kittle's-best-friend self. But I have to say there are too many implausibles in this movie. I was so totally not sold on their relationship, for one. The odds that she would be attracted to him in the first place, considering his age, looks, and general demeanor seemed unlikely at best. Carl had some ok qualities and he could make her laugh, but the characters did not mesh well and since their romance is a main thing of the movie, it took away from it. Additionally the whole pre-packaged montage of him saying yes to arbitrary things and then later somehow finding them all useful was cliche and annoying. I guess I didn't really expect groundbreaking comedic writing, though.

That said, there were great performances from Rhys Darby (love the theme parties, Norm) and John Michael Higgins (though unfortunately I have trouble seeing him as anyone other than Wayne Jarvis). Included also was a group singalong of Third Eye Blind's "Jumper" which is always a treat. Overall it's entertaining at times and funny at times and stupid or unrealistic at times, and it has a good message. I don't regret watching it but I could have lived without it. And if Zooey hadn't been there it wouldn't have been worth as much.

3/5

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Movie-Related Resolutions

It appears Piper at the fine film blog Lazy Eye Theatre tagged me in this New Year's resolution meme doohickey! I must list 9 movie-related resolutions for 2009. Normally I am not a resolution person because I don't believe a change of number on a date constitutes a holiday, but since only movies are involved I'm ok with this. Most of them will probably deal with seeing certain things I should have already seen. In no particular order, check it out:

See The Departed. I've been putting it off for 2 years, and I don't really have an excuse not to just see it already. I'll aim for The Godfather II, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Schindler's List, too.

Watch more classics, especially noir. Living without TCM for the past few years means I've been less likely to watch old movies that I haven't already seen. I should be making a greater effort since I totally have Netflix.

Try to see more foreign films in theatres while I'm in Germany this semester, where I'd imagine they'd be showing a lot? Though I guess they'll be subbed in German so I'd better start learning it.

Watch more documentaries, especially art-related ones. Because it's like my two main loves (art and film) coming together!

Watch a lot of German films before I go there. I've seen several but I still need to do The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, The Testament of Dr Mabuse, The Princess and the Warrior, and Alice in the City, among others.

Watch more grindhouse films and b movies and 1930's horror.

Read the books and comics/graphic novels that movies I've seen are based on (City of Ember, Ghost World, V for Vendetta, Double Indemnity, Let the Right One In, etc).

Immerse myself in Japanese cinema.

Continue blogging about movies, and get better at it.


Alright let's see how few of these come to pass! I think I have to tag a few other people with this. Hmm.

Alexa at Pop Elegantarium
The Mad Hatter at The Dark of the Matinee

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Empire Records (1995)

Ok so understand that I totally know how many problems this movie has (maybe not the exact number, but I'm aware of its largeness). But I just can't get over loving it. I got it for Christmas and certainly had a delightful time watching the other day despite my father's recurring "hah!"s and "what?"s. Taking place over a 24-hour period, Empire Records details the working lives of a group of attractive teenagers employed at a failing independent record store, where a surprising amount of drama is arising. First of all, it's Rex Manning Day! This means that Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield), an 80's pop star attempting a comeback is going to be here to sign copies of his new crappy album. Empire Records cashier and hopeful Harvard attendant Corey (Liv Tyler) is plotting to lose her virginity that day while serving Rex lunch, having had a crush on him since she was a kid. Gina (Renee Zellweger), her best friend, coworker, and resident trollop, helps her loosen up.

Slacker artist AJ (Johnny Whitworth) has decided today is the day he'll declare his love for Corey. Rebel girl Debra (Robin Tunney) tried to kill herself last night and shaves her head in the employee bathroom before starting her shift (those kooky teens and their angst). Store manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) has been trying to save up enough money to become part owner of the store, before it's sold to corporate chain Music Town. Unfortunately Lucas (Rory Cochrane), who closed the night before, decided to take the $14,000 deposit and piss it away in Atlantic City, returning a more zen-tastic man. Now Joe's trying to avoid turning Lucas over to the cops (he is relegated to the break room's couch for most of the day) while he figures out a way to get the money back to the store's owner. These stories and much more unfold and intertwine in a really hectic and unrealistic day at a music store (at least compared to my experiences at Sam Goody and Barnes & Noble Music Dept, but what do I know?).

