Archive for the ‘Reviews’

REI Garage Sales

November 06, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Leisure, Reviews

Ok, let’s talk. REI isn’t always the cheapest outdoor store in the world, but there return policy rivals all of them. They have a 100% satisfaction rating & it’s a co-op. So this means that if we pay a one time lifetime membership (it’s like twenty bucks), then we “own” the place. If we buy something and for ANY REASON we don’t like it, we return it. It’s like sticking an ugly shirt back in your closet that you thought was cool that one dumb night. So you buy something at REI and in a day, month, year don’t like it, then take it back. Now HONEST people don’t take back stuff that they wear out but we are not all honest. I’ve taken back shoes after a year because the waterproofing didn’t work anymore. Another pair because they were too narrow. So 2-3 times a year they have what’s called a garage sale where owners go and buy the returned stuff. (None of which can be returned, and they mark it all with silver magic markers to make sure we don’t.) Two years ago we bought our first full sized family tent at a garage sale. The person returned it because it had a tear; the tear was an inch long on along an inside theme! We paid $50. It ran $350 brand new! Not bad. I’ve picked up $100 pants for $10 because the button fell off (did you ever hear of sewing?).

So today was the most recent garage sale at our local Tempe, AZ store. I arrived late and the hoards were out in full force. The October/November sale is always huge! Most of the time we’re looking for nothing particular and there are people who will camp out the night before. I arrive at 9:20 am and people walked around with huge hands of clothes, boots, and stuff. I always look for kid’s shoes because my child goes through sizes fast and warm clothes are always cool to grab in the fall. I found a pair of North Face pants for the wife that were missing a button but still had the tags attached. I paid $10.83. They had a pair of Vasque boots that inside the store brand new were $275.00 but the tag said they were returned because they were “dirty”. They were marked $40.83. I snagged them and another pair; the other pair of shoes were $14.83 and were just ok. They were newish and suede but obviously worn (some of the stuff were obviously worn well for over a year and looked it!). I figured I’d grab these shoes. I found a women’s watch in the bottom of a box. The tag said the owner replaced the battery but it didn’t work. There was no price. I shoved it into the boot to ask the price later. I found a $10 shirt that is usually $45 & several pairs of wool socks that were still brand new but marked down to $2.83 for my daughter.

The employees announced that today’s garage sale was buy one get one shoes, so when I made my way to check out the cashier asked which pair or shoes were the cheaper of the two. I pointed to the $15~ ones so he charged me for THOSE and gave me the $40~ for free! Way to go! Half way home I remembered the watch shoved down in the one boot. Damn. Nothing I was going to do then as I had a meeting but when I got home I tinkered with it. I figured I’d buy a battery and try to make it work. If it didn’t, I’d toss it. The thing had a nice solid band, large numbers (this is for my 6 year old so numbers are a must!) and a scratch free face. I pulled the pin out of the “lock position” and immediately the second hand started moving. Tick tock tick tock. Yep, someone was an idiot. The retail price? $175.00 for the watch. My price, free. But do remember I am owner and I really do spent a lot of money at this place. I appreciate the garage sales and always roll my eyes when people return things like $275 boots because they’re dirty or $100 Keen dress shoes because they “squeak”.

Shop at REI, pay a little more for the reassurance that if you’re gear truly does suck, you can take it back.


Rum Diary: A Review

October 26, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Reviews

In college I appreciated Hunter S Thompson’s work immensely and also enjoyed his biographical proclivities. Later Donna and I viewed Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and it was a bit out there for even me. The gratification of the adaptation never took teeth with us, albeit we sure do love us some Johnny Depp. Tonight I attained a preview ticket for The Rum Diary, a film we’ve seen previews for often. It looked like the story of a young journalist obtaining a wacky job south of the border. The trailer made it look somewhat hilarious, comedic, and off the wall. That’s it. That trailer is not this film.

The narrative is Thompson’s second novel which wasn’t published for almost 40 years. Depp, tied to the project off and on for a decade, plays Paul Kemp, a disillusioned New York “novelist” looking for something a little more idealistic and exciting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Much of the film is “auto-biographical” of early Thompson. The addition of Richard Jenkins as his editor-in-chief and Michael Rispoli as staff photographer cum roommate and friend build a well-balanced characterization of subtle misfits early on. Giovanni Ribisi, as the “Religious affiliate” for the paper, all angles and wide-eyed adds an air of Gonzo goofiness to the cast of misfits. Under weight with his weasley ways and wild accent, he over played the role a bit.

