Random Factoid #159

3 01 2010

I have a new pet peeve of moviegoing, so naturally, I shall vent it here.

At the AMC theater which I attend, there has been a pandemic sweeping the halls.  No one closes the door to the theater!

This may not seem like a big deal, but when you hear the sounds of Taylor Swift and Reba MacEntire ever so softly while you revel in the beautiful silences of “Bright Star,” it is incredibly distracting.  I can now count the number of times I have gotten out of my seat in the middle of a movie (which I never do if I can help it) to shut the theater door so I can focus on the movie.

If anyone who has any say at AMC reads this, I am more than willing to have a face-to-face conversation about this.  We can do it by phone, too, if you wish.

REVIEW: Bright Star

5 11 2009

If you want to watch a big, sweeping, 1800’s English romance, perhaps you should curl up with that pint of ice cream and watch “Sense & Sensibility” in bed again because “Bright Star” doesn’t fit the bill.  Sure, you have gorgeous countryside and fabulous cinematography, but the romance between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) is much more muted than what one would expect.  In fact, writer/director Jane Campion has made a film that portrays more of their heartache than their amorous time together.  But the beauty of the movie comes from just that, the budding passion of their love that cannot bloom fully because of societal constraints and unfortunate illness.  And according to Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

For Keats, Brawne is literally the girl next door, but Campion makes sure that we do not mistake her for the stereotype that the term now bears.  We usually associate the girl next door with being innocent and straightforward, just the kind of girl to marry.  However, Keats thinks her a “stylish minx” (for those who don’t spreak pre-Victorian English, this he thinks she is quite the flirt).  And Brawne’s mother couldn’t be more happy with his disinterest in her daughter because he doesn’t make enough money writing poems.  Brawne also fears falling in love with Keats, but for a different reason; she doesn’t want him to have to give up what he loves to support her desire to design clothes.  Unlike most movie romances, their relationship doesn’t grow out of loathing, but rather out of amiability and friendship.  It is the disease of Keats’ brother and the sympathy that Brawne shows that brings them closer.  He then begins to see her almost as a muse, inspiring his best work yet.  Despite this, his friend and roommate Brown (Paul Schneider of “Parks & Recreation” in a performance that deserves to be remembered) resents her presence, perhaps as Campion suggest for his own selfish reasons.  The evidence is in the text that all the obstacles they faced only drew them closer to each other; Keats even wrote “I have the feeling as if I were dissolving.”  In an ironic twist, that which brought them together is the only thing that could tear them apart.

Campion wisely focuses her movie on Brawne, the character she seems to understand the most.  Keats proves to be quite an enigma, but Brawne proves to be quite a conundrum herself.  Sometimes her emotional swings, however, were quite nebulous.  Cornish plays them quite well, but I think the flaw comes from Campion’s script.  It wasn’t the dialogue that made them unclear; in fact, I caught witty, nuanced lines that no one in my theater noticed.  I don’t think it was the naivete of being a man that made her motives hazy because even my mother had to deliberate carefully on them.

Surprisingly, “Bright Star” is at its best when it steps away from the doomed romance and delves into the world of poetry.  Brawne asks Keats for poetry lessons, and rather than teach her to write it, he teaches her to appreciate it.  The sequences where he elaborates on why he writes are nothing short of sublime.  Keats tells her (and I quote roughly), “You don’t jump into an ocean to swim right back to shore.  You want to absorb the feeling of the water, feel the waves lapping.”  In a sense, the same could be said for Campion’s movie.  You dive into “Bright Star” not to see a movie but to immerse yourself in its beauty.  If this is your aim in watching the movie, the unhurried pace won’t be a bother, and it might even add to the experience as you find yourself encompassed by its grandeur.  B / 2halfstars

What To Look Forward to in … September 2009

17 08 2009

I guess this sort of serves as a “fall movie preview.” With this, I want to present what I’m looking forward to in September, what other might be looking forward to, and hopefully introduce you to some movies that you might not have heard of yet.

September 4

The movie that I’m most excited for opening this week is “Extract,” the latest comedy from Mike Judge, creator of “Office Space” and TV’s “King of the Hill.”  The movie stars Jason Bateman, who has been in nearly every comedy and yet I still have not tired of him, as the owner of an extract factory who is a bit down on his luck.  Also featuring a great supporting cast which includes J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Juno”), Mila Kunis (TV’s “That ’70s Show”), Kristen Wiig (“SNL”), and Ben Affleck, the movie looks to be truly hilarious entertainment.