This movie is fun, fast-paced, and filled with great music-related scenes (lots of dancing around montages). The dialogue is sharp and funny, though often nonsensical. Anything involving Rex Manning is pretty hilarious. Ethan Embry's portrayal of the giggly headbanger Mark is oddly endearing. Renee Zellweger is fairly funny and manages to look like a regular person, while Liv Tyler is as annoying and as bad an actor as ever. To me the standout is Rory Cochrane because he is pretty attractive and entertaining in a coolly sardonic kind of way. The main problem with this movie thematically is that it tries to address numerous "teen issues" but does it in stupid ways. It's like, "Oh my god, one of the characters is addicted to speed, this is an actual problem. But wait scene change, let's forget about it for the rest of the film". Or "This character is suffering some serious depression/anxiety/self-loathing and we'll sort of address it but then a few scenes later everything will be ok". It's annoying but if you look past it to where Empire Records hits it mark- namely its music- and comedy-related areas, it's an enjoyable, silly, over-the-top film with some good writing and a fun cast.

4/5

"Free"- The Martinis

At the end of the movie there's a big party! And Renee Zellweger sings with Coyote Shivers!


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Yeah, yeah, don't judge me too harshly, please. I got this movie for my mother for Christmas, not anticipating that she would later ask me to watch it with her. I'd seen the play, I knew what was in store, but I do like Colin Firth... Set on a fictional Greek island, the plot (a term used loosely here) concerns 20-year-old (Amanda Seyfried), a sweet girl who has never met her father and is getting married the next day. Her fiance Sky (Dominic Cooper) is perpetually shirtless and wants to travel. I don't think he had any other personality traits. Her mother Donna (Meryl Streep), who was some sort of freewheeling sexpot in her youth, independently runs a crumbling hotel, unconsciously pressuring her daughter to stay home and help her run it despite her secret desire to be an artist. Unbeknownst to her mother, Sophie has invited three men to the wedding, all of whom dated Donna around the time she was conceived. It is her dream to have her father walk her down the aisle, and she believes she'll instantly recognize him when she meets him. The arrivals of Sophie's bridesmaids (Ashley Lilley and Rachel McDowall) and Donna's best friends/former bandmates Rosie (Julie Walters) and Tanya (Christine Baranski) prompt some songs to fill up the time.

Thinking they were invited because Donna sought a renewal of friendship, the three possible dads arrive and spend some time with Sophie, who tells them Donna totally wants to hang out with them but not until she's done with pre-wedding stuff. She leaves out the possible-dad thing. Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgard) is a Swedish adventurer/writer, and was a hippie-type in his youth. Harry Bright (Colin Firth) is a British banker and former hard rocker. Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) is an American businessman and architect who dated Donna while he was engaged, and then left her to marry his fiancee. Now Sophie is trying to figure out which one is her real dad, Donna is trying to avoid confrontation with her old flames, and everyone is singing a whole lot. Is Donna still in love with one of them? Is one of them Sophie's father? Will Sophie and Sky get in a fight over a practically nothing and jeopardize the wedding for no apparent reason? Will there be various under-developed and pointless side plots just so we can squeeze in some more songs? Egads!

