Thursday, March 12, 2009


First of all, I couldn't help but snicker at the description on the back of the Netflix envelope referring to "Ace director, Clint Eastwood." Who wrote that? An old-timey journalist from 1938? Ace director! He's the cat's pajamas!

Don't get me wrong, if anyone deserves the Ace title, it's Eastwood. The man delivers a good film and Changeling is no exception. Although, if anything in this film, his directing is so spartan and unembellished that you won't even notice it. I guess I'm saying that even a tool like Bruckheimer probably couldn't have screwed up this material: the story is that good. We loved watching it.

Changeling follows the true story of 1920's Los Angeles mom, Christine Collins, as she battles police corruption to find her missing son, Walter. The LAPD, facing horrible public image problems, brings Christine's son back to her, but she's convinced it's not her son. When Collins tries to make public the fact that the LAPD returned the wrong kid, she quickly finds herself staying at a mental institution on police orders.

A legal team headed up by anti-LAPD preacher, played by John Malkovich (who is just so good at being preachy, let's be honest) and a shark of an attorney come to the rescue of Collins and attempt to mount a strike at the LAPD. But what makes the movie really compelling is the co-story of the alleged murderer, Gordon Northcott, accused of murdering 20 boys, Walter Collins among them. Northcott's scenes are riveting and his madness is chilling.

Collins is played by Angelina Jolie. Now, I will be the first to admit that she's a good actress and she handled the role with skill. But I couldn't help but feel like she's just too physically striking to make this role believable. Draped in face-framing clothes and brilliantly rich make-up, she looked stunning...too stunning. The camera loves her face but it's so distinct that it distracts you from the character.

At no point was I unaware that I was watching Angelina Jolie, not Christine Collins. I could only imagine how powerful the role would have been in less facially-captivating hands (that is a nice way of saying "not so pretty"). Forgive me, but I'm thinking Frances McDormand here.

My favorite character in the film was Collins' lawyer. For the life of me, I can't figure out who the actor is (why have you forsaken me, IMDB?) but I've seen him in other roles and he's superb in this film. He'll make you want to love your lawyer. I'll refer to him henceforth as "Ace Actor Portraying a Lawyer."

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Reader

"I nailed Kate Winslet. And I still wear Underoos."

Hurrah for babysitters! Friends Marcie and Beth kindly offered to watch the wee one so Motley Husband and I could sneak off for a matinee on Saturday, which for anyone with a toddler, is something akin to being given the keys to your own private island. I know, a matinee might sound boring to you, but trust me, two hours of relative relaxation that don't involve a short person whining at you to read the 37th installment of Dora the Explorer is pure bliss.

So, we showed up to our local megaplex on the hopes of just finding something playing around the time we arrived that didn't involve the words Paul, Blart, Mall or Cop.

Check. The Reader with Kate Winslet was starting in five minutes.

We grabbed a giant vat of popcorn and loaded it with butter (more on that later...) and settled in for what I can only describe as the creepiest love story I've ever seen.

The Reader
is set in post-war Germany and is told through the perspective of a fifteen year-old-boy who befriends a much older woman, Hanna Schmitz (played by Winslet), on a chance encounter in the street. The two eventually become lovers and "the Kid" reads to Schmitz at each of their liaisons. It's like a pedophile's version of Oprah's book club, if you will.

Anyway, the actor cast to play the boy looks VERY, VERY young. Winslet looks VERY, VERY experienced by contrast and the many lingering love scenes between the two were squeamish and unsettling to say the least. I'm sure for some tastes, this sort of thing is titillating but I found myself feeling much the same way I did as a teenager stuck watching "dirty parts" of a movie in front of my parents. It creeped me out. When the two finally parted I heard Motley Husband mutter, "Thank god."

The rest of the movie was happily filled with Nazis. Yes, that's right, I found Nazis a welcome change to Kate Winslet licking the navel of a pubescent boy. Sue me.

