Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Movie Extravaganza!

For friends, family, loved ones, and my fellow students done with the pressure of exams, here are some movie suggestions to lift your spirits this holiday season.

This is a nice summary of my Christmas Countdown, the good and the bad. My favourites have changed some since last year but for the most part this list is pretty good. 

UPDATE: This list is 2-3 years old at this point but the choices still stand. Thankfully none of the movies that come out around the holidays are any good so I can hold onto my classics for a little longer.  







This heart-warming TV special follows a group of school children who use a magic top hat to bring Frosty the Snowman to life.















This is the origin story of everyone's favourite jolly old fat guy, Kris Kringle. Not much else to it, there are obstacles to overcome and honest-to-goodness Christmas spirit wins out in the end. 
















This film has roughly the same plot as You've Got Mail (1998) but it's in black and white and was set around 1940. 














Jonathan Taylor Thomas tries to make his way home for Christmas when bribed with a Porsche. But after one of his schemes backfires and he ends up in the desert with no money and glued in a Santa suit, things get...interesting.














A modern adaptation on both It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, it does a pretty decent job getting the point across and inspires the holiday spirit. It also boasts the always entertaining and rarely sane Nicolas Cage.









Buddy (Will Ferrell) was born human but was raised by elves. One day when he was old enough he learned of his origins and ventured off to New York to seek out his biological father. Along the way he falls in love with Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), a girl working as a department store elf. Then it's the usually holiday movie ending and Buddy has to do something to save Christmas.













One sentence can pretty much sum it up. One night, a boy who has his doubts about Christmas finds himself aboard a magical train to the North Pole.











A Christmas story is set in 1940's Indiana and all little Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wanted was Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. He sets out to find anyway to get his hands on one in spite of his parents keep telling him "You'll shoot your eye out". 

This movie is filled with hilarity and is a holiday classic for most. I can't really describe it in words that will do it justice so I suggest you go see it, at least once.













Everybody loves Charlie Brown! Simply said, it's all your favourite Peanuts characters celebrating Christmas.




Love Actually, reminds us about all the different kinds of love in the world. It doesn't have to be romantic love, it can be love of friends and family too.




#15 - Serendipity (2001)


Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) meet in a New York City Bloomingdale's when they try to buy the same pair of black cashmere gloves. They end up spending an amazing evening together despite both being in relationships. When the night is over they once again leave it up to fate to bring them together again. (Not primarily a Christmas movie but I give it a pass)











A hilarious modernization of Dickens' A Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray. You can't ask for much more than that.














This film, rather obviously set in St. Louis, occurs right before the arrival of the World's Fair in 1904. The film follows the Smith family, in particular the four daughters Esther (Judy Garland), Rose, Agnes, and the adorable Tootie (Margaret O'Brien). The story depicts the family's trials and tribulations in relationships and in life. 














This Disney incarnation of the classic story includes many of your favourite characters from the Mickey Mouse universe. 














Mr. Bean is up to his ridiculous shenanigans once again this Yuletide season














I love this timeless Dr. Seuss holiday classic, it's a great story that most of us have been watching since we were kids. I know that one day, when I have kids of my own, they'll still be watching this.















This fantastic stop-motion animated feature follows the King of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington and his discovery of Christmas.















Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance in this holiday classic that features the first film appearance of the song White Christmas.















This is by far my favourite film adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It keeps it's 19th century setting and actually follows the story rather closely, other than having various anthropomorphic singing puppets as main characters.







A great movie that shows all the things that can go wrong on Christmas. It also includes Chevy Chase delivering arguably one of the greatest rants in cinematic history
















It's Rudolph....you know what happens. Remember the song? Just follow the lyrics.
















Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and has to take his place to save Christmas







#3 - Home Alone (1990)








 Directed by Chris Columbus, written by John Hughes, and scored by John Williams, add in an awesome cast and some holiday spirit and you've got yourself a Christmas classic













All your favourite Muppets, Fraggles, and Sesame Street characters come together to celebrate the holidays. You get to see the late Jim Henson doing the dishes at end.













One of the greatest action movies of all time but I still don't consider it a true Christmas movie. That doesn't really matter though since it's awesome.














In real life there aren't always good times, it's not how reality is. This movie beautifully reflects that. A lot of people don't give older films the respect they deserve but everyone should watch this movie at some point or another.










Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Parent Trap (1998)

Remember when Lindsay Lohan used to be innocent? Yeah it does seem so long ago doesn't it. I think Mean Girls (2004) was just on the cusp between her being a normal actress and a complete train wreck. Sorry Lindsey but you know it's true; you really need to get your act together.

Watching The Parent Trap (1998) always makes me think of the potential Lohan had at a young age. She was witty and clever and as much as that came from the writers, she gave it some flair.

Quick summary this time because I'm feeling lazy. Lohan places twins Hallie and Annie in the film. One lives in California, one lives in London, each with one parent. They don't know they're twins, but meet at camp and become best friends. They switch places to meet the other parent and scheme to bring their parents back together.

Lindsay Lohan as Hallie Parker and Annie James
Natasha Richardson as Elizabeth James, Hallie and Annie's mother
Dennis Quaid as Nick Parker, Hallie and Annie's father
Elaine Hendrix as Meredith Blake
Simon Kunz as Martin
Lisa Ann Walter as Chessy

A remake of the 1961 film of the same name, this updated Disney version will always be a favourite for me. On the face of it, it isn't the strongest of movies but has a simple enough plot to follow, clever camera work and some funny and dramatic moments that keep you entertained. Watch it for a blast from the past and a nice look at the most wholesome Lohan's career will ever be.

Notes:
- There are a couple of real life references to places like the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner and Camp Walden for girls. I'm pretty sure they are referring to that particular Camp Walden, seems about right through vague geographical references in the film.
- Sadly Natasha Richardson, the actress who played Annie and Halley's mother, died in 2009. She sustained a seemingly normal head injury while skiing at Mont Tremblant, Quebec. She later died due to an epidural hematoma. She was also Liam Neeson's wife.
- Maggie Wheeler who played Janice on Friends has a small role as Marva Kulp, Jr. 
- Michael Lohan, Lindsay's younger brother, plays the only boy at the girls camp. 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane-athon!

For those without power this will not apply since you won't be able to read it and thus won't be able to follow my wonderful advice. 

For those that have a lot of midterms and finals coming up you can spare a little time for a movie break. It's good to unwind if you've been studying constantly. 

Is Hurricane Sandy getting you down? Getting blown around like a plastic bag and getting wetter than if you went swimming? Have no fear because staying inside, skipping your classes, and sitting on your backside and watching a load of movies is the answer!

I will section this off into a few parts:
  1. Those of you studying for midterms or are otherwise rather busy throughout the day:
  2. Those of you without any sort of impending doom brought on by tests and midterms, just stay inside:
    • I challenge you to a marathon! Any length of marathon you like, whether it be for a television show or for movies.
    • Here are my suggestions for marathons in order of increasing ridiculousness:
      • Mini Marathon ~ (2 hours)
        • [5-6 episodes of your favourite half-hour sitcom]
      • Half Marathon ~ (4 hours)
        • [10-12 episodes (half-hour), or 5-6 (hour-long)]
      • Any trilogy Marathon ~ (varies)
      • Full Marathon ~ (8-9 hours)
        • [Full Season (half hour), 10-12 (hour-long)]
      • The Lord of the Rings (Extended Edition) Marathon ~ (11.5 hours)
      • Steve's Lazy Sunday Afternoon Special ~ (16-17 hours)
        • (Full Season or 24 episodes (whichever is longer) of an hour long drama)
      • Harry Potter Marathon ~ (19-20 hours)
        • At this point it's not even about if you like the films or not, just whether or not you can do it in a 24 hour span.
      • All of these marathons must be given the respect they deserve and cannot be fast-forwarded save for the repeats of beginning and end credits for television episodes.
      • If you decide to attempt any of the last three, good luck!
  3. Those of you without power....umm.......read I guess. 
**Notes**
- For those that are truly being hit hard by this hurricane, I hope you get through it safe and sound.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

World Cinema: Week #3 - City of God (2002)

Super late but yet I continue to post it. I watched this great Brazilian film in class a few weeks back and it was a delight. I'll try to make this short and sweet.

City of God (2002) was superbly made and the audience was definitely made to feel the severity of the events throughout the story. The characters and events are based on true events in the Cidade de Deus, however certain aspects were embellished for film sake. Despite its great cinematic quality, it also held a strong sense of scenic realism that help to add to the verisimilitude to the film.