Ok so I understand people aren't watching this for the plot, but that doesn't mean I'm not irked by the lack of a decent one. Without the music, this movie would be like 20 minutes, and most of the songs don't even help advance the story. I know they came first and this musical was developed as a showcase for the good ol' days of ABBA, but why can't we have something resembling a substantial narrative? Singin' in the Rain started off as a collection of songs too, but once they were handed over to Adolph Green and Betty Comden, they were used effectively to create one of the greatest musicals of all time, full of humor and romance and an interesting story. Here we just have a bunch of flat characters bumbling around an island and speaking in circles. Is it naive to expect more of a musical that makes it to Hollywood? Because if Mamma Mia is actually "the highest-grossing film of all time" in the UK and "the most successful Hollywood musical of all time" as Wikipedia and IMDb would have us believe, I'm a little worried about the future of the movie musical. It's already a dying artform, so maybe this kind of fluff is ultimately the only type that will survive? But Sweeney Todd did pretty well, right?

Admittedly, the musical numbers are fun for the most part and I like the songs (they are so freaking catchy, my god, I'm singing "Honey, Honey" right now just thinking about this movie). But it's cheaper and less time-consuming to just buy the soundtrack. Or watch some music videos. There isn't much choreography, and what there is mainly consists of jumping around gleefully and running in groups against gorgeous backdrops of Greece. It's enjoyable to watch at first but there's only so much of that I can take. It's not like a Busby Berkeley picture where the lack of a story was made up for by the splashy musical sequences. Performance-wise, Colin Firth was adorable and funny, and Christine Baranski was awesome as always, but everyone else was just sort of there. Meryl Streep did a good job singing and I guess she... acted? Amanda Seyfried was sort of annoying and didn't seem to have many levels of emotion. Since none of the characters were multi-layered I wouldn't expect more from any cast member. Generally it's a light-hearted romp through Greece with a multitude of indulgent ABBA musical numbers and something about a girl finding her father before she gets married. The end.

2/5

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

American Teen (2008)

I missed American Teen over the summer but had heard such good things about it, I was pretty excited to catch it on DVD. Unfortunately I found it sort of trite and uninteresting. For a year, documentarian Nanette Burstein followed four high school seniors and their friends in Warsaw, Indiana, each a member of a different 80's teen comedy stereotype. It combines phone conversations, basketball games, parties, interviews and more in an attempt to capture the exalted, un-capturable times of "average" white people in high school.

There's Megan, the bitchy homecoming queen. She's head of the dance committees and incredibly self-absorbed. Her morals seem fairly skewed, and the audience can feel free to hate her for most of the film. Then you find out her family had experienced an awful trauma and wonder if you should have judged so harshly. (Personally I think that's no excuse for being as heartless as she comes off in the film, though I understand editing could have made her seem worse.) Also she has problems because oh no her entire family attended Notre Dame and so she has to go to Notre Dame because god forbid she disappoint her parents and think for herself! Plus, this means she has to get good grades and like, study.

There's Colin, the school's biggest basketball star. His dad has totally pressured him into being a one-minded athlete so that he can get into school on a basketball scholarship. He doesn't really do much besides practice, go to games, and worry about scouts. I don't remember much else about his story really, except that everyone thought he was nice. And he ruined some games because he was nervous.

There's Jake, the band geek who spends most of his time playing video games and wishing he had a girlfriend. He manages to woo a pretty freshman bandmate, who doesn't yet realize he is a "loser", but they don't have much in common, and he is sort of off-putting, and she is sort of a jerk, so it doesn't work out. He dreams of being a studly hero like Link, and hopes to find more acceptance in college. Watch his adventures of finding a prom date! (Why he wanted to go to prom, considering his general lack of friends and apparent distaste for large social interactions, I cannot comprehend.) Also there's a very teen-movie-moment when his older brother gets him way drunk at a crazy bar.

There's Heather, the unstable artist who wishes for nothing more than to go to California and make movies. She lives with her grandma (her mother suffers from mental problems and her dad lives somewhere else- I forget what was up with him, sorry). She has a variety of interests and passions: playing in a band and taking photographs and painting and doing wacky things. She lives in fear of inheriting bipolar disorder. She has a lot of setbacks (mainly, she is mistreated by two jerky boyfriends) but manages to push forward through all of the bullshit, graduate, and move on to bigger and better things (presumably). It seems she's really the film's heroine, being the most interesting and idiosyncratic.

