Monday, June 30, 2008

Week 49: La Vie En Rose

I was on the fence about renting La Vie En Rose until I developed a mad girl crush on Marion Cotillard when she accepted her Academy Award earlier this year. Remember her in the dress that vaguely resembled a tilapia filet? She was so lovely and unbotoxed. (Pay attention, Nicole Kidman)

If you're like me, you probably have no idea who Edith Piaf was. Conversely, like me you probably know volumes about Britney Spears. Sigh. I digress... Piaf was a scrappy street-born singer who became a French national icon. As soon as you hear the songs, you'll know exactly who she is. Her voice is unmistakable.

Piaf's life was a trainwreck of celebrity and tragedy. She's one part Eliza Doolittle, one part Ava Peron and one part stray dog. It's a charming combination. The film is really successful at showing us all the shades of Piaf's self-destructiveness but fails by trying to cram too much in. Example: in one scene she's being grilled by the police over involvement in the murder of her manager. The scene is never resolved or referenced again. We assume she wasn't imprisoned, but who knows. Also, did she have three husbands? Several lovers? Token gays? Or were they just managers? Who could tell?

On a final note, serious kudos to the make-up team for making Cotillard look so homely throughout the entire film. Edith Piaf was many things, but a looker she was not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Broken DVD Yet Again

We're on a bad roll with Netflix. We've been sitting on the Michael Clayton DVD for a few days and stupidly never removed it from its package. If we had, we'd have seen that the disc was broken in two. So, sorry readers. We'll have to play the waiting game with Netflix now on a new disc.

Stay tuned for reviews coming hopefully soon!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Week 49: Weeds Season Three, Disc One

Season 3 of Weeds! Watching this show is like finding a $20 bill in the pocket of an old coat – it will make you smile for at least an hour. There’s nothing too heavy about this show, it’s just consistently funny, despite Kevin Nealon’s bad attempts at acting and Elizabeth Perkin’s atrociously over-the-top character.

But I spent most of my time on this first half of season 3 contemplating my once beloved Mary Louise Parker, who plays the show’s heroine, Nancy Botwin. Maybe I’m still ticked that Ms. Parker offed her original nose on what was otherwise an unusually attractive face, but she’s driving me nuts this season. So much open-mouthed staring. So much frazzled mumbling and slurred reactions. It’s like she’s acting underwater or is just constantly waking up from a groggy nap. Here’s how I imagine the director coaches her in each scene:

DIRECTOR: Okay, Mary. Is it okay if I call you Mary? Or do I have to go through with the whole Mary-Louise thing? It's a bit much. Kind of makes you sound like a housewife from Indiana in 1940.

MLP: What if the color I call blue is really what you see as green?

DIRECTOR: Okay, um, I don’t know about that but I guess we’ll go with Mary-Louise. So in this scene, I need you to act sort of helpless, lost and vaguely stoned.

MLP: [stares with huge doe eyes] Obejwanot mmamburger.

DIRECTOR: Hmmm? What was that? You’re look is great right now, Mary-Louise. You’re really capturing Nancy’s trauma and shock. I’m just wondering if you can make your eyes even wider and doey-er? I really want you to look like you’ve just spent a night watching a laser light show set to a Led Zeppelin soundtrack.

MLP: Ingul volger handashery.

DIRECTOR: Are you, uh, are you having some kind of motionless seizure?

MLP: My thumbs are so big.

DIRECTOR: Okay, Mary-Louise, can I get you some coffee or something? Maybe a Red Bull?

MLP: Bull. Bulls. Balls. Bowls. Bows. Slurbyderber.

DIRECTOR: Can someone bring me a pot of black coffee and one of those giant needles filled with adrenaline? You know, like the one in Pulp Fiction? Really pump that sucker full of some serious shit. Maybe an electric blanket? Jumper cables? I NEED HELP, PEOPLE!

MLP: Bumbleduffer nyugen

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Week 48: My Kid Could Paint That

[note: this review has a fair amount of detail about the plot, so don't read past the third paragraph if you'd rather be surprised!]

Welcome to my newest obsession. I seriously can't stop thinking about this movie. My Kid Could Paint That takes a close look at the family of Marla Olmstead, a four-year-old painting prodigy whose abstract paintings fetch an upwards of $15,000 - $25,000. Jealous? Yeah, me too.

The hook of this story is unbelievable: a dad sets his four-year-old down at a canvas with some paint and lets her play. A friend who owns a coffee shop asks to put the paintings up...a gallery owners spots one and expresses interest...a local journalist writes a story on Marla...the New York Times picks up the walks journalists and art critics from all over the world and suddenly Marla is famous and her work is flying off the shelves.

For the first thirty minutes of the film, you are amazed at how unbelievable this child is. And then the ball drops when a 60 Minutes expose suggests very strongly that Marla's father might be doing the paintings or at the very least, touching them up to give them more polish.

They filmed Marla completing a painting and it truly doesn't resemble the quality level of her other paintings. Even a second painting she completes while on camera -- her parents' attempt to disprove her critics -- looks markedly more childlike and amateur than her gallery work.

