Drool on the Frog

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: The Notebook *

The NotebookThe Notebook

Nick Cassavetes
Romance, 2004

I typically don't review movies that I consider a waste of time. It's not that this movie is the worst one I've seen in a while, it was just such a disappointment. IMDB has user rating at 8 out of 10. Don't believe the hype.

It was my birthday week celebration and I decided I wanted to see a chic flic. This is not my favorite genre of films but, since it was ladies choice, what the hay. I remember "hearing" good things about this film. Mostly from women, I think. I thought that was a good sign. James Garner is always great to watch so I thought I was up for at least some sappy fun.


We were into the film less than ten mintes and I wanted to turn it off. Boring and tedious come to mind. I think the only reason I'm giving this film even one star is for the actors. They were all good and well cast, but pretty much everything else was wrong. The costumes, the script, the editting... If you want concrete reasons not to rent this or if you want to defend the film, then write to me because this is not as much a review as a warning.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quickie Book Review 3

Eaters of the Dead - Michael Crichton

"According to Crichton's afterword, this book was written in answer to the assertion by an English professor friend of his that there was no way to teach Beowulf and make it interesting."

I checked this book out on recommendation by Bruce Bethke but I've been wanting to read it ever since I saw the movie, The 13th Warrior.

This movie is wonderful. If you've never seen it, it's a must. And it's much better than the book but Crichton deserves kudos in a couple of areas. First, I think he brilliantly adapted the story of Beowulf into something that's interesting and exciting. I think all students should read the two together. Second, I like the way he developed the character of Ahmed, an exiled Arab courtier and basically the narrator of the Beowulf story. You can follow his arrogant conviction in the beginning to brotherly respect in the end. He grows as a man and as a human.

Crichton wrote the book as if it were an ancient memoir written by Ahmed. This is an interesting idea but I don't think it adds to the affect of the book. If it did, I would not have noticed how halting the story was. All the footnotes were interesting but I felt like I was doing research and couldn't keep a rhythm to the story. The movie made Crichton's work powerful and beautiful.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: Little Miss Sunshine * * * *

Little Miss SunshineLittle Miss Sunshine

Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Comedy/Drama, 2006
* * * *

Richard: There are two kinds of people in this world, winners and losers.

When I was young I entered a few beauty pageants. My mom entered me in a beauty contest for redheads when I was five or six. I didn't place because I was auburn, not carrot-top. As a teen, I desperately wanted to get into pageants. I only did three because it was time consuming, neurotic and EXPENSIVE. Thus ended my short pageant career. Lucky me.

In Little Miss Sunshine, 7-year old Olive entered a pageant when she visited her aunt one summer in California. She didn't win but she placed first and was bitten by the pageant bug. Now she works on her talent with her indulging grandpa and watches video of Miss America pageants.

Abigail Breslin as OliveOlive's family is dysfunctional like all families. Name an issue and they are dealing with it: teenage rebellion, senior rebellion, divorce, suicide, drug abuse, bankruptcy, homosexuality, pornography. In the middle of all this, the family decides to support Olive by taking a sudden road trip from Albuquerque to California because the winner of Little Miss Sunshine can't defend her title. And we all know how well families get along on a long road trip in a broken down car!

I don't know if I can put my finger on exactly why I liked this movie so much. The more I think about it, the more thrilled I am about it. It has a fantastic cast. They expertly handle each delicate moment between darkness and levity. We recently watched Click with Adam Sandler and had a hard time figuring out whether to laugh or cry. He always looked like he was doing his bit even when he found out his father was dead. In Little Miss Sunshine Steve Carell, known for his dry wit and serious comedic delivery on The Office, shows he has more than one face. As does the fantastic Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding, Emma, The Sixth Sense and About A Boy). Not to mention Alan Arkin and, my favorite, Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, Stuck on You, The Matador).