Once Kemp arrives in Puerto Rico he is quickly recruited by Sanderson, an American businessman played by Aaron Eckhart, and introduced to Eckart’s fiancee Chenault, played by Amanda Heard. This preternatural beauty uncanningly harkens back to the traditional beauties on the silver screen in the mid-20th century. Kemp immediately falls for her as he utters “Oh God, why did she have to happen.” Eckhart wants Kemp to twist and write about a new business idea to build up a neighboring island for his investors. Over an evening of supposed debauchery in nearby Saint Thomas with said investors, Sanderson, and Eckhart, the movie gets a little wonky.

As the San Juan Star, the Peurto Rican newspaper, begins to falter and Jenkins runs off to Miami, Depp erratically tries to protect Heard from the locals while Eckhart gets too quickly jealous of Depp (albeit appropriately so), but by morning’s light, Heard’s missing, Depp barely seems worried, and Eckhart is pissed and calls off his business relationships with Depp. For the life of me, I can’t explain where the final nightly climax occurred that led to the beginning of the end for a relationship that enigmatically and way too quickly developed.

I enjoyed several comedic scenes (including one where a 1960’s Kemp & co. take LSD), but they are short and few between – something the mainstream audience would expect more of. Depp’s performance is subtle, less maniacal and cartoonish than typical Thompson, and balances well with Respell and Ribisi albeit the narrative ebbs and flows way to quickly across the islands to appease a mainstream audience.

While I argue for an appreciation of the film and immensely enjoyed Depp’s performance, loved watching Heard on screen, and respected Robinson’s vision as both screenplay writer and director, the film doesn’t deliver satisfying motivation, development, or resolution. Fans of Thompson’s work will applaud the film, but I doubt the vision of the trailer and how that same narrative plays out on the big screen and the audiences interpretation of the farce will unfortunately be anathemized.

Sorry but photo “borrowed” from

127 Hours: The Little Film that could

February 13, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

When James Franco first came onto the scene, I didn’t think much of him. I remember when he was Peter Parker’s love/hate BFF, and then later he impressed me as Harvey Milk’s lover in Milk. Living in the Southwest, when I heard of the true story of Aron Ralston, the canyoneer who cut his own arm off to save his life in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon, I didn’t think much of it. People are canoyneering and climbing all over the Southwest everyday; a person close to me even lost a family member who fell from local rocks. I’d been curious to see this one, especially with my wife heading on a canyon adventure soon.

In the opening credits when i saw Danny Boyle directed, I knew I’d see something special. The opening sequences with the highly saturated film appealed to me, and the attention to the details of what Ralston actually wore was done well. When Franco went out into the Utah desert he met up with the only two characters two are actually significant in the film (if you can call it that since most of the film is just him alone). I was pleasantly surprised to see Amber Tamblyn as one of the lost women he comes upon and spends a few hours enjoying a canyon dip with. All offer characters, including an older looking Treat Williams, as his father, are seen in hallucinations and flashbacks.

The flashbacks were done well and the balance between Franco’s plight and his memories were done well. Moreover, the angles Boyle uses, such as when Ralston takes inventory of his gear on top of the boulder. The only time the hallucinations bothered me was right before he cut off his arm and he sees everyone he knows on the couch watching him.

Boyle’s interpretation of Ralston’s isolationism bothered me because the purpose behind his lonesome adventures weren’t well explained. His past relationship with the blonde was fine but what caused her to leave him? Because he enjoyed being alone? Even in the stadium in his flashback, he felt alone. But it was never explained.

His cutting off his arm and fun discussion of getting a real tool (Leatherman, anyone?) rather than a cheap knock off headed the audience towards the natural conclusion. I would be surprised by the audience who wasn’t aware than he lives, and this film didn’t watch as if anyone was waiting to see what would but happen but more of HOW it happens in the film.

The angles, makeup and acting of Ralston breaking and subsequent sawing off of his arm were so realistic that I’ve heard of people who became sick in the theatres.

While the whole loner psyche and boulder metaphor, for me, worked very well, I was still bothered by the hopelessness of his situation (even after he escaped out of the canyon into a ranger helicopter), but Boyle wrapped everything into a neat bow for me with his epilogue that included a real life Ralston, his current wife and newborn, and footage of him continuing a journey of adventure — just this time with people definitely knowing where he was going.