It raises a lot of intriguing questions about the value of abstract art: if the art is really good, should its value be changed no matter if a 4-year-old or a 40-year-old painted it? Roll that one around in your noodle.

What's so fascinating is you get to watch the documentary maker begin to doubt Marla's family as the film progresses. The movie ends on a very ambiguous note. Her dad evidenced some very sketchy behavior in the latter half of the film and has an unfortunate tendency toward verbal diarrhea when he's under pressure, which doesn't help make his case. I really want to believe Marla is the real deal. I just can't decide.

You've got to watch this film to make the judgement for yourself. As for me? I'm buying my kid some paint and am planning to sit back and wait for the cash to roll in. Judging by the crayon work she's done on our dining room wall so far, I'm expecting to earn at least $0-$1.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Week 48: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

When you hear what this movie is about -- a paralyzed man trapped inside his body who can only communicate by blinking his one good eye -- I bet your reaction will be like mine: "dear god, I would rather spend the evening scrubbing my toilets using nothing but a wild raccoon than watch this film."

But I swear to you, it's actually not a depressing movie.


DB&B is surprisingly beautiful and inspiring. Yes, the subject matter is devastating. Yes, it's filled with quite a bit of melancholy and sadness. But the filming is so beautiful and interesting (most of the film is shot from the perspective of Bauby's one good eye), you'll be riveted.

It's even more astounding when you learn that the film is based on the true story of former French Elle editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby. During his paralysis, Bauby's caretakers devised a way of reading him the alphabet and communicating through blinking when the correct letter was recited. Bauby eventually dictated an entire autobiography, of the same name as the film, through blinking the alphabet.

And you thought you were busy.

Go rent this film.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week 47: The Venture Bros. Season 1

Nerd Alert!

I was a huge, huge fan of the early 1990's animated cartoon, The Tick. It was short-lived but was one of the funniest cartoons of all time. I still have a Tick action figure wearing a t-shirt proclaiming "I love wheat!" If I had a therapist, I'm sure he'd have a field day with that little confession.

I wasn't sure what the Cartoon Network's adult-swim show, The Venture Bros was even about, but we got the disc last week and laughed our way through the whole thing. This hilarious cartoon is very Tick-reminiscent. I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that two of the show's writers come from the Tick and and my beloved Patrick Warburton (who was the voice of the Tick and was also Elaine's boyfriend, Putty, on Seinfeld) is the voice of Dr. Venture's ridiculous bodyguard, Brock Samson.

The Venture Bros follows snarky genius scientist, Dr. Venture, his bodyguard and his two clueless, slightly effeminate teenage sons on their adventures against a riotous assortment of villains. To give you a little flavor, one episode we watched was centered entirely on Dr. Venture trying to get laid while wearing a leisure suit and a really bad toupee. In another episode, Dr. Venture's sons almost meet their doom while their dad is busy trying to clean pee out of his space suit.

I am in love with The Venture Bros. The writing is incredible. It's really smart and witty; I just may need to watch each episode a few times because we laughed over much of the dialogue. The show is still airing live in its third season on the Cartoon Network right now, which means I'm off to program my DVR to capture it all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Week 47: The Savages

A Motley Debate about this one:

On the one hand, The Savages has excellent writing and stellar performances by stars Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

On the other hand, it's DEPRESSING AS HELL. The plot? Two adult siblings in the throes of their own failed life crises have to drop everything to care for their elderly father who's dying of dementia. Did I mention that the father is very angry to boot?

The movie maintains just enough humor to keep you from throwing yourself into bed with all the lights off and the curtains closed, but just barely. This is heavy stuff for anyone of a certain age with parents of a certain age. Sort of like looking into the mirror of the future and seeing all the tragi-comedy that will ensue.

Laura Linney steers the boat of this movie and manages as usual to deliver a spot-on performance, creating a character who is relatable and real. In the end, I'd recommend renting it but this is definitely a watch-it-once-and-never-again kind of movie.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Week 46: The Wire, Season One

Okay readers, we wrapped up Season 1 of HBO's copy drama, The Wire, this weekend and we only have one thing to say: BEST COP SHOW EVER.

If you haven’t watched it yet, throw down your computer and run -- run I say -- to your video store or get on the line with Netflix immediately. I am stunned by how good this show is. So realistic. So action-packed. So intelligent. So…not like any of that cop-show crap you’ll find on regular TV. Yes, I'm talking about you, David Caruso.

I think what makes The Wire so good is that the bad guys aren’t your typical bad guys. These are fully dimensional characters whom we learn to like and hate at the same time. Even the cops aren’t just good cops. They’ve got some dirty little secrets of their own.

The thrill of watching the team of detectives hunt down gang lord Avon Barksdale was edge-of-your-seat, intelligent drama. I can’t wait for Netflix to bring me season two.

On a funny/related note, hubby and I upgraded our cable recently and the cable company accidentally gave us access to all the premium channels. We thought we were in hog heaven. Sadly, they figured out their mistake and within 24 hours we were back to watching basic cable. Sigh. It’s probably for the best though. Me + 13 HBO channels = permanent dent in sofa.