Throughout American Teen are interspersed several animated montages, which I think were meant to serve as innovative and more interesting storytelling devices. I found them out of place and overly-dramatic. The editing itself didn't always fit well together, either. I was often very confused about how much time had passed or even what season they were in. Having fairly recently been through senior year myself, I found it frustrating that I couldn't always relate my own experiences to theirs since it was chopped up so weirdly. Also one guy suddenly tried to become a main character halfway through the film (he's the "hunky" one), and that irked me. He was uninteresting and an asshole, and I didn't understand why I was suddenly supposed to care as much about him as the other main four.

Well overall this movie was just sort of... boring? I didn't really care about any of the kids except for Heather, but she's only 1/4 of the narrative. I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do: Break down high school stereotypes! Show the world that no one truly fits into their pre-assigned boxes! Rah! And that's admirable, but I didn't feel it was necessary. That whole thing's been done numerous times. Admittedly, since I went to an all-girl's private school, I didn't really observe many of these "cliques" that allegedly show up in public high schools, so maybe this sort of message still is very apt? I can't say. It's an admirable goal to promote individuality and warn against being judgmental, sure, but I just didn't find this film to be particularly special. I hope Megan, Colin, Jake, and Heather are doing well these days but that's about as far as my interest extends.

3/5

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Monday, January 12, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Set in New Orleans, simultaneously taking place during Hurricane Katrina and the various decades leading up to it, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button opens with the elderly Daisy (Cate Blanchett) in the hospital and very near her death. She enlists her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) to read aloud from a thick diary written by one Benjamin Button. An unfamiliar twist has been added to what would otherwise be an interesting but unremarkable love story: Benjamin (Brad Pitt, with the aid of several other actor's bodies) is born the day the Great War ended as a wrinkled and grizzled baby showing all the signs of increased age, including arthritis and cataracts. His mother dies in childbirth, and his horrified father (Jason Flemyng) abandons him at a nursing home run by Queenie (Taraji P Henson) and her boyfriend Tizzy (the awesomely-named Mahershalalhashbaz Ali). She takes him in and raises him as her own. He grows bigger and slightly younger each year, surrounded by elderly people like himself. He meets Daisy when he's around 7 and she's 5 (though she looks 8 and sounds 30; played by Elle Fanning and I think voiced by Blanchett) and is instantly captivated. She visits fairly often (her grandma is a resident at the home) and they become good friends.

They meet multiple times throughout their lives, but not until they're in their 30's or 40's do they really come together. Until then, Benjamin works on a tugboat under Captain Mike (Jared Harris), who teaches him about the world, the sea, and women. He has an affair with cold and elegant Elizabeth Abbott (Tilda Swinton) and fights in the Navy during WWII. His father tracks him down and bequeaths to him a large house and prosperous button factory. Daisy studies ballet in New York and dances in Paris, enjoying a carefree and self-indulgent life before suffering a serious leg injury. Their romance finally fully blossoms and they live together for years. When Daisy gets pregnant, the seriousness of their future is made clear to Benjamin, who believes he cannot be a father with his condition. All this and much more is recounted over 166 minutes of flashbacks and occasional mother-daughter discussions.

The good: this film is stunningly beautiful, and as we all know I am a big sucker for visuals. The effects, the colours and tones, the costumes, the shots- just everything about it was sophisticated and detailed and lovingly handled. I also enjoyed the performances, especially Brad Pitt, by whom I am not always won over. Tilda Swinton was obviously the highlight, though her time onscreen was far too short. I liked the concept- it's fantastical enough to give the story uniqueness but not so out there that it's unrelatable. I also thought the frame story was interesting- Julia Ormond's character was very well done, and her relationship with her mother was touching.