The editing award could go to this little film, but it’s a little film. I’d be surprised if the Academy gave the nod to 127 Hours for Best Actor or Best Picture, As for score, it’s up in the air often but with Reznor and Zimmer on track to fight it out, Rahman’s nominee in that category may be his award. Same with Best Song, Rhaman’s up against Randy Newman. Good luck with that. As for me, Firth has the Best Actor tied up but Franco deserves all the accolades for this fantastic little film.

CC image posted by Digital Trends.

Oscar Review: The Fighter

February 03, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

The Fighter is a supposedly classic boxer film in the vein of Rocky or Cinderella Man, set as so many films have been in the past decade in the outskirts of Boston, MA. Dicky Ecklund’s, as a has been boxer, (played by Christian Bale), only claim to fame is fighting Sugar Ray Leonard and then dropping out of the sport and into a life of drugs and crime, while his younger half-brother, Wahlberg’s “Irish” Micky Ward, hopes to become the next welterweight champion of the world. Trained by Bale, Wahlberg loses bout after bout through the family’s negativity towards him. His mother Alice, played by Melissa Leo, and his plethora of high-haired, poured into jeans sisters focus on Wahlberg’s downfalls rather than praising him when he does well. Half of the time Bale doesn’t even show up to spar with Wahlberg because he’s off in a crack house getting high with a forgettable ruffian group. His career’s on the skids, and frankly, I don’t see Wahlberg’s character caring enough about that.

The Fighter

The shift occurs when he meets Charlene, a bar maid played well by Amy Adams, and asks for a date. Leo, his manager, immediately becomes jealous as another woman steps into her son’s life –not so much because he’s her pride and joy, but because Charlene shows Micky that he can be great if he can get out from under the shadow of his has been boxer brother and overpowering manager mother. Adams realizes his career is on the rocks and his own family calls him a “stepping stone” boxer, or one that other boxers use and knock out, to better their own records on the way to fame. She immediately butts heads with Leo and tries to help Wahlberg find his true potential.

While ultimately he does find that potential and does win the championship, Wahlberg’s Ward doesn’t seem to really care. There’s no high emotion scene between him, Leo, and Bale, nor does he have a major falling out with Adams. (There’s a minor bout between them when Wahlberg reneges on his agreement to stop training with Bale, but he doesn’t convince the audience that he cares to win her back.)

What makes this a great film isn’t about overcoming adversity or even Bale’s Ecklund’s fight to get clean (it’s less of a challenge to get clean while incarcerated than on the streets of Massachusetts), and while a non-fiction bio pic won’t necessarily have grandiose unrealistic scenes, this film does have a great supporting cast. Adams perfectly plays the lost-in-the-city, never escaped through education, bar maid who falls in love. Leo’s Alice comes off as the over protective mother who ultimately loves her sons too much, and Bale. Well, Bale dropped weight for the role, and literally became Dicky Ecklund. Having already won the Globe and SAG Award, I wouldn’t want to be up against him for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this award’s season. Leo and Adams are boxing it out right up there, too, with their nominations for The Fighter’s Best Supporting Actress award.

This film will take home acting awards and maybe a few others albeit there are other films in the running who are more apt for Best Picture (from the safe Kings Speech to the critical favorite of Black Swan or the lovely The Kids Are All Right).

The Fighter’s title is a misnomer in that general audiences may consider this a boxing movie in which the star wins some, loses some, overcomes adversity, and then makes it big. But this film isn’t about that, nor do I think Wahlberg, playing Micky Ward, is even the title character in the film. In some ways all the major players are The Fighter.

Oscar Review: Black Swan

January 30, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

When I first heard of Black Swan, it wasn’t yet the critical sleeper hit of 2010. It was an Aronofsky, whose work, such as Requiem for a Dream and Pi, I respect very much. It wasn’t the sunniest direction nor was it for the widest of audiences but it was a style that set him squarely as one of the best contemporary directors working today. Then we added the double feature of Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis to the mix, and who can’t win? Portman’s been in the business more than half of her life and has been a favorite of mine from films like Garden State while Kunis’ Forgetting Sarah Marshall showed that she could work outside of Topher Grace’s basement on That 70’s Show.