The Nazis...see, years later when our young friend is in law school, his class attends and studies the trial of a former Nazi war criminal, who turns out to be none other than his former lover, Hanna Schmitz. Here the movie takes a very beautiful and agonized turn as the boy tries to rectify his feelings for Schmitz with the brutality of her crimes.

You'll be able to guess Schmitz's fate and the Nazi themes are all very familiar to us, but you will be moved by the performance of one of Schmitz's former victims, played with chilling iciness by Lena Olin. There was nothing in the movie that came as a great surprise--even the big 'reveal' should be no surprise to anyone with working eyeballs--but it was all well done and much of it was very moving.

Oh, and about the popcorn. So after shoveling down the better part of two pounds of popcorn, followed by a giant coffee and a beer, Motley Husband got throwing-up sick and he couldn't eat anything for almost a day and so claims now that he got some kind of bug. We have been going round and round on this one because he is sticking to this "bug" story, but we both know that BUTTERED POPCORN IS NOT A BUG.

The defense rests.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Wire, Season 3

Resident bad-ass and all-around best TV character ever created, Omar, from The Wire.

I think we're still feeling the effects of the writer's strike because the movie landscape out there is...well, it's just a huge pile of crap. Motley Husband and I actually have the chance to go to a real movie theater this weekend -- without a toddler -- and I can't believe the stunning array of choices awaiting us.

Honey! Should we see Confessions of a Shopaholic OR Paul Blart, Mall Cop? Oh, I can't decide between these two dazzling gems!

Thank god there's still The Wire. I haven't had any movie posts lately because we have become deeply and passionately obsessed with The Wire Season 3. This just has to be one of the top television series ever made (Arrested Development, don't worry, you'll never lose your #1 spot).

Watching this show, I have to believe that somewhere in the bowels of a mansion in Malibu, Ron Howard, Stephen Spielberg and Martin Scorcese are huddled together on the floor crying over the fact that they didn't think of this show first. It's just so damn good, it has to burn up every other director/producer/writer in town.

If you don't know, The Wire is a cop show on HBO. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Cop show, shmop show, if you've seen one CSI, you've seen 'em all."

But The Wire isn't like any cop show you've ever seen. Set in Baltimore, The Wire presents a unique and in-depth look at both the cops and the drug dealers they track. Each season of the show follows just a single investigation. It gives the audience an unbelievably gritty and real look at how the game is played on both sides of the law. The cops are both heroic and flawed. The drug dealers have dimensional, empathetic sides. It's nothing short of spectacular.

Season one was unbelievably good. Season two was -- eh -- not as great, but still very good. But Season three is back to fantastic, reuniting our police force with the nemesis of Season 1, the Avon Barksdale drug ring.

In Season 3, we get to watch the ominous rise of Barksdale's #2, Stringer Bell, as he attempts to evolve their business into legitimate enterprise using the drug money bankroll. Layered into the self-destructive antics of the police force is a new cast of characters from City Hall, giving us a glimpse into the gray morass where political ambition clashes with the everyday needs of a city police force. I won't give you even a hint of the plot, but suffice it to say that you're going to love how one rogue police captain decides to deal with drug enforcement this season.

And let me just take a moment to talk about the character of Omar Little. Omar is a rogue vigilante who robs from the drug dealers, making him an enemy of the street and not exactly a friend to the cops either. He's like an ass-kicking, shotgun-toting Robin Hood and HE IS THE BEST CHARACTER EVER CREATED. Did I mention that he's gay? It's so interesting and pretty astonishing to see how the show handles an openly gay street vigilante. I promise you it's something you'll never see in that fluffy pancake called Law & Order.

If they made a spin-off show called "Omar Cracks Some Motherf'ing Heads," I would watch it every day. You should watch the show for Omar alone. Please. I'm begging you.

Something terrific is brewing here for Season 4, and I for one can't wait to see how the City Hall players muck up the soup. And if Hollywood keeps making craptastic features involving the words "Mall Cop," you can bet we'll be watching a lot more Wire here at the Queue.