Sunday, January 17, 2010

A whirlwind of film-going!

I've been such a slacker about updating the blog. We had a long Christmas Break, followed by a week shortened by snow - so my routine has been totally disrupted. However, over the vacation, I managed to see five movies - and here are my thoughts on them.

1. It's Complicated -
I'm a huge fan of the "romantic comedy." My personal DVD collection is filled with films like "Sleepless in Seattle," "Kate & Leopold," "When Harry Met Sally," and "Love Actually." So I was pretty excited to see this new film from Nancy Meyers (who was responsible for "The Holiday," "Something's Got to Give," and "The Parent Trap" remake), which portrays the story of a long-divorced couple (Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin - both superb) who rekindle their relationship. Complicating things is Streep's new romantic prospect, Steve Martin (low key in the role and quite nice!).

When we saw it, the audience was filled with women "of a certain age," who roared with laughter for the whole film - as did we. And I love that Meyers doesn't go for the expected ending - but one that really suits the characters and the story. And John Krasinksi as the son-in-law really steals his scenes - as do Streep's pals Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson and Alexandra Wentworth. A really fun, light, comedy.

2. Sherlock Holmes
The very next day after seeing It's Complicated we saw Sherlock Holmes. I really like Robert Downey Jr., and must admit to having a "thing" for Jude Law (even though I know he's a total cad in real life). So I was kind of fired up to see this. Two weeks later, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Director Guy Ritchie has taken the traditional story and turned it on its ear. He's preserved the friendship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and Holmes' deductive skills. But rather than a cerebral detective, we have an action hero. Holmes is seen bare-knuckle boxing, taking on physical challenges and shooting opponents. It makes for a wild ride; you can barely catch your breath. If I were to choose one adjective to describe the film, it would be BUSY. I almost feel like I need to see it again - things moved so fast and furious, that I know I missed a lot of dialogue and plot points.

Action fans will like it; RDJr fans will like it; Guy Ritchie fans will eat it up. But if you're looking for a traditional "Sherlock Holmes" film, go rent one of the Basil Rathbone versions.

3. Up in the Air
One dark, cloudy, cold Saturday afternoon, I was in the mood for a dark, cynical film - and this one totally filled the bill. George Clooney plays a man who is hired to go into companies and inform their staffs of lay-offs. His job is about to change thanks to technological innovations (his company wants to do lay-offs now via web-cams), and he takes a young staffer (Anna Kendrick) on the road to show her how he does his job. While they travel, he shares his philosophies of romance and business, all the while ignoring his own sensibilities and falling for another traveler (Vera Farmiga). Clooney is Clooney - his take on romance perfectly suited my dark mood. (Example: When Natalie - arguing in favor of marriage - gives the ultimate cliche ("you don't want to die alone, do you?") he counters with his realistic take ("everyone dies alone"). Clooney was terrific, and the scenes of real people reacting to the news that they've been laid off are gut-wrenching.

4. Avatar
THE most anticipated film of the holiday season, the one that has raked in the most box office bucks. I waited two weeks before I went to see it - not wanting to share my cinema time with screeching sci-fi fans. Smart move. I saw Avatar on a Sunday at 11 am - and was one of only 12 people in the theater. So I could sit middle center, which is apparently the best place to truly experience the Real3D effects. And WOW! Within minutes, I forgot the glasses and forgot that I was watching a 3D film - I was truly transported into the world of the planet Pandora, participating in the natives' fight for autonomy. You forget that you're watching computer generated characters - they come to life like "real" actors. I have to give James Cameron credit - this film is quite an achievement. I'm not sure I'm ready to see every film in 3D - it still seems a bit contrived to me - but I can see where it might work for some films. Especially blockbusters/epics like this.

Yes, the story is pretty cliched - the great white messiah comes to rescue the poor, helpless native people. We have to get back to our basic, natural roots -stop destroying our planet - save the planet or we will in turn be destroyed. But the visuals make it easier to swallow this and enjoy the film experience. Yes, it's long - nearly 3 hours - but I never felt like it stretched on - didn't find myself looking at my watch or longing for the ladies room. Definitely a film to see - and to see on the big screen.

5. The Young Victoria
I have friends who traveled to Paris in November, and saw this film on the plane. Strange, since it hadn't even been released in the US yet - but it was released nearly a year ago in Europe. My friends are not big movie goers, yet both raved about how much they enjoyed this. So I was pretty excited when it opened here in the Scenic City. I knew I probably need to see it the first weekend, because it probably wouldn't stay here long.

I loved it! I am a sucker for a period drama, and one with both historical and romantic leanings? Awesome! The film tells the story of the life of the young Queen Victoria, from the maneuvering that was behind her ascension to the throne through her romance and marriage to her cousin Prince Albert. The period detail is wonderful - the costumes alone are worth the price of admission - and the performance by Emily Blount is terrific. And although it's an epic film, it isn't epic in length (105 minutes). It easily is one of my favorites out of this bunch - and one of my favs for the year!

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Blogger HorshamScouse said...

Unusually for me I've seen three of these movies (unlikely to see The Young Victoria, waiting to see Sherlock Holmes).

I thought Avatar in 3D was amazing and am a bit miffed that there's only one iMAX cinema in NZ, although the storyline was a bit predictable.

I liked It's Complicated but wanted to throw stuff at the Alec Baldwin character (and at Alec Baldwin himself, on principle). Steve Martin was as good as I've seen him for ages.

Up In The Air was Clooney being his usual self. The film was made for me by Vera Farmiga.

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