Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Impossible: Possibly the Best Film I've Seen in a LONG Time

The Impossible Naomi Watts and Tom Holland

             See The Impossible.  See it now.  It is the kind of moving, transformative story that most films wish they were.  The fact that this film didn't sweep the Oscars makes me all the more removed from them.  Naomi Watts stars as Maria, the matriarch of a family of three young boys and wife to Ewan McGregor's Henry.  The family takes a vacation to Thailand, all the while fretting over life at home.  Two days into their vacation, their world is crushed as the tsunamis strike.  With staggering realness, the film follows Maria and her older son Lucas (Tom Holland) as they fight through the flood and debri.  Maria is extremely wounded and must rely on her young son to take care of her.  Lucas (Tom Holland) goes from boy to man as he literally carries is mother up a tree, drags her to a hospital, and tends to the wounded and lost.  Don't get me wrong, Watts deserved an Oscar for her performance as Maria, but man did Holland carry the film.  His perspective and growth is what holds the audience in a suspension of hope. His relationship with his mother is the force of the film. The fact that he didn't even get a Best Actor or even Best Supporting Actor nod is ridiculous.

           While I won't spoil the film entirely, I will say it is based on a true story and is both tragic and beautiful.  Every part of the film reveals the ugliness and beauty of the humanity with such potency as the family fights to find each other once again. I was beyond affected by The Impossible, whose name in part comes from a line in the film about the wonderful and impossible mystery of knowing which of the shining stars are dead and which are still living.  Their lights all still burn.  In this film of disaster and survival, there couldn't be a better metaphor.  Watch the movie, listen to the fantastic soundtrack, and witness The Impossible.

Doctor Who: Monks and Motorbikes are Cool

Doctor Who The Bells of Saint John

           Doctor Who fans rejoice.  The Doctor is back, and we have yet another strange thing to be afraid of.  This time, The Doctor battles malicious wi-fi which sucks you into an eternal cloud if you click on it.  Along the way he meets Clara, a modern nanny who wants to travel the world but stays where she is out of love for the family, who lost their mom.  Clara isn't as she seems, as Whovians know.  The Doctor has already met different versions of her, and in both stories Clara dies.  Well, not this time.  Using wit and a smidge of computer hacking skills, the Doctor saves himself a new companion and sets up the second half of the season as a great way to introduce the mystery of who Clara is.  It's refreshing to have a mysterious character other than The Doctor.  Jenna Louise Coleman is more than equipped to play the next companion. I only hope that Matt Smith stays on for a while longer.  Rumors are swirling about a departure next year.  For now though, Whovians rejoice, for monks, bowties, Jenna Louise Coleman and Matt Smith are all cool. Geronimo season 7! Get ready for the next chapter!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Television Marathons: Burn Less Calories, More Brain Cells

Deep in Phase 4 of Television Marathoning

         Watching television shows is no longer a sprint followed by weeks of waiting.  Now days, thanks in huge part to Netflix and Hulu instant streaming along with the occasional box set, we can blissfully marathon through seasons of television in days.  Is it healthy?  Maybe not.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely!  Yes, I will warn you there are side effects.  People tend to speak in slightly affected accents and expect footmen after barrelling through three seasons of Downton Abbey.  If you start watching Community you'll find yourself inserting "Troy and Abed in the morning" into inappropriate situations.  Catch vampire fever and cram three seasons of Vampire Diaries then try not to sound you're thirteen when you tell everyone, "No seriously, it's not cheesy.  It's one of the best shows of television."  Speed through Scandal and your sudden overconfidence will cause you to start giving Olivia Pope style speeches about how equipped you are to handle any and everything.  Sure, you'll sound insane when you start ranting to all your friends about the smoke monster, but you'll be blissfully unaware because you'll be deep in Phase 4 obsession of your show.

         That brings me to The Phases of Television Gorging:

Phase 1: Watch episode one of a series with many, many episodes.  The pilot intrigues/amazes/or at least peaks your interest.

Phase 2:  You "accidentally" watch six episodes in a row, only stopping when absolutely necessary.

Phase 3:  You confuse real life with the show.  This means when characters inevitably die/betray each are unreasonably devastated.  Ugly crying and anger soon follow.

Phase 4:  You're beyond saving, so deeply invested in the series your priorities have shifted.  Sleep is overrated, you have to find out what happens to Amy and The Doctor as they battle the Weeping Angels.  You cannot sleep when Sydney Bristow may have finally destroyed SD6.  They need you.

Phase 5:  The show ends.  You cannot move on.  Your life is confusing to you.  The show either completed, was canceled, or there are no new episodes except for on actual television.  Nothing is as it was.  (If said show is Sherlock, you curse the calender and wait, wait, wait.)

Phase 6:  You find a new show to consume in giant bites.  Rinse and repeat, let the phases start again.  Sunlight and real life are overrated anyhow.