Black Swan is a ballerina narrative that explores the true nature of the ballet. The mainstreamed version of this ballet explores light versus dark while focusing on the light, while Aronofsky’s version examines the true nature of the doppelganger and sinisterness of the black swan. In the film, Portman’s work over several years in the company landed her as primo ballerina edging out the aging ballerina played by Winona Ryder. Kunis is the most recent addition to the company from the west coast (think contemporary, edgy, passionate west coast versus traditional, structured east coast dancer). Portman immediately finds herself jealous of Kunis and is compared to her often by Vincent Cassel, the company’s director. The relationship between these two is dichotomous in that Portman’s perspective of their relationship is fleshed out albeit the audience is never truly sure what is fantastical and what is reality as their relationship develops throughout the narrative.

The play on the dual nature of this character is demonstrated by Aronofsky through his use of dance studio ballet mirrors and Portman’s Nina who shifts between black swan and white swan through the multiplicity and separation of reflective images in those mirrors. Even in the penultimate climax scenes, mirrors are effectively used to demonstrate how this will all end. And it will all end as Nina’s battle to be both the white swan and black swan on stage will quickly permeate her life off stage, and with that Aronofsky has created a critical favorite that continues to build momentum towards Oscar greatness.

(CC) Nathaniel R

Oscars: The Kids Are All Right

January 26, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

The best picture nomination, The Kids Are All Right, fell under the radar of many, while, for me, it caught my eye because it’s a classic story of love, relationships people have, the rites of passage.

Nic & Jules are just a normal couple working and living in a relatively nondescript California hillside city with their two children. Nic is a successful doctor who met Jules when she came into the emergency room one evening. They have what seems to be a normal relationship with their children, Joni and Laser, played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson respectively. Until Joni turns 18 years old and the younger Laser begins to pester her. See, Joni and Laser were born through artificial insemination from the same sperm donor; each Nic, played by Annette Benning, and Jules, played by Julianna Moore, birthed one of the two children. Laser, who is going through the throes of male adolescence in a house full of women, seeks out something more. He think that something could be filled in the form of his sperm donor, played well by Mark Ruffalo.

The Kids Are All Right by Suzanne Tenner

Joni, who is now 18, is convince to help Laser hunt down their “father”, Paul, who runs a co-op nearby, and is portrayed as Ruffalo usually is – a fun loving, dorking yet handsomely attractive man desirable by the women who surrounds themselves with him. This should not include Jules, but the true conflict occurs when suddenly Jules hops into bed Paul’s bed. This key narrative plot is the bane of my existence, since Nic and Jules seem happy. The subtle undercurrent of wanting more ripples through both Jules, who is shadowed in her trying to start a landscape design company by her more successful doctor partner and Laser who is becoming his own man without a male role model. While this idea of infidelity bothers me in what seemed to be a relatively loving relationship, and Ruffalo’s appeal isn’t convincing, I do think this ensemble cast of these three talented actors pulls off a well-acted film.

Maybe that subtle uncertainty is what makes this film the quintessential coming of age relationship film. Benning and Moore’s relationship is more than convincing (notwithstanding their awkward proclivities) while Joni’s carefree, smoothly coming into her own is a nonissue as she prepares to break out own her own. Although the 21st century’s ideals of “marriage” and relationships in nontraditional families is played smoothly and without awkward societal reasoning, it still bothers me, a heterosexual male, that Nic so easily cheats on her wife and her family, while my lesbian friends who saw this film agree that Nic’s actions are their own hidden fears that they’re not good enough for their own partners simply because they are not male.

Ruffalo usually plays Ruffalo and this film is nothing new, albeit Benning and Moore shift convincingly into their rules; Annette Benning deserves her nomination although she is up against a world of competitive talent in the likes of Natalie Portman, in the critical favorite Black Swan and new comer Jennifer Lawrence the protagonist from Winter’s Bone. While I fear the Best Picture nod will not go to this little film, Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg have a better chance of walking off with the Original Screenplay award given it’s already successes earlier in the award’s season.

Blue Valentine: A Review

January 23, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Driving to Blue Valentine tonight I felt this anticipated nervousness. See, I was alone, going to an Art Theatre at night, and knew this would be heavy drama. I’d watched Gosling’s Half Nelson when it was garnering Oscar attention in 2006, and I knew that if this film came close to that amount of pain then I’d walk out afterward awkward and exhausted. I almost expected it, but pleasantly, that didn’t quite happen. It’s not that the film wasn’t heavy drama (because it was) nor was it overly dramatic (it sure did hit close to home as a married couple struggling to live with a young daughter, but the film was done well.

Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams

The movie chronicled the relationship of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) cutting between their initial meeting and their sadly married lives five years later. I know Gosling mostly from his art house films (others can’t divorce him from his work in The Notebook as Noah, the main love interest pining away for the girl), and he does not disappoint as Dean who begins his relationship as a high school dropout, idealistic full time blue-collared worker. In the later cuts in their relationship he’s gone from a young, handsome man with a full head of hair, good eye sight, and a quick smile for everyone to later in life when we see him as a painter, with heavy glasses and a receding hairline. The glasses work very well for his character, and he uses them to hide behind as a hurt man trying to win back the love of a woman no longer interested. His hairline leaves the audience imagining him literally pulling his hair from his head every night trying to find ways to relive that early spark that has left with his easy smile.

The film opens with him carrying the young daughter, Frankie, outside to locate their beloved family dog who Cindy finds along side the road having been hit by a car. Frankie is shipped off to Grandpa’s so mom and dad can bury the dog, and it’s evident that the death of the carefree family pet sets a tone for the film and decline of the relationship between these two trapped people. See, Cindy had potential. We see her taking care of her grandmother and trying to not jump when her father yells across the dinner table at her mother (a mother who later in the film is unexplainably absent –I assume dead).


Cindy wants to be a doctor, but before she met Dean she was in another relationship and had unprotected sex (against her better judgment and with a man she quickly ejected from her life). Dean woos her in his own quirky way with a night walk about in a nondescript town that suggested middle Pennsylvania (but was actually filmed in New York) where he plays for her the title song (which surprisingly has it’s own hype since no one in Hollywood can find its origins).

The film cuts between this new romance and the morass of late marriage; the camera uses warm, golden colors to demonstrate the heat of attraction early on while the late marriage shots have a cool, cadaverous blue tint. I was almost relieved when Frankie was ejected through the middle of the film but quickly I felt almost embarrassed as Dean attempted to solve his marital woes. See, he’s a good man. He works hard and claims that he only wants to put food on the table and hang out with his girls. What’s wrong with that? For Cindy, a lot. She’s fallen out of love with him, and Cianfrance (the director) doesn’t try to explain it away; he just lets it marinate. Dean’s not a fighter; he has a temper. He argues that he’s a good husband because he never hit(s) her (and I find it ironic that his nonaction causes her to physically hit him at the climax of this enigmatic anger) and somewhere Cindy regrets getting pregnant and not going to medical school.

Ryan Gosling

The sharp angles and close cropped shots in the film clearly demonstrate the caged, hopelessness of the marriage. Dean fights so hard for what he knows is right and, frustratingly, he only makes it that much worse. When Frankie reemerges at the conclusion of the narrative, my heart goes out to this man who is so good with her–a man who is forced to walk away towards a firework celebration exploding above the concluding camera shots; Cindy holding Frankie back near her own father’s house while Dean’s forced to walk into the distance. A question of future hopelessness or the inevitability of the dual nature of people and how the treat each other.

Update: Ok, I’ve had 18 hours to think about this film, and I’m annoyed. Dean never hits Cindy; he’s a good dad. He works hard for his family. She falls out of love. It’s heart wrenching especially given that he doesn’t seem to be blamed. He tries. He rents a room (with a gift certificate they have) at a motel where the only room left is the themed “future” room (that reminds me of the offspring of hotel room in Hotdog and all of the Star Trek movies put together. There he tries to reinvigorate their physical relationship where we see Cindy accept his advances; when he realizes that she’s given just her body, he stops. They both pass out drunk and in the early morning she is called off to work. She leaves him there, and the audience is given no explanation. He needs to find his own way home (two hours away). The theme of the hotel room, the “future”, is apropos, and there’s no way that escaped Cianfrance’s camera. I wish Dean ran back for Frankie, and I’m frustrated he didn’t. But that ending wouldn’t’ve worked. The hopelessness of love would’ve been lost in the abuse of a failed future.

Oscars: The King’s Speech

January 14, 2011 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

It’s back. Oscar Season.

Well, if you know anything about time, you know this time of the year is when I force myself to see as many Oscar worthy films as possible. I tend to review each one I see; this works better once the nominees are announced but if I wait, I’m dead. See I got a fam, too. A wife. A kid (too young to go with me!). I got myself a honey-do list, too. There’s always a few I’ve already seen pre-Christmas that I tend to not revisit here on the ole review blog (although I got a surprise from you, my dear reader, later. Can ya wait?), and there are always some I see early that don’t make the cut. Let’s hope this first one up made the cut.

