Behind the Bandwagon: Skyfall (2012)

Ditto.  Just ditto.  To everything ^.

Number one complaint: IT WAS TOO FREAKING LONG.  I mean, really?  I could have cut out 45 minutes at least, and nothing would be lost.  In fact, I think a lot could be gained.  45 minutes of my life would have been spared, at the very least.  Boo.  Hiss.  Not a fan.  And what a shame, too, since I was totally on the Blond Bond Bandwagon. 

Time for a reboot.

On the bright side, I’m excited about the new M (Ralph Fiennes, who has sadly retired his Voldemort garb) and Q (the delightfully geeky-hot Ben Whishaw).  Now bring me more change!

The Book Thief (2013) Will Steal Your Heart

The Book Thief (2013), directed by Brian Percival and based on the acclaimed novel by Markus Zusak, is now one of my top 20 favorite films.  I once again broke my own rule and watched a movie before reading the book, but in this case I think perhaps that is a good thing because OH MY GOSH what a sob-fest.  I suppose I should mention that I have a morbid fascination with anything to do with the Holocaust.  That said, it all makes me cry like a little girl.x  This was no exception.  So, DISCLAIMER: do not watch unless you are in need of some serious catharsis, or if you’re emo, or perhaps you have a heart of stone and just don’t cry in movies.  Do not, under any circumstances, view it without waterproof mascara.

Why is it so darn heart wrenching, you ask?  It tells the story of young Liesel (played by the marvelous Sophie Nelisse), a girl who is adopted by Hans (Geoffrey Rush) and Rosa (Emily Watson) in 1939.  She has just lost her brother on the journey to them, and is justifiably shell shocked.  Rosa’s brisk, no nonsense manner terrifies her, but Hans makes up for it with his soft, warm-hearted ways.  When he discovers that the poor girl is illiterate, he helps her read the little book she has with her, which she stole from the grave digger who buried her brother (because she’s a “book thief”, get it??).  After that, he creates a “dictionary” on the walls of their basement, for her to fill with the new words she comes across.  Soon, Hans, Rosa, and little Rudy, the neighbor boy who is in love with her, burrow their way into her heart, as well as Ilsa Hermann, the Buergmeister’s wife who shares Liesel’s love of books.  The film takes place in Nazi-occupied Germany, when certain books are banned, but that does not stop the fiery and courageous Liesel.  When a young Jewish man, Max, shows up at their door one night, and is taken in by the family and hidden in the dictionary basement, Liesel begins to borrow books from the Buergmeister’s house to read to him during his captivity.

Still not convinced that it sounds worthy of a good, hearty, 2 hour long cry?  Take care to remember that it takes place in NAZI GERMANY.  There is death EVERYWHERE.  I won’t say who or when, but people die.  A lot of them.  It’s very sad.  Trust me.  On the bright side, there are plenty of instances that renew your faith in humanity, too.  Which also makes me cry….so there you go.  Mascara all down my face, my hair glued to my cheek from where those dumb tears dried, eyes swollen and nose clogged.  It was that kind of movie.  But props to the German gentleman in the seat in front of me who turned around at the end and said, completely unprovoked, “Yes, dear, that was a VERY good movie,” before he stood up and left without another word. 

On a critical note, the plot was easy to follow and was entirely sensible, with just a touch of the fantastic thrown in.  The characters were likeable and acted to perfection.  The cinematography was BEAUTIFUL.  The soundtrack by John Williams definitely deserves its Oscar nomination.  Basically, I have zero complaints with the movie.  It gets an A+.  Why it was only nominated for its score is beyond me.

OMFG Moment of the Week

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JUSTIN BIEBER.  I can’t pick just one ridiculous thing that’s happened this week concerning him.  He drag raced in his residential neighborhood under the influence of pot and pills.  Just kidding, no he didn’t.  He fled the country when let out on parole.  Or did he?  There is so much speculation and gossip surrounding the kid that I’m just about over it.  I wish the rest of America was, too.

Warm Bodies: Just As Fun the Second Time

Warm Bodies (2013) can’t really be categorized under our Behind the Bandwagon section, because I’ve already seen it.  However, I can attest that it is just as good the second time.  Sure, you don’t get as many gasps and jumps, since you know they are coming, but you can further appreciate the allusions to Romeo and Juliet and all the heart that pumps through the film.

The film stars Nicholas Hoult of X-Men and Skins fame as R, a zombie who has not completely lost the ability to feel.  He takes no joy from eating people, but does so to survive.  He even eats the boyfriend of the human woman he falls in love with, Julie, played by Teresa Palmer.  Of course, Julie is terrified by R at first, since he is, after all, a zombie.  He wins her over slowly but surely, and the love spark between them proves to be a healing measure for the rest of Zombiedom.  But can they convince the rest of the humans in time?

Packed with humor, romance, action, and a few scares, Warm Bodies is an unexpected, and original treasure.  Sure, it’s based on a book like half of New Hollywood,  but it’s a slightly more unconventional book.  A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, set after a zombie apocalypse.  If you look closely, you can see the caricatures of other R & J characters, such as Mercutio (M, a fellow zombie, in the film) and Paris (Perry, Julie’s murdered bf).  The movie has a healthy dose of camp, but I think it’s doing it on purpose, and it works.  Best of all?  It has John Malkovich!  I give it a B+.