The not-so-good: It was too freaking long, to be sure. It didn't necessarily drag, but there was much that could have been cut out or shortened. It doesn't seem to know if it should be Benjamin's life story, complete with many ups and downs, or purely a dramatic romance between him and Daisy. The more I reflect on the film and really think about the story, the more I realize that without the aging-backwards thing it wouldn't be particularly memorable.

I enjoyed the movie, finding it poignant and engaging. However I feel that if I saw it a second time I wouldn't be as interested since the newness of the visuals and narrative surprises would be gone. Nevertheless, it's a beautiful film with a special romance, and well worth seeing, even if only once.

3.5/5

Note: After a year hearing the same joke incessantly repeated at my expense, as well as further reflection upon the movie itself and my own way of rating movies (I think I've become more discerning in my ratings), I'm changing the rating to 3.5, because this movie was just ok. Whatever.


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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

I'm so glad Pan's Labyrinth's success enabled Guillermo del Toro to have as much money and creative control as it appears he did for this wonderful sequel to 2004's underrated Hellboy. An unspecified amount of time has passed since the first film: government-employed demon Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and pyrokinetic Liz (Selma Blair) are now living together, provoking as many violent clashes as it does tender moments for their coworker and friend, the amphibious psychic Abe Sapien (the incomparable Doug Jones), to endure. Due to Hellboy's increasingly flippant treatment of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense's rule of secrecy, the German medium Johann Krauss (played by John Alexander and voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is sent in to streamline their investigations and enforce inconspicuousness.

Meanwhile, there is much turmoil in the ancient underground Elven kingdom. The long-estranged and palely badass Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) has returned to beseech his father (Roy Doltrice) for a piece of a special crown which would enable him to control the ancient Golden Army, consisting of large mechanical self-sustaining and self-repairing soldiers. His father wishes to maintain the long-standing peace contract between magical creatures and humans, while Nuada acknowledges that due to their systematic destruction of earth, the destruction of humans is justifiable. He obtains the crown fragment but realizes he needs the final piece from his twin, Princess Nuala (Anna Walton), who has escaped into the arms of Hellboy and the gang. She tells them the story of the Golden Army as they prepare to guard her from Nuada, to whom she is psychically connected.

Simultaneously, Liz and Hellboy are still fighting, Abe is lovesick for Nuala, Johan is at odds with Hellboy, and they're all trying to figure out Nuala's map that supposedly leads to the Army in an endeavor to protect it from the prince. They meet and/or battle a lot of creatures and ultimately Hellboy must face Nuada in a final showdown (hell yes) and save the human race yet again, at the risk of his own life and uncertain ideologies.

Just check out this movie's keyword list on imdb and you can easily see how good it is. It's got everything from Steampunk to Stabbed in the Head to Blood on Camera Lens to Unwed Pregnancy. Awesome. Hellboy II is a totally rad, fantastical adventure with splashes of romance and sword fighting. The script is solid, imaginative, and funny. The mythological and fantasy aspects are thrilling and substantial, but not overbearing. The relationships between the characters remain essential, keeping the focus on these lovable and surprisingly relatable characters against the miraculous action/adventure backdrop. That being said, the story is definitely interesting and creative, weaving together familiar dreamy figures with new creatures. Visually, it is of course incredible and magical and breathtaking and innovative and gush. I was practically drooling over the Angel of Death (Doug Jones, pictured below), the troll market, and forest spirit. Gee whiz. The character design is top-notch, mixing the urban with the unreal, and keeping a slightly dark tone over it all.

