28 April 2010

Avatar: What is the big frickin' deal?!

Just to clarify, I am an opinionated person offering my opinion. This is not an official review and if you disagree-- awesome, way to be an individual.

You may have guessed from this entry's title, I am still wondering why Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time. Here's what the film has going for it: amazing visual effects, tons of imagination, and some excellent voice acting. That's it. And since I care more about story and characters, you can imagine the lack of enthusiasm I have for Avatar.

As with every James Cameron film, the concept is great but the plot is lacking in... everything. While my husband, friend, and I watched the film, we continued to predict every choice, conflict, resolution, and even some of the dialogue, along the way adding our own words and thoughts. Needless to say, we spent the majority of our wasted 3 hours laughing hysterically. In my opinion, when it's more fun to talk over a film than watch it, it's not good.
Also, numerous plot holes and unexplained situations continued to arise, such as it taking Neytiri two thirds of the film to realize Jake Sully's Avatar would shut off. During the scenes when Sam Worthington would be training and reporting, we kept asking each other what happened to his Avatar. Then Neytiri became shocked and angry when she found out the truth. Honestly, her anger was unfounded, immature, and tedious, to say the least. I would love to watch a film with this plot and NOT see the female character become hysterical when the "spy" or outsider (whom she loves) reveals the truth. So boring.

On to the acting. Sam Worthington (our leading man) was the worst of the bunch, next to Michelle Rodriguez of course, but then again I didn't have high expectations for her from the start. Anyway, why in the world wasn't Worthington allowed to keep his Australian accent?! His American, almost New York accent was terrible, continuously coming in and out, and I found the whole thing distracting. In addition, he had numerous cheesy lines, but knowing what a control freak James Cameron is, I highly doubt Worthington had much say.
On the other hand, Sigourney Weaver (the understanding and culture appreciating scientist-- Gorillas in the Mist anyone?) and Stephen Lang (the obstinate and combat-loving colonel) played their parts as expected: I liked Weaver's character because she defended the seemingly defenseless aliens; I hated the Colonel and enjoyed watching him suffer. Not bad, but typical. Furthermore, Zoe Saldana (see above picture) had impressive voice acting, so my hat's off to her.

The biggest aspect of Avatar is the visual effects. Since I didn't see the film in the theaters and therefore missed the 3D experience (something I could care less about and see no need to pay extra for), we rented it in Blu-ray, and I must say it looked spectacular. The battle scenes moved fluidly, though I could've used a little more action to keep the boredom from seeping in. Moreover, I must give props to the imaginations of the design team, and even Cameron himself, as the entire world came to life before my eyes. Nevertheless, a bedazzled turd is still a turd, so the visual effects only go so far.

Overall, Avatar was worth the rental and viewing, as long as you see it in Bluray with an HDTV-- I don't feel it's worthy of a purchase. There's no point otherwise because the record setting visuals will lose all impact. The length of the film is daunting and almost reason enough to avoid wasting your time, but if you sit down with a good group of people who are funny and not too serious, you'll probably laugh as much as we did and enjoy yourself.

23 April 2010

My 15 Favorite Film Actors of Today

It's only fitting to begin this list with the man who made Mr. Darcy and 'Pride and Prejudice' sexy on screen-- Colin Firth. Before I'd been forced (I used the word loosely because I am certainly NOT complaining) to read the book in school, I had seen Firth in the miniseries where he promptly stole my lonely teenage heart. From then on I've had a love affair with Jane Austen's most famous love story, as well as the work of Colin Firth. He's continued to shine in "Love Actually," "Bridget Jones' Diary" (please don't waste time with the sequel), the animated "A Christmas Carol," "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Circle of Friends," "Girl with a Pearl Earring," and "Easy Virtue" -- a must see! I'm on the edge of my seat to see "A Single Man."

If I were decisive enough to choose a Top 5 list, Sir Michael Caine would definitely be on it. While the entire city of Chicago desperately tried catching glimpses of Christian Bale and Heath Ledger during the filming of Batman, I desperately wanted to bump into Michael Caine. To name a few favorites-- "Alfie," "Children of Men," "Miss Congeniality," "Mr. Destiny," "The Weather Man," and "The Muppets Christmas Carol" (A Christmas Carol is my favorite story EVER). But the best film he's been in: "Noises Off." Hysterical.