American Hustle (2013): You Can’t Con a Conman

American Hustle (2013), the newest film by one of the hottest working filmmakers today, David O. Russell, has been receiving a lot of hype lately.  Golden Globe noms abound, which will certainly lead to numerous Oscar nominations.  It is a critics’ darling right now, but surprisingly enough the Average Joe American is enamored as well.  Based on all of those accreditations, I felt I needed to see it.  Besides, with Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro, and Jennifer Lawrence acting in it, I knew I’d at least fall in love with the acting chops.  To no one’s surprise, I fell in love with the entire film.

The movie tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), a New Jersey con man, and his partner both in crime and the bedroom, Sidney Prosser (Adams).  After a successful string of cons, the Feds catch win and hold both for questioning in 1978.  Richie DiMaso (Cooper) cuts a deal with them, promising them no jail time if they assist in the capture of four white collar criminals.  DiMaso continues to set his sights higher and higher, as he is ambitious and wants to nab some dirty politicians.  They set their sights on Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner), a good natured and well-loved New Jersey Mayor with a large family and even bigger heart.  He has always been clean on the books, but faced with the prospect of taking money from a wealthy Sheik to be used for the renewal of Atlantic City’s casinos, he is forced to rethink his clean-only dealings.  As the plot thickens and very slimey creatures are added to the mix, Irving and Prosser begin to panic and must con their way out of another situation.  They develop the perfect plan, and the only thing that can ruin it is Irving’s crazy wife Rosalyn (Lawrence).

I give this film a rare A+.  I honestly could find nothing wrong with it.  It is full of intrigue and life, with a touch of action and violence, some politics, a healthy dose of drama, and a surprising amount of subtle humor.  It’s a gem.  The acting was perfection, and it was refreshing to see all the actors outside of their normal comfort zone (assuming there is anything outside of Christian Bale’s comfort zone…).  If you haven’t seen it yet, go!

Moonrise Kingdom: A Quirky Tale About First Love (2012)

Wes Anderson’s film about first love, Moonrise Kingdom (2012) is a delight.  From the moment you press play, you  can tell it is a Wes Anderson piece.  The music, the lighting, the costumes, and the quirky characters are all very Andersonian.  If you’ve seen any of his other works, you’ll recognize some familiar faces in this one–Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Jason Schwartzman.  But the real stars of the film are the young couple in love, Sam and Suzy, played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.  The two are misfits, hated and feared by most of their peers in their small New England town, due to their odd and sometimes violent tendencies.  The film shows us that they are mostly misunderstood, and not nearly as broken and lost as they seem.  After an extended period of writing letters, the two twelve year olds plan to run away together during the summer of 1965, and they would have succeeded had it not been for Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), and the Khaki Scouts.  The town is mobilized in a search for the wayward lovers, as time passes and a dreadful storm rushes near.  While searching for Sam and Suzy, the  town comes together and lessons are learned.  Meanwhile, the love birds learn more about themselves and each other as they explore their love in the most innocent and endearing of ways.

I must admit, I am a Wes Anderson fan, so I am a little biased.  I enjoy his quirky stories and characters, and delight in his slightly left of center humor.  Understandably, this is not a film for everyone.  I can see how some people would be bored or turned off.  This is my review, however, and I give the film an A-.  Film quality-wise, it is perfect.  There was just a little something missing from the story, though.  I wanted more from the adults.  Norton’s character was not fleshed-out as much as he could have been, and Murray, McDormand, and Willis were caracatures in large part.  The young actors, though, were all amazing.

Frozen: A Film Full of Warmth (2013)

Disney’s Frozen (2013) is a one of a kind magical experience for the whole family.  A wonderful mix of humor, romance, and adventure, this movie is sure to bring something for everyone.  A very loose retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” (my personal favorite fairytale), the movie tells the story of two sisters, princesses of Arendelle Anna and Elsa, who lose their parents at a young age.  Elsa has magical powers that allow her to freeze anything she touches, make snow, etc.  Basically she can make winter.  Warned by her parents at a young age to conceal her powers, she isolates herself from the world.  On her coronation day, however, she must greet her people and interact with the sister she has shut out for years.  When Anna announces she’s ready to marry Prince Hans, a man she’s just met, Elsa forbids it and the sisters argue, ending in a display of Elsa’s powers that shocks and frightens the people of Arendelle.  Afraid of herself and the reactions of the people around her, Elsa flees to the mountains and in the process creates an endless winter.  To stop her, Anna sets out after her, leaving Hans in charge of Arendelle until she returns.  In the process she befriends Kristoff and his adorable reindeer Sven, as well as Olaf the snowman, and amazing comic relief.  Together they must calm down Elsa and end the perpetual winter that has fallen on the country.

With a soundtrack that will you bring you back to the Alan Menken days of Disney, as well as lovable characters and a strong sense of girl power, this movie proves that the Mouse House is moving in the right direction under the helm of John Lasseter.  Although this is technically a Disney princess film, it harkens more to Mulan, Tangled, or Brave and less to Cinderella.  The heroines are not sappy damsels in distress, they are just as brave, strong, and courageous as the men.  Although in the traditional story, the Snow Queen is the baddie, in this the villain changes shapes a few times.  There is fabulous comic relief in the form of Olaf and Sven.  And for once there is a strong sisterly bond in the movie–a new move for Disney, and one that is much appreciated.  The best part of the film, though, hands down is the music.  Idina Menzel voices Elsa, and the songs managed to squeeze in a double dose of heart and sass, with enough humor for a hearty laugh.  For an example, check out Olaf’s “In Summer”.  Some other toe-tapping tunes include “Let It Go”, and the adorable “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”.