The actors were relative unknowns for the most part, which was done on purpose. Many of the children in the film were actually from the area or the sort of slums that were present in the City of God, which lends more credence to the realistic atmosphere of the film.

The story follows Rocket, a young boy who grows up in the City of God, a drug and violence riddled neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. It starts in the 60s and follows the progression of organized crime through to the start of the 80s. 

If it seems like I wrote slightly more like an artistic douchebag than usual then you'd be right. I wanted to see what it'd be like, I did not enjoy it but my Backspace button is rather unappealing. I clearly still have my own poor writing skills present but added an extra layer of snooty banter on top. So I'll cut that crap out.

A description of the film doesn't really do it justice. This film is also not for the faint of heart. There are some pretty intense moments and a lot of violence. For those that think they can handle it, I strongly urge you to see this film. It gives a great appreciation to the events that actually occurred in Rio and gives a better idea  of certain parts of different cultures outside of our own. Even if you don't like foreign films (who likes to read subtitles?) give it a shot, you won't regret it....and if you do regret it, don't tell me about it.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pitch Perfect (2012)

I've been very much slacking on the blog writing front. I've definitely been watching enough but have been neglecting chattering on about films that most people have seen. Now this movie is actually still in theaters. Yes, I know you're shocked that I spent money on watching a new movie in theaters. It was a good movie going experience with a few friends (you know who you are), and now I will share it with you.

If you're anything like me, you like great music in great films. Well this movie at least has the first part down. Don't worry it's not a bad movie but it probably won't be up for any Oscars. It's basically Glee but slightly less cheesy, slightly more cliche (actually probably the same amount of cliche), and it a more compact two-hour format. I did like Glee....for a while, but it got kind of old. Pitch Perfect is a great film to bring together the casual movie goers and those die-hard musical lovers. 

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a freshman at Barden College, where she has enrolled only because her father is a professor there. What she really wants in life is to be a DJ and produce music in L.A.. She makes a deal with her father to join one club for the year and in turn he will pay for her to move out there. Beca ends up joining The Bellas, an all-female acapella group headed by the only two remaining members from the year before, Chloe (Brittany Snow) and the over-controlling Aubrey (Anna Camp). Also figuring into Beca's life is boyishly charming Treble Maker, Jesse (Skylar Astin).

There are some great songs featured in this film, I'm not going to spoil too much but I will say that there is a decent variety between old, new, pop, hip-hop, and whatnot. Also, the fact that there are acapella versions of The Final Countdown and Don't You Forget About Me is so awesome and definitely made my night.

There were decent to good acting performances from the main characters but I think the supporting characters stole the show, Rebel Wilson (who plays Fat Amy) especially. She is finally getting some much deserved screen time in her more recent films and it's great to see. There were also entertaining bit parts from Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. There are a lot of other great performers in this film but the list would be ridiculous, besides you've already read enough don't you think?

Anyway, looking past the tired plot and the horrible acapella related puns (No, I will not give examples), this is a solid musical comedy with some great choices for music and a well rounded cast of young up and comers. Go with your friends to see this one, you'll enjoy it, unless you hate music and have no soul. I'd suggest going to the theater the next cheap day for students. For those around here (and if you don't know where 'here' is referring to, you probably don't know) the cheap day is Tuesday, tomorrow. So.....yeah....get on that.

Notes:
- Pitch Perfect at Rotten Tomatoes (just because I have IMDb as the default)
- Jesse has a great love and appreciation for film (more particular to film scores and soundtracks) so I find relating to him rather easy.
- Adam DeVine who plays Bumper kind of sounds like Jason Bateman, just saying. More of the cadence of speech rather than the sound itself.
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com

Sunday, September 30, 2012

World Cinema: Week #2 - No Country for Old Men (2007)

I am very late with this one but here is the second film we watched in our World Cinema and Visual Culture class. We went very far to find this film in the mysterious land they call the United States. Yes, the first two films so far haven't strayed very far from the comfort zone of the class but soon we'll be venturing into a more expansive pool of films that may better describe world cinema. 

So this week's (or I guess last week, since I'm so late with this) film was No Country for Old Men (2007). The plot was driven by Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) a hunter who stumbles upon a drug deal gone awry. He takes the $2-million that was left at the scene but soon finds himself being pursued by psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who has been hired to retrieve the money. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) has his own story that seems to be on the outside looking in at the plot unfolding between the two men facing off for the drug money.