As for the story, each member of the family struggles alone to achieve a perceived ideal. One by one their dreams are shattered. I guess it's just heart-warming to watch as they each realize they can have new dreams and a better chance at accomplishing them together.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Quickie Book Review 2

The Devil Wears Prada - by Lauren Weisberger

The love and fascination with this book has to do with two things: the rumor that it is based on a real person (Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour) and the romance of high fashion. Although it is great to fantasize about how much slave labor you'd be willing to do to receive a free pair of Jimmy Choo's, without a story and likable characters, you can't make a novel out of it.

There was no point at which I liked the whiny and immature lead character, Andrea. I'm sure at some point I was suppose to like her, either before, during or after her servitude to the job "a million girls would kill for". Although Andrea talked a lot about what she was feeling and wanting, about the job and her relationships, it really didn't add to the development of her as a character as much to set up the plot.

I got only slight enjoyment out of disliking the devil, Miranda. Most of the time I was just appalled at how silly and unlikely all of this was. There's something basic going wrong if I'm half way through the book and I'm wondering, "When is this going to end?" This is about the same time at which I did figure out the ending and realized how far I was going to have to go to get there.

The Movie was a slight improvement over the book. They changed several things. I didn't like that they made Christian a bad guy, that Andrea slept with him or why she ended up going to Paris instead of Emily. But Meryl Streep as Miranda and Stanley Tucci as Nigel each have a brilliantly written monologue that appears no where in the book. If I had the choice between the book and the movie, I'd pick the movie.

"That's all."


Friday, March 16, 2007

Willa's Flic Pic: The Matador * * * ½

A hitman and a salesman walk into a bar...The Matador

Richard Shepherd, 2005
Dark Comedy
* * * ½

Julian Noble: An assassin without confidence is a horrible thing to behold. It's like a relief pitcher who fumbles the ball.
Danny Wright: Please tell me you know you mixed two sports in a metaphor.

Pierce Brosnan playing a smarmy hitman made this film very intriguing. I almost wouldn't have seen it if I had't of heard a decent review of it from our local movie reviewer, Mark Berger. A girlfriend had told me she "hated" it so I took it off my list. Mark Berger put it back on.

Julian Noble (Brosnan) is a very skilled, highly accomplished executioner for hire. He has all the benefits of a man with unlimited wealth and skewed ethics. Without boundaries or ties, he lives in a reality of utter decadence. But recently he is coming to realize the negatives of being completely alone.

Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear) is your average joe battling a life of hard knocks. His only son died and he's out of work and running out of options. For him and his marriage, a lot is riding on his shoulders.

Julian and Danny meet in Mexico City. Danny is there to pitch a new business venture to potential investors. His job, marriage and future rides on their decision. Julian has spent the day unsuccessfully trying to connect with people in his distant, distant past that might care that it's his birthday. Suddenly on this day, food, wine and women cannot allay this profound lonliness. Naturally, Julian and Danny meet in the hotel bar where many go to contemplate or forget their life.

I love the way these two men and their worlds are juxtaposed. Julian's absurd lifestyle is amusing until he meets Danny. Paired with the realities of a monogamous, married man who has lost his son, Julian is inept and repulsive. Next to Julian, Danny is naive and cowardly.

These are two men whose worlds will never mesh. But they cross at points each is familiar and sympathetic to. They help each other out, within their diametrically opposed realities, in a way that men who are noble and right can.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Quickie Book Review 1

Some of the books I listed back on Books Instead of Movies were really great. I'll save a post later for those. Others I don't want to spend a lot of time on so I'll post some quickie reviews.

The Da Vinci Code - This is really old news. As fiction and brain food, it was intellectually insulting. The characters are one-dimensional and inconsistent because they're secondary to the author's agenda and tedious sermonizing. There's nothing more derailing in fiction than preaching from the front row. I quit reading "The Lost World" when I hit an entire chapter, devoid of characters from the story, discussing the idiocy of Creation. If you can't convey your agenda smoothly in the story without preaching, write non-fiction. Others who have fallen into this trap are Orson Scott Card's Xenocide and the Left Behind series.

The movie
had a stellar cast who did the best job they could with the material. There were moments in the movie that were supposed to be serious but came off awkward and comical which, I believe, encapsulates the book.