King’s Speech. See, I could’ve seen like four different films today and would’ve gone with Blue Valentine (not sure if I can deal with Gosling again, but that Williams is a dream) if it were out. It’s not. So I let my friend Liza pick, and her mum’d seen The King’s Speech recently and can’t stop raving. So there I was. Sitting in a theatre with mostly people older than me, and a few idiots (who I heard after the film saying “who’s Winston Churchill?”).

My closest relationship to modern British Monarch knowledge is my cousin’s obsession with Diana and my viewing (and my review) of 2006’s The Queen with Helen Mirren. My knowledge of WWII is a bit better and I appreciate the historical implication on today’s world more than many of my friends, but beyond that I went into this film naked.

Colin Firth is like Tom Hanks for me, which means that people think he’s talented and I mostly don’t get it. As for Geoffrey Rush, I dig the man. Then there’s Helena Bonham Carter as (Queen) Elizabeth.

The film details King George VI’s ascension to the throne through Britain’s declaration of war on Hitler’s Germany. George (known to his family and friend, and throughout the film, as “Bertie”, as in Prince Albert, Duke of York) was known by his stammer, which frightened him to no end since his brother, David (Edward VIII) wasn’t necessarily the kingly type (played well by Guy Pearce).

Many speech therapists have tried to help Bertie and all’ve failed. Elizabeth (who in a very fun scene with Rush’s wife calls herself “Liz”) patiently searches for people to help her husband reach his potential. She finds Lionel Logue, a speech therapist , with his unorthodox methods (including forcing Bertie to meet in his offices and calling him Bertie in the first place).

The film itself is (even without knowledge of British history) relatively straightforward. It’s the challenge-meet the sage-fight lots with him-realize he’s right-become awesome-make wife and kids proud-save the world-and life happily that you expect. But with Rush and Firth at the helm, it works. And works well. Firth’s performance as this frustrating, stammering man who realizes the future and his own courage, would steal the scene, if he weren’t surrounded by two other of the most talented actors of his age: Rush & Carter.

Together, this trifecta makes the King’s Speech a two hour journey through a well-developed, emotional journey of a modern monarch. Throw in a subtle yet awesomely played Churchill, and Princess Margaret and (the future famous Queen) Elizabeth II playing at the ankles of the Third & Monarch of the House of Windsor, their father.

Firth’s performance is seamless. Carter’s future is that of Helen Mirren & Maggie Smith’s, while Rush continues the wonderfully eccentric performance, like his Phillip Henslowe. See this one. Bring a friend and pee first.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Firth & Carter in The King’s Speech

Up in the Air: A film review

February 11, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Movies, Reviews

Kendrick & Clooney

Clooney is Clooney. He’s good, he’s natural and he can act. I was hesitant to see Up in the Air as it just looked like a romantic comedy for him to bring home a paycheck; and most of the way through the film I still felt this way. Frankly, I only saw this one because it is up for six awards including Best Picture and two Actress in a Supporting Role noms for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Of course, it’s also up for Writing, Directing and for Clooney.

Sitting through a good portion of this film, I was pleased by the concept of single man whose real “home” is on the road flying around the USA firing people for a living and then Kendrick, fresh out of college, comes along to his company and flips Clooney on his head. At first she’s annoying, but she grew on me. I’d seen Kendrick in other things like (God forbid) The Twilight films and she was forgettable, but here, she’s good. Really good. Perhaps it’s because she plays against Clooney or maybe because she was given a role where she could actually act. I bet by now, you realize Kendrick, for me, is the shining exception to a ho hum film.

Farmiga worked very well as the love interest for Clooney, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her of look. There’s something just classy and traditional about her without being too usual.

***Spoilers below.***

But I did say, I saw these things through most of the film. Then we his the big climax and give away. What I liked about the scene where Clooney finally realizes his “love” for Farmiga and rushes off to her home (a brownstone in Chicago, much unlike his hotels and airplane seats) is that the audience doesn’t expect it. Seconds before he knocks on the door, I knew it was a bad idea.

As Farmiga puts it the next and last time they speak, he was her escape. She escaped away from her family to him while ironically she finally is the realization for him that he could be grounded happily. Beyond that Kendrick rushes off to pursue her real dreams with Clooney’s blessing, and his boss puts him back in the sky (played with some aplomb by a bearded Justin Bateman).