I really dug everyone's performances, naturally. Ron Perlman remains the best-cast actor ever in a comic book movie. Selma Blair is strong and sympathetic and not oversexed. Doug Jones continues to impress everyone in the room, tackling three characters but especially shining as Abe, who is too adorable, and even taking over vocals for David Hyde Pierce. I also really really liked the Johann Krauss character because hot damn he has like, this stern ectoplasmic form encased in a steampunkian diver suit! And he's German! And can beat up people with gym lockers! Also kudos to Luke Goss for pulling off a really badass elf. I kind of wanted Nuada to win just because he was so driven, and so capable. And I suppose he was sort of right about the whole destruction of earth thing. His seemingly incestuous relationship with Nuala was a little odd though, mainly because it wasn't really explained, just hinted at. Are all elvin twins naturally sleeping with each other? I do not pretend to have the answer to that question. Anyway, this movie is wonderful- fun, exciting, imaginative, and even better than the first. Here's hoping del Toro doesn't get too tied up in The Hobbit to do a third.

4.5/5


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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Valkyrie (2008)

After my week-long absence from the "blogsphere", as it were, let's see how much I can even remember about the next few movies. Hmm. After reading a helpful review, I decided I actually wanted to see that Tom Cruise Nazi movie, aka Valkyrie. Bryan Singer (who I still haven't forgiven for ditching X3 and bringing half the X-Men crew to stupid Superman Returns) reminded me he is a pretty good director by crafting this very taut and engaging historical thriller. Based on real events, the plot centers on Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), a German officer who by 1944 had come to the realization that Hitler's regime was not a Germany of which he could be proud. He joins the ranks of a small but dedicated number of military officers and politicians who have attempted several assassinations on the Führer. Included in the group are the nervous General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy), the daring General Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), ballsy explosives specialist Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, and Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), though he is relocated to the front before the main plan is underway (there is a total of like three women with any lines in this entire movie so be ready to watch a bunch of old dudes talk authoritatively for two hours).

Inspired by his children's record of "Ride of the Valkyries", von Stauffenberg hatches a plan to use Hitler's emergency plan "Operation Valkyrie" against him. This measure enabled immediate military takeover of Berlin in the event of Hitler's death. With von Stauffenberg's recent appointment as head of the reserve forces and resulting access to the Wolfsschanze headquarters, the rebel group plans to bomb Hitler and his closest military leaders and strategists. They then would initiate Valkyrie and order the arrest of a number of Nazi party members, alleging their involvement in a plot against Hitler. A new government consisting of the rebel leaders would be quietly organized and a peace treaty with the Allies quickly instigated. Though well-thought out on paper, the plan was incredibly dangerous and hinged on numerous uncertainties. Would party loyalist but power-hungry General Friedrich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson) change sides and help out the good guys? Would on-the-fence General Erich Fellgiebel (a surprisingly serious Eddie Izzard) shut down the phone lines at the Wolfsschanze after the assassination? Would the bomb even go off properly? The answers to these questions and more, when/if you see the movie!

I've only seen Tom Cruise in one (or maybe 1.5) movie(s) before, so I didn't really have expectations for him as an actor. He's not very good looking, and I guess I don't really approve of (or care that much about) his personal and religious life. But that being said, he was pretty good in this. The job could have been done just as well (or better) by many other actors, but his performance wasn't detrimental to the film. Also he was really rocking that wavy 40's hairstyle, so kudos to his stylist. Finally, remember that it is impossible to not look completely badass in an eyepatch, so his sort-of-annoying character was helped out greatly by that accessory. The ensemble cast was splendid, with a lot of faces I didn't expect to see (especially Bill Nighy and Eddie Izzard), and many of them British. The whole speaking-in-regular-accents-thing was fine- if you are not going to make a Nazi movie in the German language, it's not really necessary to give all of the English-speaking actors crappy German accents. However, it was a little jarring sometimes, like when there was a bunch of British and American men heiling Hitler, and I felt the initial transition from German to English was a bit rushed.

