Wednesday, July 29, 2009

500 Days of Summer

Are there enough joyous, happy, wonderful adjectives to describe 500 Days of Summer? This movie was funny, touching, had an adorable cast, a kick-ass soundtrack and a musical number! Forget Harry Potter; this is the summer movie that has it all.

Zooey Deschanel is taking over as the new indie Parker Posey. Her lipid blue eyes and kewpie doll pout demands that you look at her every time she’s on screen. It’s almost like no other actor could compete with her until…Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He has a tour-de-force performance here as the poor lovesick shlub to Deschanel’s free-spirited nymph.

The narrator tells us from the beginning that the story of Tom and Summer is not going to be a happy one, but the ride is still enjoyable.

We watch as Tom (Gordon-Levitt) tries to win Summer (Deschanel) over to be as madly in love with him as he is with her. This seems like a lost cause, as Summer is as free-spirited as her names implies. She doesn’t believe in love at first sight, marriage, or soul-mates. She’ll never be able to give Tom what he needs or wants in a relationship, but that doesn’t keep him from trying to convert her.

This is really Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s movie. If his character comes off as too much of a loser, he’ll just be pathetic to the audience. Instead, Tom is funny, smart and the new person I want to keep in my hip pocket. He’s the kind of guy you want to fix up with your friends because he’s so sweet. He’s so into Summer, and the fact that she’s distant makes him want her all the more. In typical fashion, if she was as available as he wanted, he probably wouldn’t be as obsessed.

We watch as their relationship jumps around from day 1 to day 260 and all across the board. We see good times and bad times. We see scenes of their relationship that we don’t understand at first, but then as the other days build, or we are glimpsed to the past or future, it all makes sense. All the jumping around is not a distraction; rather, it becomes a well woven web, a kaleidoscope of when things go right in a relationship, and also when they go horribly wrong. When we reminisce, it’s certainly not in chronological order.

It’s been a long time since I wanted to see a movie again, but I’m trying to find an excuse to run back to the theater for another 500 days with Summer…and Tom.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Away We Go!

I had an independent film buff’s dream by seeing Away We Go and 500 Days of Summer on the same day.

Away We Go touched my heart more than I ever expected, and that’s in large part to Maya Rudolph’s understated yet beautiful performance. She is a wonderful actress that brought rich texture to her modern mom-to-be character of Verona. Maya can be completely goofy, as clearly illustrated from her SNL years, but there’s no problem taking her performance and her character seriously. However, there is one scene in which Verona is telling a bedtime story to her boyfriend’s niece. She’s talking through the girl’s stuffed frog, and John Krasinski is the stuffed crab; their comedy backgrounds are exposed because both their voices had me in hysterics!

This is a simple story about a couple (John Krasinski of “The Office” and Maya Rudolph) expecting their first child. They travel around the U.S. and Canada, looking for the perfect home to raise their family. The screenplay was written by the writing couple, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. These two are pretty hip cats in the writing world, and I hope they have more movies in them. Their screenplay subtlety touches on our definition of what makes a family and true meaning of love, commitment and parenthood.

Do not misunderstand; most of this movie is a complete crack-up. The family and friends they visit are one of the nuttiest groups you’ll ever encounter in such a short film. Allison Janney almost steals the whole movie as Verona’s completely inappropriate ex-co-worker, whose mothering of her two young children should never be emulated by anyone!

At first, Krasinski and Rudolph seem like an odd pair, but by the film’s end, the viewer believes this couple is the real deal, and you’re rooting for them to make it.

This film avoids clich├ęs. There are no characters misunderstanding each other, a scene that puts the pregnancy in danger and a false breakup just to have the main players dramatically reconcile in the third act. This is a quiet movie about a family finding their place and I’m glad this movie can find its place too. Amongst the big special effect-laden blockbusters and raunchy comedies, it’s a treat to see this well thought out, smart, funny little film going to battle with the big boys.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Song of the Week

Drowning In Your Tears – The Rembrandts
Hey, do you happen have the 1995 CD from The Rembrandts entitled L.P.? You might, because it has the theme song from “Friends.” If you do, you’re in luck. Track 5 on that CD is “Drowning In Your Tears,” one of my favorite buried treasures. It’s a shame this duo will forever be associated with the “Friends” theme instead of great songs like this one. You know though, the theme from “Friends” isn’t a bad little pop song. See, I talk about that more than the fact that “Drowning In Your Tears” is a great song. So go listen to this song instead. These guys deserve it. I know you have that CD. Don’t try to hide it. Furthermore, I bet you never even listened to the whole CD. So do The Rembrandts a solid and go listen to it. You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Brotherhood of Satan

Obscure DVD Review
You need to know a little background about my personal life to understand why I forced myself to watch this 1971 horror flick again.

I’m the youngest of three kids. Yes, that’s me, the baby. Sure, the baby gets spoiled, but often the baby must sit through things that they are too young for because everyone else doesn’t want to miss out. For me, it was my family’s love of horror films.

My mom loves horror movies. Even though they scared the crap out of me, I was told, “Just close your eyes.” This tactic did not work, as I would usually imagine far worse than anything on the screen. In 1971, I was dragged to see a little film called “The Brotherhood of Satan.” This film ruined me for years to come and set me up for a lifelong fear of dolls coming to life.