Clooney’s chances of winning against Jeff Bridges will be though since he really didn’t do much with this film other than play himself.

As for what it’ll win. We’ll see. Precious has too much hype for Mo’Nique to not be in the running, and two actresses for the same film make this problematic. Precious also butts heads with Up in the Air for both Screenplay and Best Picture, so personally I think Up in the Air will be grounded before the race even begins.

Had Farmiga and Clooney lived happily ever after, this film would’ve been as stale as a mid-America hotel room.

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The Lovely Bones: A film review

January 30, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Books, Movies, Reviews

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Daniel Semper

My name is Salmon. Like the fish. First name Susie.

Ah, and with those words, one of my most beloved novels has come to the big screen.

Gotta tell you that with all my film reviews, spoilers may occur. Deal with it. If you’ve not already read this wonderful book, go do it and then come back.

In 2005 I wrote a novel about a dead girl living through the lives of those still alive in her high school. A book where you don’t even discover how she dies until the waning pages. At the time, several people mentioned a little book to me called The Lovely Bones that I should read since it sounded like I was copying Alice Sebold. I assured them I wasn’t, wrote my entire book, and then picked up this gem.

I adored the irony of the conclusion to the novel and subsequent film, but I was hesitant to push this one towards my wife. See, my own daughter was just born and the rape scene before the murder still haunts me. I suggested that my wife never read the book because of that scene, and I sure have read some wild stuff over the years.

I had no idea how Peter Jackson, director, would handle this early scene, which, in part, was based on the author’s own experience in college. Fortunately, it was unlike my novel but anyway I still fell in love with such a wonderful book. After hearing it was on its way to the silver screen, I waited patiently. And waited. And waited. Wow, did I wait for a long time. But today I got to see it.

That rape scene? Cut out and barely even implied (and maybe I only thought it was implied because I knew the narrative beforehand).

Awards season is upon us and art direction stood out for me, to the point where it didn’t stand out which was perfect. There were a few scenes where I paid particular attention to the authenticity of the frame and I was pleased. The costumes (especially Ronan’s outfit) worked very well for me, and this “era” just worked for me.

People always talk actors when reviewing any film, and I went knowing that Tucci has been getting rave reviews for this film (and has been nominated in several awards so far). I didn’t realize quite how wonderful his performance was until he spoke in the film. He almost fell into the character to the point where I no longer watched Tucci. I watched a sad, depressed killer. He played it perfectly subtlety.

Even the subtlety of his lightened eye color, whose similarity to Ronan’s mesmerizingly pale blue, didn’t escape me. As for Ronan, I was lost in those eyes, albeit I’ve never seen her previous work for which she’d been nominated for an Academy Award. While Ronan’s performance here has the critics talking, for me, Rose McIver as Lindsay Salmon, Susie’s younger sister, stole the film. McIver began as the younger child like sister but after Susie’s death Lindsay matures into a woman, almost as obsessed with finding the killer as her father Mark Wahlberg is. Her onscreen transformation worked very well through the development of the plot, and I am eager to see her future dramatic work.

I enjoyed Wahlberg’s performance perhaps because I too am close to my daughter, Sarandon was hilarious as Susie’s boozy, chain-smoking grandmother but I never stopped wanting to shout “Damnit, Janet!” at the screen. Weisz and Imperioli round out the class. I enjoyed Imperioli’s role (no matter how small it was) but Weisz’s talents were terribly under used. Having seen much of her former work, I expected more from the role although I did understand that Susie’s mother’s healing required her to fall into herself.

I agree with the critics that Peter Jackson could’ve done more with the film and the special effects were well done (more than half of the film was a blue screened Susie-styled purgatory) but the film, if nominated for an Oscar for special effects, cannot beat Avatar in this category.

As with any book made film the critics will lambast certain perspectives and lack of development, and my only concern really lay in the characters of Ruth Connor and Ray Singh. If memory serves Sebold gives more time to these two characters, and while Singh moves in and out of the narrative as Salmon’s almost first love, his relationship with Ruth and then Ruth’s posthumously relationship with Susie could’ve been more fleshed out. Here was my single disappointment with the film. Albeit Jackson’s subtlety of the relationship of the two living teens works well and did well to not overshadow Susie’s tale. Moreover, while the irony of Tucci’s demise is not lost on Sebold or Jackson, some audience will leave the theatre scratching their heads; hopefully, to only return again and again to see this wonderful film.

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