           Don't be ashamed.  While we all must live in the real world and venture into the outside world, for those random stay-cations or lazy weekends, give in to the call.  Press play on episode 1.  If you don't like it, just pick another show!

         Looking for a show to marathon through? I'm considering The West Wing for myself, so that I'll start speaking unnaturally fast.  A quick list of shows I'd recommend include:


1.  Lost -It remains one of the most profoundly moving shows on television.  It valued characters even more than its elaborate plot and inspired a new wave of television.

2.  Doctor Who-I am all about spreading this wonderful gem from the U.K. about a clever, silly, and sometimes tragic time traveling alien who saves the earth and shows us what it means to be human.  Don't start at episode 1.  Watch Blink first, then jump in at Season 5 (Trust Me, Doctor Who regenerates and reinvents, it is a good place to start).  When you get hooked, you'll go back and watch Seasons 1-4 of the reboot, and maybe even the old school episodes (Doctor Who turns 50 this year).


3.  Alias-Created by the mastermind of Lost, Alias follows the very lovable, but fierce Syndey Bristow (Jennifer Gardner) as she takes down the organization she thought was the CIA by playing a double agent.  Part spy thriller, part story of friendship and love, Alias is well worth a marathon.  The pilot is genius.  One of the best pilots, period.


4.  Scandal-Just watch it.  The hype is not a joke.


5.  Sherlock- This British show stars Benedict Cumberbatch (the new villain in Star Trek Into Darkness) as Sherlock and Martin Freeman (Bilbo) as John in a modern spin on Sherlock Holmes.  Beyond smart, this show is easy to watch, considering as there are only 6 episodes.  Each one is like a film.  Watch it and then wait in earnest for season 3.

Friday Night Lights

6.  Friday Night Lights- I need to marathon through this one.  I've seen many of the episodes, but never managed to see them all in order.  You don't have to love football to obsess over this very heartfelt show.

The Vampire Diaries

7.  Vampire Diaries- Surprise yourself by how good this show is.  I dare you.


8.  Community- Last summer, I watched all the episodes available and LOVED IT ALL.  A comedy with the chops to have video game , D&D, paintball, and even cartoon themed episode is worth a view.  Without being cloying, it makes you laugh and cry.

Downton Abbey

9.  Downton Abbey- In marathon form, you will become beyond obsessed with the sometimes trivial, but weirdly entertaining world of the wealthy Brits.  If you've already seen the episodes and are going through withdraw, watch Call the Midwife.  I recently watched the 6 episode first season in a few days.

Once Upon a Time

10.  Once Upon a Time- While the second season has been mixed, the first season of the show is very addictive when watched in a few days.

Game of Thrones

11. Game of Thrones- Way better to watch in marathon.

The Pillars of the Earth

12.  The Pillars of the Earth and World at End- Both ten part miniseries which will suck you into royal and church intrigue before you can help yourself.


13. Firefly- Just watch it.  One season of awesomeness.  No excuse.  Do it.  I ended up watching the show in a day and the movie the next.

The IT Crowd

14. The IT Crowd- British comedy at its best.  I can still re-watch this show many times over and love it.

          There's so many more out there.  Everything from Veronica Mars to Cougar Town.  Happy watching!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Anna Karenina: Fluffy Pastry Pagentry

Anna Karenina

          You know when you are describing something, and you're not sure you want to call it strictly bad or good, and so instead you select the slightly prickly "interesting" as the best word to convey how you feel about said something.? Well today, after watching Joe Wright's adaption of Anna Karenina, I choose "interesting" as the way to describe it.  In this Anna Karenina, Keira Knightly, playing a paranoid, much less sympathetic version of her character in The Duchess, is in a loveless (on her part) marriage and seeks the excitement and attention of an affair with a young military man.  The problem of course, is that the affair ruins lives and hurts people, not that Anna really notices.  She comes across rather horribly.

       Depicted in a movie within a theater for large portions, Anna Karenina comes across as all glossy gimmicks and glittery pageantry with few moments of clarity and character and relationship development. As a viewer, you are given very shallow portraits of scenes.  Sure I could see that Anna's life was like a stage and the idea of her always being watched was a metaphor, but all in all the gimmick detracted and distracted from the human side of the story.

          The true redeeming portion of the film follows a young land owner (Domhnall Gleeson) who discovers the true meaning and nature of  love.  Many of his scenes are free in nature and much more soulful.  Joe Wright, who once directed Pride and Prejudice, is capable of so much beauty and soul.  Why then, did he create something with about as much depth as a fluffed pastry?  Instead of beauty and soul we got pretty and  showy.