Other releases this week include “All About Steve,” a comedy with Sandra Bullock and Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”), and “Gamer,” a non-stop action film with Gerard Butler (“The Ugly Truth”).

September 9 & 11

Opening on 9/9/09, “9” uses a clever marketing ploy to hopefully drive audiences its way.  But I’m not sold.  The ever creepy and quirky Tim Burton is behind it, and I have never really been into his type of movies.  The story revolves around nine CGI animated rag dolls living in a post-apocalyptic world.  Maybe this will be some sort of a breakout hit, but until I hear buzz from friends or other bloggers I trust, I’m not throwing my money at it.

“9” is the big attraction of the week.  Also opening is Tyler Perry’s latest movie “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” starring Taraji P. Henson of “Benjamin Button” fame, the thriller “Whiteout” starring the gorgeous Kate Beckinsale, and the horror flick “Sorority Row.”

September 18

There are several movies to get excited about that open this weekend.  First and foremost is “The Informant,” starring Matt Damon.  It takes your usual FBI rat story and flips it on its head, turning it into a comedy.  I have always thought Damon has a great knack for subtle comedy, perfectly illustrated in the “Ocean’s” movies.  The director is Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winner for “Traffic,” but has also helmed “Erin Brockovich” and all three “Ocean’s” films.  And the good news is that this is only Matt Damon’s first role of the year with Oscar potential (see the December preview later).

Also opening is “Jennifer’s Body,” which is the first film written by Diablo Cody since winning the Oscar for “Juno.”  It stars Hollywood’s beauty queen Megan Fox as a vampire who eats guys at her high school.  Her presence alone will drive every young guy in America to this movie.  It also features Amanda Seyfried, one of the bright spots in the otherwise disastrous film adaptation of “Mamma Mia!”  I love the quick-witted humor of “Juno,” and although this doesn’t appear to offer similar antics, curiosity (and Megan Fox) will probably get me.

In limited release, “Bright Star” opens, a movie consider by many to be a major Oscar player.  It isn’t the kind of movie that excites me just from watching the trailer, but the buzz surrounding it coming out of the Cannes Film Festival can’t be discarded.  The movie follows the life of the poet John Keats in the early 1800s.  It is directed by Jane Campion, writer/director of “The Piano,” and features a cast of nearly no recognizable names.  I feel obliged to tell you about it because many are sure that you will be hearing about it during awards season and also because so many people love movies set in the beautiful English country with tons of beautiful costumes and people.

Also opening is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” an animated adaptation of one of my favorite books growing up. Unfortunately, their idea of adapting it is taking the basic premise of food raining from the sky and destroying the rest of the original story. Maybe I will check it out for old time’s sake, but I’m not expecting anything special. The week also puts forth a romantic drama “Love Happens” starring Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) and Jennifer Aniston. And technically, the writer/director of “Babel,” Guillermo Ariaga, releases his latest movie, “The Burning Plain,” to theaters this weekend, but you can watch it on demand starting August 21 if you are that curious.

September 25

Being a musical theater junkie, I feel that it is my duty to push “Fame.”  The movie is a musical that follows a group of talented artists throughout their four years in high school in New York.  At a time in their lives where they don’t know if they have what it takes it to make it big, all the emotions appear to run high.  The movie features no stars. so hopefully this will launch some very promising careers.

For action fans, Bruce Willis is at it again in a high concept sci-fi called “Surrogates,” in which everyone in the world controls a robotic version of themselves from home called a surrogate. Willis plays a detective who investigates the possibility of the surrogates killing the user who operates it.  For sci-fi fans, a screamfest called “Pandorum” with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster (“3:10 To Yuma”) looks to deliver.  For all those craving a raunchy comedy, a little studio will try to pack you into “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell,” adapted from the tales of drinking and its consequences in the book of the same name.  In limited release, those who like the costumes of “Bright Star” get “Coco Before Chanel,” the story of the legendary fashion designer.  (NOTE: “The Invention of Lying” was pushed back to October 2.)

So, readers, what is your most anticipated in September?  Anything I left off?  Take the poll and let me know.

Until the next reel,