Written by the Coen brothers Ethan and Joel, you expected it to have a very different feel than most ditsy films that don't have much substance. The Coens have written some great screenplays like Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), Burn After Reading (2008), A Serious Man (2009), and True Grit (2010), just to name a few.

Javier Bardem really deserved the Oscar he won for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this one. He made Chigurh as alien and estranged to the setting and other characters as possible and it really stuck out. Brolin and Jones put in admirable performances but it wasn't anything too noteworthy. I found Woody Harrelson's character Carson Wells to be rather pointless and just something that was put in to take up like 20 minutes of film time. Wells did help drive the plot a little but things that he did bring to the film probably could have been put in by other characters rather seamlessly. That being said it's always nice to see Harrelson in film no matter the role.

I very much enjoyed this film. It was simplistic in many ways because it doesn't really have any music, and any that it does have is in very few scenes. It boasts beautiful shots of the desert expanse of Southern Texas, but that's not really what you come to see specifically when choosing a movie, so I'll skip right over that. It can be a little bit slow at times but I think the overall pacing was fine and did well with the tone of the film, which is dreadfully serious. Ultimately a much watch, but those that don't enjoy violence may want to go in a different direction.
Notes: 
- The film won 4 Oscars, including 2 for the Coen brothers for both Writing and Directing, and Best Picture.
- Josh Brolin would later play the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones' character Agent K in Men in Black III (2012).
- As is the case with many films in our modern age of cinema, it has its base in literature. No Country for Old Men was based on a novel of the same name written by American author Cormac McCarthy.
- Poster Image obtained from www.impawards.com

Monday, September 17, 2012

World Cinema: Week #1 - The Prestige (2006)

We're starting off in familiar territory, probably to ease people into foreign film slowly, just in case they are stuck in Hollywood's torrent of mass-produced mainstream-style films (like me, sadly).

The directorial genius of Christopher Nolan strikes again. Before The Prestige (2006) Nolan's major contributions only really included Memento (2000) and Batman Begins (2005); two absolutely fantastic movies. Since then he has the two exceptional follow-ups in the Batman series under his belt; The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), along with the ever popular and puzzling Inception (2010)

Now onto the main event. The Prestige (2006) follows the rivalry between two London-based magicians at the turn of the 19th century; Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). The two performers try to better the mystifying illusions of the other at any cost. Since it is billed as a mystery film I shall leave some of the mystery for you to see but to be expected there are plenty of twists and turns that you may or may not anticipate.

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are two actors that I greatly admire. They are fantastic actors and have portrayed some very iconic roles that always get me excited when watching. Also, the fact that David Bowie is in this film and he portrays one of the greatest physicists and inventors of all-time, Nikola Tesla, is a cherry  on the proverbial sundae that is this film. Scarlett Johansson's performance was sadly forgettable in her role as Olivia but it's alright because she's not really a pivotable part of the film. Also, her English accent was rather bad, but maybe I'm just saying that because I know she isn't British. Michael Caine is great as usual as  Cutter, a stage engineer responsible for creating mechanisms and props to complete the magicians' illusions.

We also see the familiar faces of Andy Serkis (aka Gollum, among other roles) and Piper Perabo (I only remember her as the girl from Coyote Ugly)

Now there is one plot revelation that seems rather out of place, and you will notice it as it comes (again not trying to ruin anything if you haven't seen it). It has a certain fantasy/science-fiction quality to it, and as mystifying as it is, to me it is the only thing about this movie I don't like.

I could talk endlessly about the subplots and background of the characters and the subtle meanings behind a lot of what they say but that's for each viewer to figure out. This is a great film and has some dalliances with actual historic events but ultimately it is a work of fiction. I would definitely recommend you watch it for some great performances and a fantastic story. There are a few flaws here and there and some of it is rather predictable but I thoroughly enjoyed it in the end.

Notes: 
- From the World Cinema point of view this fulfills the British (UK) section of the cinematic industry.
- This is one of 4 films on which Michael Caine and Christian Bale have worked together. Can you guess the other three? I'll give you a hint, they are all in the same series. I also referenced them in the second little blurb.
- When Jackman is wearing his false beard in the film, it reminded me of the trailer for Les Misérables coming this December and it should be fantastic.
- Based on the 1995 novel of the same name written by British author Christopher Priest.
- Poster Image obtained from www.impawards.com