Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vicky Christina Barcelona

Ten minutes into the new Woody Allen movie, “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” I relaxed in my movie chair and thought, “Ah, Woody’s back.”
I hadn’t been very interested in seeing any of Mr. Allen’s films lately, but this one had the allure of Spain and didn’t seem too heavy.
If you’re going for sexy, you can’t go wrong with Spain. It was also nice to see actual Spaniards, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, at the helm. Javier does a complete 180 from being one the least appealing characters on screen last year in “No Country for Old Men,” (remember that Dutch boy haircut?) to oozing sexuality as hottie painter, Antonio. You believe he could get women to fly away with him for a weekend of art and sex. For him to be able to carry off both of these roles - hey, that’s acting!
The message of this film is an interesting one. We are led to question our definition of monogamy and how to incorporate past lovers and current ones into our lives. You can’t help but wonder if this is how Woody wished his life turned out. An artist who needs different people to fulfill the many facets that makes up his muse. He most likely resembles the manic Maria Elena, (Penelope Cruz) as opposed to the grounded Antonio.
Rebecca Hall, as Vicky, is really the one to watch here. She’s whip-smart funny, has a natural beauty and transforms the most on screen. She has a lot to deliver as an actress if we’re to believe her “awakenings.”
Penelope Cruz is always such a joy to me when she’s allowed to be a Spaniard in Spain. I never quite understood her appeal until I saw “Volver.” In her European clothing and messy hair, I can finally see her beauty and abilities. When she’s all scrubbed up and watered down for films like “Vanilla Sky,” she comes off as just that…vanilla.
This was an enjoyable romp with a perfect cast, including Christopher Evan Welch, (The Hoax) as our narrator. The use of a narrator is so Woodyesque. It’s a technique that often comes off as tacky, yet Woody always makes it seem arty and useful for moving the plot along. It’s effective in getting us inside the characters heads without having to rely on one person to be our main character. In this way, a good Woody Allen film can feel like reading a great short story; a glimpse into the lives of people we don’t know and then, with no easy answers or solutions, we are left to dissect our conclusions over coffee.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Terrifying Television

What’s the most terrifying show on television? Is it a show on SciFi channel? Is it a new HBO or Showtime project where they don’t have to worry about network censorship? No. If you are the mother of a teenager, like me, hands down the most terrifying show is ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

It’s ironic how so many of ABC Family’s shows have disclaimers at the beginning regarding their mature content. This show follows the life of Amy Juergens (Shailiene Woodley), a fifteen year old high school student who loses her virginity at summer band camp and ends up pregnant.

The writers and actors do a wonderful job making you care about this girl. You feel her anguish and various stages of denial, panic, and acceptance. The casting is also pitch perfect in that this girl looks fifteen. She’s not all glossed up like the stars of Gossip Girl. She’s a fresh faced cutie that reminds you what fifteen looks like…way too young to be having a baby!

The other characters help round out a juicy teen soap-opera as we observe the diorama of high school. Miss Perfect, The Playboy, The Jock, The Slut, The Lovesick Puppy Boy and the gossipy best friends are all represented.

Initially, the draw to the show was the casting of Molly Ringwald. This is a nasty little trick which would ensure viewership. Naturally, all of us 80’s moms want to tune in to see how she’s doing. After six episodes the story has yet to shift much focus to her character, but the dissolution of her character’s marriage and impending grandmahood should give her something to sink her teeth into soon. As for catching up with Ms. Ringwald, I applaud her for looking like a forty year old woman. More mature, curvy and still fiery red, Meg Ryan can take some tips by seeing that you can grow into your cuteness without going under the knife or going overboard with the Botox.

This is a solid show worthy of one of the big networks, but these days it seems like you are more often turning to basic cable to find shows that go out on a limb. Time will tell if this show can have staying power. The impact of the situation initially draws you in, but you’ll need strong character development in order to tune in once the baby comes. For now, I’ll keep watching, even though I’m sitting white knuckled the whole time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kick back and enjoy the boys!

I can't wait till new "Flight of the Conchords" episodes start up again on HBO. Until then...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Netflix Snafu

When I arrived home from work yesterday, I expected my next Netflix DVD to be in my mailbox. It wasn’t. Oh well, I wasn’t planning on watching it till the weekend anyway. Then, today, I received an e-mail from Netflix informing me that they received my DVD return, but they are experiencing some shipping issues. I would receive my next DVD as soon as the problem was resolved and they’d be issuing a credit for my inconvenience.

A short time later, I saw a story on MSN about “Severe Shipping Issues at Netflix.” Now the concerns were about customers jumping ship to Blockbuster and questions arising in regards to what the real issue may be.

Can we just lay off? I’m guessing someone at Netflix screwed up. I’ve been a Netflix customer since 2001 and it’s been one of the best companies I’ve ever done business with. They constantly e-mail customers to track when DVD’s arrive and I’ve never received an incorrect DVD. Once, when I didn’t receive a DVD, it was no problem notifying them to remove it from my account.

We’ve become so incessant in our instant gratification, that as soon as there’s a mistake or problem, everyone’s ready to bail. That’s sad.

Let’s cut Netflix some slack. As companies go, they’ve had a pretty good track record. Unlike some companies these days, Netflix handled the situation well. They alerted me to the problem instead of trying to cover it up and they already answered my next question by informing me that I’ll receive some kind of credit for my inconvenience. Netflix stood up to their goof and I’m confident they’ll do right by their customers.

Oh, and guess what? When I got home from work today, my next DVD was in my mailbox. Good job Netflix!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing - Along Blog

What does someone like Joss Whedon do during the writer’s strike? Well, if you have an overactive imagination for shows like “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly,” you’ll probably gather your friends together and create a mock musical.

This was originally available free on the web and has generated enough buzz to now be available for $3.98 on iTunes. This will get you all three acts that run approximately fifteen minutes each.

It’s not for everyone. Strike that! It should be for everyone. C’mon, this is pretty silly fare and you should get off your high horse and laugh just because it’s funny. Neil Patrick Harris is Dr. Horrible, a wanna-be villain who has created an online blog. His goal is to be accepted into The Evil League of Evil, but his attempts at pulling off a truly sinister deed are often thwarted by his nemesis, Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame).

Of course there’s a mutual love interest, Penny (Felicia Day), a do-gooder who is drawn to Dr. Horrible yet unaware that he is, in fact, horrible. She is inexplicably connected to Captain Hammer however, because his superhero efforts keep having unavoidably positive effects on her daily life.

Everyone sings and does a respectable job. Neil Patrick Harris has become such a natural comedic actor. It’s such a delight to see a child actor make the transition without the drama and turmoil. And what’s up with his neighbor being named “Moist”? Is that a shout out to one of my favorite “How I Met Your Mother” episodes from Season Two entitled “Stuff”?

Okay, so this is light and goofy, but it’s nice to just enjoy a show without ratings and demographics. I think Joss Whedon has proved there’s an audience out there. It’s been a huge Internet hit and he has said that there will be a sequel. Let’s just hope it keeps the small-time charm and doesn’t become, “Dr. Horrible: The Movie.”