Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alice in Wonderland, Home -- Then Excuses for Poor Movie Choices

Houuuuuston for nearly 2 weeks. :-D

We sat in the second row of the theater, our three heads cocked back at an uncomfortable angle. There were 7 lbs. of diet sodas in our laps, and an aching urge to throw the 3-D, IMAX lenses at the screen, due to the unsettling effects brought about by the first few minutes.

Yet, they looked so cool that by the time we left the Times Sq. theater, we'd deigned to thieve the theater eyeglasses.

Thus was how we three (me, and two lovely Irish sisters) entered the land of Alice -- err, Tim Burton -- world of wonderment.

I'd only ever seen one other movie in 3-D, the wretched "Avatar," and I realized rather quickly, that had we chucked those shades at the screen, we'd have missed out on some of the movie's most awesome aspects.

The movie was brilliantly done, and I am certainly no across-the-board Burton-lover.

Some of the criticism I've read (couldn't help myself) calls it soulless or not true to the original text. These jokers chide Burton for his preoccupation for visual greatness, while overlooking a more jointed, sequential story line. These folks are fools.

There's no denying that Burton deviates from the original text. But, in a way similar to "Where the Wild Things Are," Burton (like Jonze -- who had Sendak's live approval) took a text with themes and tales so incredibly open to interpretation ("Alice" is an archetypal piece of "literary nonsense" after all -- so, in my book, nonsensical things should be interpretive) and embellished, but remained true to the spirit.

All that aside, the performances were fantastic, in every sense of the word.

Johnny Depp was awesome as Mad Hatter. From the previews, I thought we were going to see a repeat of "Willy Wonka," but Depp had more gravity about him in this role, which I appreciated.

New Girl, Mia Wasikowska, was beautiful and endearing -- one of my movie dates compared her to "what we thought Kirsten Dunst was going to be after 'Interview with a Vampire'," which was incredibly apt.

She also looks to me like a young Martha Plimpton:

Then, there was Helena Bonham Carter (as the "Red Queen") and Anne Hathaway ("White Queen"), and Alan Rickman ("Blue Caterpillar"), Crispin Glover ("Stayne" -- Knave of Hearts) ... and, Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry) -- pictured above. Cheshire was maybe my favorite character.

They were all so good. There were moments I felt like I was watching "The Neverending Story," "Beetlejuice," and several other fantastical movies I grew up loving -- except nowadays things come flying out at you from the screen and you feel like you can touch the leaves falling from trees within the Rabbit Hole. Awesome.

It was frabjous.

Monday, March 8, 2010

"The Yellow Handkerchief," Kristen Stewart

I've always known I can't walk past a movie theater without finding an excuse to duck in. Even broke as a joke, I find a way to rationalize:

"These old guts could use a good few days without eating," I think.

Yesterday, the excuse was to see "The Blind Side" because it was the only film I hadn't seen for The Oscars; only, it wasn't playing at Lincoln Cinemas.

So, while I was twiddling my thumbs round the theater, three very zealous ladies approached me and asked if I could take their picture in front of the poster for "The Yellow Handkerchief." I hadn't heard of the movie, and while I obliged their picture-taking (for near-on a dozen photos), I became intrigued.

"It's supposed to be an amazing movie," one said.

"I've heard it's supposed to be greeeeaaaat," said another.

When I waltzed into the theater they slapped my shoulder and said, "We convinced you! We're here to support Kristen Stewart."

I should've left right then and there; but, I didn't -- William Hurt is in the movie, so I thought it might turn out fine.

It did not.

This horribly disjointed movie made me cringe and get unwarranted goosebumps multiple times. That means, manipulative. I'm all for goosebumps and girlish feelings, but when you goad me along in your story, thinking I'm going to find some big pay-off -- don't play me for a fool, especially when you're taking my Ramen-noodle budget with you.

Premise: Brett Hanson (William Hurt) gets let from prison, and all he wants is to feel the free air on his hands and get himself a beer. He does so -- he goes to a local Southern (yes!) diner and sits down to some food and a beer ... but then.

He looks out the window and sees Martine (Kristen Stewart) getting into a tiff with her assumed-beau; then we start the flashbacks to Hanson's perpetration and things get a bit eerie. We see toes that are feminine and wonder if his wrongdoing was r@pe; we wonder if his jail-time was due to his primal nature, as they show so many flashbacks making us want to think that.

But, he seems like a good guy.

Then, enter "Gordy" (Eddie Redmayne -- who I haven't written about since "Savage Grace") who's his same unbelievably gaunt-looking weird-guy character; but this time, he's ostensibly trying to look after Martine. The three of them -- Hurt, Stewart, Redmayne -- have to deal with being alone (really alone ... think: post-Hurricane Katrina/Zombieland) for a few days.