Ah yes, the smoldering Javier Bardem. Epitomizing the ideal 'Latin Lover,' Bardem can switch from sexy to creepy in the blink of an eye, showing true acting craft. Like everyone else, I thought him extraordinarily horrifying in "No Country For Old Men," but fell back in love with him thanks to "Vicky Christina Barcelona." Don't forget about "The Dancer Upstairs."

Johnny Depp is probably on every 'top actor' list because he's done such a wide range of films that you're bound to love him in SOMETHING. Never mind his gorgeousness, Depp is a natural, but I believe it's his overall mystery and depth that has both men and women demanding more. My favorites of his are "Chocolat," the Pirates, "Sleepy Hollow," "Finding Neverland," "Benny and Joon," and his sexiest role "Don Juan DeMarco."

Moving on from the offbeat to the charming, my next choice is sure to have ladies nodding their heads in vigorous agreement. I consider George Clooney this generation's Cary Grant: debonaire, charismatic, hilarious, and sexy beyond belief. Fortunately he has the chops to back it up. Check out the Oceans (duh!), "Syriana," "Up in the Air," "Good Night and Good Luck," "O Brother Where Art Thou," and for fun "From Dusk Till Dawn."

Moving right along to Clooney's friend: the brilliant and handsome Matt Damon. From "Good Will Hunting" to "The Informant," he's grown so much in his craft and has no fear of falling into type-casting. Damon is excellent in the Oceans, Bournes, "Saving Private Ryan," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," even his cameos in "Mystic Pizza" and "Finding Forrester." I smile when he comes on screen. Can't wait to see "Invictus," starring my next pick.

Morgan Freeman. My dad cries every time he watches "Driving Miss Daisy" and I have to admit I do too. Everything he does is excellent-- the dramas, comedies, action flicks-- he has the golden touch. If you haven't seen either of the newest Batmans you live in box and are probably not even reading this, but also see "Shawshank Redemption," "Unforgiven," "Chain Reaction," "Bruce Almighty," "Glory," "Prince of Thieves," "Se7en," and "Kiss the Girls."

Oh, Viggo! Mr. Mortensen played Aragon in "Lord of the Rings," the film that inspired me to go into film school in the first place, and I've been a fan ever since. He's truly an artist and takes his job seriously, thus earning my respect as an actor. I also loved "History of Violence," "Eastern Promises," and "A Perfect Murder." Even "Hidalgo" was fun with him in it!

Ah, Russell Crowe. The Australian bad boy who doubles as a musician is known for his temper and his talent. I thoroughly enjoy his films, a few favorites being "State of Play," "American Gangster," "Gladiator," "3:10 to Yuma," and "Cinderella Man." Next up, "Robin Hood" with Cate Blanchett-- a lovely actress on my top 15 list below.

No list would be complete without Tom Hanks. To see his rise from comedic to serious actor has shown great depth of character, yet at the same he's not afraid to be himself. Plus, it's an attractive quality in a man to see him committed to his family and marriage. Follow him on Twitter-- he's fun! I'm sure you have your Tom Hanks faves, so here are a few films I love watching over and over again: "Big," "Bachelor Party," "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail," the Toy Story's, and "Catch Me If You Can."

It's possible I could put every member of the Harry Potter cast on my lists. However, Brendan Gleeson not only gets Mad Eye Moody perfectly, but he also has a filmography that deserves recognition: "In Bruges," "Beowulf," "Kingdom of Heaven," and "Braveheart" to name a few.

Awesome picture, no? Liam Neeson is great. The end. "Love Actually" "Les Miserables" "Kinsey" I admit haven't seen "Schindler's List." Don't hurt me.