          I wouldn't say I disliked the film altogether.  Instead, I enjoyed it the way one might enjoy a small pastry.  It was pretty and partly good (all due to Domhnall Gleeson, who you may know as Bill from Harry Potter), but it just didn't fill me up.  I did enjoy the bit of Matthew Macfadyen playing Anna's brother, if only because it was such a departure from his role as Mr. Darcy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness is "Better...Than Everything"

Star Trek Into Darkness 

               An international trailer for the highly anticipated Star Trek Into Darkness is out.  Watch it here to make guesses about which baddie Benedict Cumberbatch is playing and witness the destruction he unleashes on a future earth.  According to the trailer, it seems that Cumberbatch's character is a top agent who feels wronged by Star Fleet commanders.  Either way, he seems rather high on the bad guy scale as he says, "I will walk over your cold corpses," and "I am everything."  (Is there any creepier alliteration than "cold corpses," said in an intense British accent?)

            Perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch's character will make Star Trek Into Darkness everything.  I am more excited for this movie than any other this year, that much is certainly true.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Mindy Project Project

The Mindy Project

             The Mindy Project had a bit of a rough start.  In the beginning, it couldn't quite figure out what it was, shifting between work comedy, romantic comedy, and something in-between.  Comedies take time to really develop their characters and brand of humor, but man has Mindy Kaling's The Mindy Project become amazing.  It's now consistently funny, with goofy and endearing stories and characters.  Luckily, it's managed to stick around despite non-gargantuan ratings.  If you haven't watched The Mindy Project or given the comedy a second chance, it's your assignment.  Get it done stat. You'll regret it if you come in too late to this hilarious hodgepodge of a show.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful Review

Oz the Great and Powerful

            In the flood of fantasy-adventure films, Oz the Great and Powerful stands out with its flawed title character, endearing sidekicks, and plotting witches.  With respect and love for The Wizard of Oz, the film moves quickly, keeping the characters and plot tight and engrossing.  In short, the movie never dragged or dulled.  Visually stunning, Oz the Great and Powerful, unlike the poor Tin Man,  possesses a heart, which is more than most films of its nature can boast of.

          To his credit, James Franco does a fine job as the con-man from Kansas with a wicked smile and a heart deeper than it appears. You root for his character to mature and learn.  I don't wish to spoil the fun with the witches, though I will say that Michelle Williams carries her role with flair.  As a side, Zach Braff 's monkey was fantastic.  He should churn out animation characters all the time.

          All and all, I'd say hop on the tornado and take a trip to Oz the Great and Powerful.  If you're anything like the kid who sat a row in front of me, you'll have quite a ride.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Divergent Casts Four

              Divergent, the movie adaption of Veronica Roth's young adult series, has found its Four.  Four, the soulful main character opposite of Tris (Shailene Woodley), will be played by Theo James.  James currently stars in CBS's Golden Boy and is probably most remembered for playing a young man with an untimely end in Downton Abbey.  Like The Hunger Games, Divergent has cast many notable actors including Kate Winslet. In a world full of "just like Hunger Games", Divergent stands out as a unique story on its own.  Tobias "Four" is a fan favorite in the series.  While I was surprised by the casting, I cannot really pass any judgement  Here's hoping he does the role justice.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Veronica Mars and the Maybe Movie in the Making

Veronica Mars and the Maybe Movie

          Though never a huge hit, Veronica Mars now boasts cult following which includes its creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell.  Veronica Mars was a show that ran for three years and featured a teen sleuth with sass and spunk to spare.  Since it ended abruptly in 2007, there have been many rumblings about the possibility of a movie.  Most of those rumblings ended sadly, with no movie in sight.  That may change now, thanks to Kickstarter, a way that Rob Thomas and crew are raising money for the film.  Veronica Mars must receive at least 2 million dollars in the next month to get the green light.  If this idea is successful, not only will we get a great movie (if you've seen the show, you know it'll be great), but we also may gain a revolutionary new way to influence entertainment.  Somewhere out there, a Firefly fan is already plotting, I promise you that.
         To donate, check out this sight here.  Already the donation amount is up to over one million dollars, which is a huge boost from earlier in the day.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Vampire Diaries Burns

Elena about to burn.

          After a conversation with another Vampire Diaries loving fan (sister shout-out), I had to finally post a quick reaction to the shake-up in the past few episodes.  Spoiler alert to those not yet caught up.  Jeremy really is dead and Elena, the heart, soul, and compassion of the show burned down her life, her memories, and even her house.  It was painful on many levels.  Elena has lost everyone close to her: Father, Mother, Real Father, Brother, Aunt, and even Alaric.  She and Meredith Grey could exchange horror stories, truly. Still, for her to burn down the center of all of her human moments, it was painful.

         Here is my concern. Elena burned her past and turned off her humanity.  If the heart of the show loses her heart, what happens to the show?  I appreciate the depths Vampire Diaries takes its characters and its ability to spin good and bad characters.  Still, what happens to the heartbeat of the show?  Perhaps Caroline will step it up even more than she already has, though personally, I'd prefer Caroline spend more time with Klaus.  Maybe Matt, the tenderhearted human will fill the void.  All I know is that Vampire Diaries better get on track.  I liked vampire Elena, but Elena without humanity, that's another story.  She may as well be Katherine.