Please note that my dear mother is completely innocent in all of this. She was a woman who loved her horror movies and nothing more. She had no way of knowing that my baby doll would have a cameo appearance where she kills the parents of her little girl owner. How could Mom know? But the damage was done. My beautiful Drowsy doll who I loved so much, capable of such atrocities! As a four year old, I was scarred. I ran home and threw all my toys out of my giant cardboard toy box, took Drowsy off my bed and buried her at the very bottom. She stayed there for many years. I moved on to only owning stuffed animals, no more dolls.

Several years ago they re-issued Drowsy and I purchased one. I had to make my peace with her. You can see by our loving photo that we have put everything in the past. We’ve mended our fences and she’s paid her debt to society. Besides, she was possessed by the devil!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to watch “The Brotherhood of Satan.” I have not seen this film since 1971. Why would I subject myself to that? I rented it from Netflix and it sat here for months! I finally summoned the courage and popped it in the DVD player. Guess what? It was a pretty darn good horror flick. It made me miss the old fashioned scary movies where more was left to the imagination and you didn’t have all the blood and gore.

This took 70’s genre to the limit: dream sequences that seemed more like bad acid trips, sexy moms, the underbelly of a dark suburbia controlled by Satan, and a distrust of authority figures. It was all there, and above all, the story was creepy, but there was an explanation in the end. Our questions were answered, even if, in the end, it only posed more questions. At least it had more purpose than today’s theme of deranged-guy-who-wants-to-torture-people-because-that’s-what-he-does!

And as for Drowsy? Well, she did do some horrific things, but she was only on screen for a few minutes. Funny thing was, she strangled the family in the film, but in my experiments, her arms are way too short to capture the camera angles they showed. So you know what? There’s no way Drowsy did it. I’m glad I can move on now. Now if I could only summon the courage to watch the 1978 Anthony Hopkins film, “Magic.” I couldn’t sleep for weeks when the commercials for that movie aired!

*Update 9/14/10 Hi All! I'm currently participating in the Back 2 Blogging challenge with the SITS girls. Today we're posting something we wish more people read. This review gave a glimpse into my childhood.

The sponsors for our awesome week of blogging are Standards of Excellence, Westar Kitchen and Bath, and Florida Builder Appliances. Go check them out!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Song of the Week

The Driver, Part 2 – Terry Reid Sadly, I cannot find this song on iTunes, but it is available through Amazon on the 1992 CD “The Driver.” I came by this song from a compilation CD I had called VH1 –EZ CD. I have no idea who Terry Reid is, but a Google search showed me that this singer has been around since the 1970’s! This haunting song should really be in a movie. Why it hasn’t been snagged up it beyond me. This is the type of song that can enhance a scene to memorable heights. It has the perfect combination of staying enough in the background that it doesn’t overpower you, yet begs for a “who does that song?” vibe. It’s a hard song to listen to once. You’ll find yourself hitting replay and kicking back.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

This Says It All

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Song of the Week

Love Me In A Special Way – El DeBarge
I’m sure you all remember the family band, DeBarge. C’mon “I Like It” and “Rhythm of the Night” was fun, fluffy puff pop music. El of course was the obvious star with his sweet smile and Jerri Curled hair. El had a short solo career, but some good songs came out of it. “Love Me In A Special Way,” is a sultry little number that slowly grows on you. With added accompaniment by Stevie Wonder, this one is worth a spin.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mediocre Movies, Now on DVD!

Well apparently I haven’t missed much. Time and money prevents me from going to see all the movies I want to in the theatres and even my Netflix subscription falls by the wayside when my kids are in school. So once summer is here, it’s my movie catch up time. Except, I’m finding it difficult to find any hidden gems in the movies I missed the first time around. Even Richard Gere couldn’t add sizzle to the molasses slowness of, Nights in Rodanthe. P.S. I Love You, was nowhere near as cute and charming as the book. Definitely, Maybe was cute but frustrating and Ghost Town was just painful. The best thing to come out of that film was the end credit song “Heart of Life” by John Mayer. This is my new obsession song and I’ve now listened to it about five hundred times. I’m actually listening to it right now!

Through this sea of mediocrity, have any films proven be better than I thought they would be? Forgetting Sarah Marshall, was laugh out loud funny and it was refreshing – if not awkward and uncomfortable- to have male nudity for a change. Jason Segal did not flash full-frontal once, but four times! Surprisingly, the chicks kept their clothes on and I for one appreciated that.

Role Models, was also a fun, inappropriately joke filled, Paul Rudd love fest. Paul Rudd’s dancing alone is always worth my time. Seann William Scott had some great one-liners, Christopher Mintz-Plasse proved he wasn’t a one trick pony after his Mclovin’ fame, and Bobb’e J. Thompson is a tiny Eddie Murphy, back when Eddie was raunchy and funny.

I’ll keep trudging through this morass of films and letting you know what’s worth your two hours. I have to wrap this up now because I’ve listened to “Heart of Love” about fifteen times.What’s wrong with me?