During my freshman year in film school, I remember bonding over Stanley Tucci with another classmate, both of us convinced he is amazing in EVERYTHING. He has continued to reaffirm my faith in his abilities with films like "Devil Wears Prada," "Julie & Julia," "The Terminal," and "The Lovely Bones." My fave: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

I have forever been a fan of Robert Downey Jr. How could anyone not be? Not only is he charming, funny, and talented, but he also has one of the best Hollywood comeback stories of all time. If you haven't seen them already (I don't know why you haven't), check out "Sherlock Holmes," "Iron Man," "In Dreams," and his guest appearances on Ally McBeal.

Honorable Mention: I need to give a shout out to Nathan Fillion, Denzel Washington, Tim Curry, and Alan Cummings. Unfortunately they didn't quite make the top 15 but I love them all the same and recommend checking out their films and TV appearances.

14 April 2010

My 10 Favorite Film Actresses of Yesteryear

Rosalind Russell. "Auntie Mame" and "His Girl Friday"-- need I say more?

Though you may know her as 'Jane' in the Tarzan films, I know Maureen O' Sullivan as another Jane-- Jane Bennett from my first ever encounter with the story of "Pride and Prejudice." Not to mention she's also a part of my fave "The Thin Man." The camera loves her, and director's love her more with her varying talent. Check out the Marx Brothers' "Day at the Races" too!

Here's another Maureen O: Maureen O'Hara. Why, you ask? "The Parent Trap," "Miracle on 34th Street," and "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation."

Who doesn't love "Casablanca?!" The lovely Ingrid Bergman shines in this film classic, and always seemed to me someone I'd love to get to know. Here is some more work of hers for you to check out: "Spellbound," "Notorious," and "The Bells of St. Mary's."

Judy Garland-- such a bittersweet life. Despite the trouble and tragedy during her life, Judy Garland is an icon from the Hollywood Golden Age, with an irreplaceable pout and unforgettable voice. I am one of the few people that does not like "The Wizard of Oz," but I can't deny its impact on film history. My number one choice of Garland films is "Meet Me in St. Louis"-- absolutely wonderful.

Audrey Hepburn needs no introduction. I love the way her eyes reflect a deeper, soulful woman behind that fresh, innocent face. My favorites of hers include "My Fair Lady," "Breakfast at Tiffany's," "Funny Face," "Charade," and for some suspense "Wait Until Dark."

From comedy to drama to film noir, Miss Barbara Stanwyck can do it all and then some. I highly recommend "The Lady Eve" and "Double Indemnity" if you want to see a vixen in action.

Myrna Loy is the costar of my favorite film couple: Nick and Nora Charles from "The Thin Man" series. From her excellent comic timing to her carefully penciled in eyebrows, Loy is one put together package. Check out "The Thin Man," "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer," and "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House."
Princess Grace. Need I say more? But I will because I have a few films to recommend: "High Society" (the hysterical musical adaptation of "The Philadelphia Story"), "To Catch a Thief," and "Dial 'M' for Murder."
Everything about Katharine Hepburn screams AMAZING. Beautiful, elegant, intelligent, and full of spunk, she is who comes to mind when thinking of the Hollywood Golden Age. Though there isn't a bad Katharine Hepburn film, a few of my favorites are "The Philadelphia Story," "Adam's Rib," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "Bringing Up Baby."

12 April 2010

My 15 Favorite Film Actresses of Today

Though I would hardly consider "The Accidental Husband" her best work, Uma Thurman made the most of the shallow story and cliched character. Uma plays the roles SHE wants, no matter their seeming unimportance, and she does so flawlessly. The majority of my acclamations for her talent goes to the Kill Bills and "Pulp Fiction," but I want to give a shout out to "Robin Hood," "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen," "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," and "Les Miserables."

Scarlett Johansson is a voluptuous up and coming actress with an already incredible resume. Something about her performance in "Lost in Translation" captivated, to me she is relatable... real. Check out "Vicky Christina Barcelona," "The Prestige," "Girl with a Pearl Earring," and this summer's "Iron Man 2."

I'd seen "Smokin' Aces" and parts of "Hustle and Flow" (it's on my list), but Taraji P. Henson screamed her talent in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." If you haven't seen that film, DO IT.

"Sense and Sensibility," "Love Actually," "Much Ado About Nothing," "Stranger Than Fiction"-- excellent reasons why I love Emma Thompson. Her colorful career is full of epic dramas, smart comedies, and fun children's films.