The problems with the movie were plenty. I love apocalyptic-sensation, zombies, and non-linear timelines; but this movie didn't get it right. They try to trick you, but you're so bamboozled already by the close that you're predicting a sedate ending. Which is what you get.

Two big Grice-thumbs down.

The (Inexcusable) Oscars, and Cyrus: "It's Like a Crippled Tree, Reaching for Heaven."

Well, that was supposed to be a fun night. Sure, we all knew 2009 had been a year of movie mediocrity, a crime against our collective sensibilities. But, I'd been awaiting Oscar night since the turn of the year -- and, now I'm going to have to hesitate each time I fork over my $12 to see anything.

That was the most piss-poor performance of hosting I've ever had the (un)privilege of watching. In the past few days, I'd watched "Parenthood," "My Blue Heaven," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and "The Jerk," in homage to Steve Martin; I've always been caught up on "30 Rock" (for Mr. Baldwin) but, I even re-re-re-watched "Beetlejuice."

All those hours of being glued to the screen, just so I was sure I'd catch any movie-references and/or jokes that were going to be put forth on stage.

And, what'd we get? Nothing.

To jab/twist the knife further, "The Hurt Locker," really?

Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side," REALLY?

Perhaps the Academy of Jerks is waiting to give Meryl a Sidney Poitier-esque Honorary Award in the years to come when she's an old lady, but ... Wow, to snub her Julia Child performance in "Julie and Julia" to laud Ms. Bullock? -- even I, with the heart of ice, doesn't approve.

82nd Oscars, thumbs down -- just like all the sh*t movies 2009 presented.

(Disclaimer: Thank the gods that Jeff Bridges won for "Crazy Heart," and Cristoph Waltz for "Inglorious Basterds" -- else, all would be wrong in the world.)

To get our minds off of this travesty, let's watch a trailer I saw yesterday at the moofies. "Cyrus":

"What are you doing here in the forest, with Shrek?" -- "It's like a crippled tree, reaching for Heaven." -- "I will knock you out." Awesome.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Needed Winter Triple Feature: Third, Cop Out

When I was 10, I went on my first secret-date with a boy at the Dollar Cinema, the esteemed place which I've written about on this here bloggle many times before. We saw "Loaded Weapon 1," and I hated it. My next secret date was to "Blankman" (in the same cinema: we were kids and broke ... oh, how things have changed... [cough]).

I hated that one, too. I was a cynical little jerk, looking back.

I'm all for spoofs, irony, parodies, mocks, whatever -- but as a little kid, I had no time for it. I thought those rung stupid and too silly; I guess I was a tiny snob.

Because "Cop Out" was pretty awesome. Maybe my sensibilities have regressed over the years - or, maybe I've just been yearning for a silly buddy-cop movie and hadn't realized it. I thought this movie was pretty hilarious, and so refreshing for the movie environs we're given right now.

I went with a movie friend of mine, and we both entered with extremely low expectations. Over dinner, we thought if the food took too long, it might be better, in fact, if we didn't make it to the picture.

But, we scarfed down our nachos and sauntered over to the theater -- as we walked out, we were both still chuckling.

I don't need to describe the movie premise in any detail; it's Bruce Willis (as Jimmy Monroe) and Tracy Morgan (as Paul Hodges) playing bumbling police partners who are looking to take down some bad dudes. Within the first five minutes, we see Paul (Tracy Morgan) interrogating a perpetrator; his method is to use every line in every movie involving bad/good guys in pop culture to get the guy to squeal.

I was grabbing my guts from laughter, and testing myself internally to make sure I got all the references at the same time.

The self-referential stuff goes on throughout the movie -- and for someone like me - someone who tends to speak in movie lines because she's incapable of normal human interaction - it was so great, if incredibly stupid.

When we walked out of the theater, my friend and I both agreed that if you haven't seen every movie under the sun in the past 50 years, it likely might strike the viewer as too slapstick or off-the-wall.

If you are a movie geek, it's quite the little riot.

Ahhhhhh, Oscars in less than two hours!

Just saw "The Yellow Handkerchief" on my walk home from my best friend's apartment on a whim. Probably should've saved those 12 bones.

Again, for giggles, "Loaded Weapon 1"

And, "Cop Out"

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Needed Winter Triple Feature: Second, Shutter Island

Oh, Martin Scorsese. How my heart is torn.

After seeing "The Crazies" the other night, I steeled myself and looked suspiciously around at my fellow movie compatriots and wondered what airborne infectious disease I was going to catch if I ventured back into the theaters to see "Shutter Island."

I figured, "Go hard, or go home," and at 10:40pm, I certainly wasn't going home without a fight.

So, off I went. "Shutter Island" it was.