Speaking of rushed, one thing that really bothered me was the seeming speediness with which von Stauffenberg was accepted into and promoted within both the rebel group and Nazi military. He starts off as some dude in North Africa who realizes the war is killing Germany instead of empowering it, gets accepted into some super secret and (presumably) super cautious anti-Hitler, scheme-happy elite killing squad, and then almost instantly is both the leading figure in an assassination plot and being invited to strategize with Adolf Hitler. For a film in which pacing is everything, it really threw off a lot of Valkyrie's earlier action. That being said, this is an otherwise very well organized and tightly-wound thriller, integral to the enjoyment of it since viewers will almost definitely know the ending. I'm also glad it didn't over-monsterize Hitler himself, as I feel people often forget he was just an extremely powerful human and not some Satanly Embodiment of Pure Evil. In the end, this movie had excitement, dismemberment, snappy uniforms, explosions, and, best of all, History! I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, so I'm glad I gave these guys a chance.

4/5

*Possibly Rhetorical Question*: Does it say something bad about me that of the two Nazi-centered films I've seen that end in a gratuitous amount of deaths, I found the one with Hitler supporters dying in droves much more depressing? I mean... it really was just such a downer, no matter whose side you were on. Right? Maybe the difference is that it was mostly suicides.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vacation

Hey dudes. Just so you know, I'm in Florida with very limited internet access until Saturday, so no updates until then. You will probably survive this but I thought I'd give you a heads up. Have a nice week!
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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Love Actually (2003)

Here we have a Christmas movie preaching about love and relationships and the spirit of giving and honesty, yet somehow it manages to not be cheesy. In fact it is wholly affecting and incredibly funny, often in raunchy ways. A range of (mostly) interconnected people living in London experience love and loss in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) sees that Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Juliet (Keira Knightley) have a wedding to remember while hiding his love for the bride. Colin (Kris Marshall), one of the caterers, decides British women are too stuffy and on a whim flies to Wisconsin to sleep with American girls who will find his accent sexy. Wedding guest and novelist Jamie (Colin Firth) soon discovers his girlfriend's infidelity and escapes to his vacation home in France, where he connects with Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), his new non-English-speaking housekeeper. He's friends with John (Martin Freeman), who meets Judy (Joanna Page) when both are stand-ins for a porn film, and Karen (Emma Thompson), a frazzled mother of two.

Karen is tight with Daniel (Liam Neeson), who has just lost his wife and is trying to connect with his lovelorn stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster). Her brother is the prime minister (Hugh Grant), who has found himself attracted to his adorable staff member Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). Karen's husband is Harry (Alan Rickman), a businessman whose overly-forward secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch) pressures him to cheat. One of his employees Sarah (Laura Linney) has been in love with coworker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) since she saw him, but family obligations keep her from making a move. Through all of this, has-been rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) reinvigorates his career by keeping it real and polluting the airwaves with a crappy Christmas rehash.

Alright so there are like twenty plots happening in this movie and it can seem very convoluted. However, the pacing is tight and the characters so memorable that it actually works really well and there is never a dull moment. Everything fits together in a nice way. I love how a lot of the people would keep popping up in each other's stories, in the background at certain events or just saying hey. Writer/director Curtis has created a beautiful small world in which every side character can have his or her own story told- it's not just the picture-perfect bride and groom who can fall in love.

The cast sports some my favourite British actors, with standout performances from Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, and (as in every movie she's ever in) Emma Thompson. I love Bill Nighy's irreverent, washed up rock star; everything out of his mouth is somehow lewd, hilarious, and endearing all at once. Plus he does a great Robert Palmer ripoff. The cutest couple is probably the one in the weirdest situation: Martin Freeman boyishly romances Joanna Page while they pretend to have sex in front of a bustling film crew. Funniest couple is probably Colin Firth and Lúcia Moniz due to their hilarious mixed-language communications. Unfortunately one of the best moments in the film also involves one of the worst/widest-jawed actors working today. Of course I mean the scene in which lovable Andrew Lincoln expresses his love in cue cards for Keira Knightley (ugh). And, as previously stated, the best part of it all is this. Overall Love Actually is funny, romantic, (at times) heart-wrenching, and consistently interesting. Be sure to check out the deleted stuff on the DVD, as there are a lot of scenes expanding on certain character relationships.

4.5/5

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