The ever beautiful Julie Andrews is absolutely timeless and classy, from "Mary Poppins" to "The Sound of Music." However, my two favorites of hers are "Victor, Victoria" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie!"

Cate Blanchett. Amazing, poised, elegant, and classically beautiful. Although I'm a huge fan of "Lord of the Rings," I highly recommend her in "The Aviator," "Elizabeth," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Life Aquatic," even "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" was tolerable with her in it. Next up: her role as Maid Marian in "Robin Hood"-- one of my favorite stories EVER.
How can you not love "The Princess Diaries" and "The Devil Wears Prada?" Anne Hathaway is the perfect example of the person an adolescent star should become as an adult-- fashionable, sane, and always growing in her craft. My personal favorites are "Nicholas Nickleby," "Rachel Getting Married," "Becoming Jane," and "Hoodwinked"-- one of the funniest animated cartoons out there. Skip "Ella Enchanted." It's not worth it.

Two things: I realize this is an old picture, and I know that she's first and foremost a singer. However, if you've been fortunate enough to see Cher act on the big screen, you will realize she is awesome. "Moonstruck" is by far one of my favorite films, plus I've seen "Mermaids," "The Witches of Eastwick," and "Tea with Mussolini"-- she is excellent in all of them.

How could I NOT pick Meryl?! Although my coworker hates her, I believe Meryl Streep is one of the greats-- full of talent and NATURAL (if slightly different) beauty with a great sense of humor and grounded humility. Plus, she hasn't succumbed to the pressures of Hollywood and continues being true to herself. Here are just a few favorites: The Devil Wears Prada, Julie and Julia, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Adaptation.

Ah, the ever fashionable and totally glamorous Emily Blunt. Though she's definitely a chameleon when it comes to acting, Emily gives off that retro, 1960's Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde" sexiness. Despite her wasted talent in "Wolfman" this year, she shines in memorable roles from "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Sunshine Cleaners," to small parts in "Dan in Real Life," "The Jane Austen Book Club," and "Poirot: Death on the Nile." Plus, she's engaged to John Krasinski from "The Office," who, oddly enough, dated my next pick on an episode of the show.

Something about Amy Adams exemplifies Old Hollywood and those wonderful bombshells with innocent eyes and a killer wit. I have never seen an Amy Adams film I didn't like, plus I love her talent and humility! "Enchanted" is enchanting, "Night at the Museum 2" is a ball of fun, "Sunshine Cleaners" is one of the richer films of her career so far and she's with my earlier favorite, Emily Blunt. And let's not forget Amy and Meryl together in "Julie and Julia!" But my absolute favorite: "Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day." Watch it. Now.

Brenda Blethlyn. One of the more underrated of the British crew (at least in America), she's incredible, lovely, and surprisingly risque in many of her films. I first became a fan when I saw "Saving Grace," a film about a widow who begins growing marijuana to help payoff her dead husband's debts. Yup, it's as funny as it sounds! Not to mention she has the best interpretation of Mrs. Bennett from "Pride and Prejudice."
Dame Judi Dench. As you will see, I love the Brits and Aussies, and Dame Judy is no exception. Have you ever seen the BBC series "As Time Goes By?!" No? Epic fail. Plus all of the Bonds, "Shakespeare in Love," Masterpiece Theater's Cranford series, "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Pride and Prejudice" (my ALL TIME FAVORITE BOOK AND FILM!!!), and so much more! What a dame.
Dame Maggie Smith. An absolutely gorgeous English lady with talent oozing out from her ears! If you see any of her early work, say... "Murder By Death," count yourself fortunate. However, she continues to shine in "Harry Potter" (GEEKING OUT!), "David Copperfield," "Becoming Jane" (again!), "Gosford Park," the Sister Acts, "The First Wives Club," "The Secret Garden," "Hook..." the list goes on and on!

Kate Winslet. I first encountered her in "Sense and Sensibility" and not only fell in love with the film, but Kate as well. Check out "Heavenly Creatures," "Hamlet," "Flushed Away," and "Finding Neverland." But the best film to see her in: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."