(I should give a disclaimer that I was one of those 14-year-old girls who saw "Titanic" in theaters 9 times back in the day, so DiCaprio has always been sort of a pet-idol of mine, not like Paul, but still, even when his career was waning. And, per Scorsese, I'm also a sucker for pretty much all he does, minus the "Cape Fear" remake of '91.)

Enough disclaimers.

"Shutter Island"

The assumed premise is easy: Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are two U.S. Marshals sent to an island holding the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a very dangerous and disturbed lady.

Once on the sequestered sands of old Shutter Island (near Boston), Dr. Crawley (Ben Kingsley, awesome) begins to put weird obstacles in front of Teddy and Chuck's investigation.

Oh, you want to access patient files? Hmm, I don't think that's allowed. At the Marshals' protest, Crawley and cohorts invoke obsolete chapter rules of some handbook that gives them seniority over even the most top officials' queries.

Teddy (DiCaprio) is given some pills; we have some hallucinations of his dead wife (Michelle Williams), some head-spinnery, and the appearance of George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley, who I hadn't seen since "Little Children"), the man that DiCaprio has a seemingly-rightful vendetta against.

Of course, there's the mysterious and creepy Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow), who is the man in the trailer who asks DiCaprio: "Going somewhere?" Yikes.

So as not to spoil it, just know that you get distracted by the staginess of the movie -- which is clearly an intentional Scorsese move. The allusions to the old noir-ish days of long takes and very-conscious camera glances are palpable; but, for me, they worked so well.

You get Hitchcock, "The Shining," and an awesome mystery that makes you remember the days of "Clue" all in one. I know I'm the movie geek, but ... even just writing that sends shivers down my spine.

And, by the end, I had the same feelings I had from "A Beautiful Mind" and "Vanilla Sky." As I walked out of the theater chucking my popcorn in the trash and sighing, it was the first time in a long while that strangers asked me if I knew what the true ending was.

That made me smile.

Thumbs up!

And, for sh*ts, "Clue":

A Needed Winter Triple Feature: First, The Crazies

Over the past couple days, I've managed to stuff into my very (un)busy social schedule three movies that sent me reeling back into the awesomeness of the 90s/early 2000s.

On one night, I saw "The Crazies" and "Shutter Island." The next night, I found myself clutching my ever-growing gut as I giggled at Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in "Cop Out." Yes, I willingly saw "Cop Out" and quite liked it.

I haven't had that much unabashed fun at the movies in quite some time.

"The Crazies"

Back in 2002, I'd just moved to New York from Houston and hadn't a friend in the world within 1,000 miles. I went to the movies everyday and somehow sauntered into "28 Days Later" as tiny teardrops eked from my eyeballs, wishing I were home with friends instead of alone in a theater. Yet, as soon as the Infected individuals of the movie graced the screen, I realized I was watching an effective zombie movie of yore; I relaxed and the world was right again.

Little did I know that when I waltzed into "The Crazies" this week, I was about to see the same movie -- and love it all over again.

The Crazies stars Timothy Olyphant (of TV's "Damages" and "Deadwood") and Radha Mitchell ("Henry Poole Is Here" and, awesomely, "Phone Booth") as a Midwestern couple, David and Judy Dutton, respectively, who are about to watch their Midwestern brethren become bloodthirsty human-demons with a will to kill.

It all starts off nicely enough. He's the sheriff, she's the town doctor -- both are well-revered within the community, and she's expecting a baby. David Dutton (Olyphant) has a chummy sidekick deputy sheriff (Joe Anderson) who'd just about lay down in front of a bus before his boss got hurt.

One day, the whole small town is watching a little-league baseball game, when the Town Drunk walks out onto the field with a glint of Crazy in his eyes, wielding a shotgun no less. Olyphant scurries out onto the diamond and admonishes the drunk to put the gun down; no one wants to get shot out on the green.

Well, that glint of Crazy gets Old Man Drunk shot dead, right there on the field.

After an autopsy, we quickly learn that the town drunk had been sober for months; there was something infectious in his blood that drove him to be a wavering, zombie-like psychopath.

When Mrs. Dutton encounters a patient with the same look in his eyes shortly thereafter, we realize we have a Situation on our hands.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I was a balled-up block of angst the entire time (blood, guts, gore, thrills, etc.), but there were some surprisingly sweet twists, and the dynamic between the three protagonists wasn't without some clever quips.

The only problem I had was my mind not being able to turn off the internal: "This is just like '28 Days Later," "Village of the Damned," "I Am Legend," "Outbreak," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Last House on the Left," etc. -- but, those are all good throwbacks in my book.

Next up, "Shutter Island" -- fantastic, and awful, at the same time.

"The Crazies" trailer:

PS: Any movie trailer that includes that "Mad World" music from "Donnie Darko" gets me every time.