7.21.2014

The Unsung Ones

Once again we're back to being limited in our film options, so over the weekend I turned to the mid-run movie theater and saw Million Dollar Arm. It was an entertaining enough film, that in certain stretches was made even better with the presence of Alan Arkin. I just love this guy, he's the type of actor whose presence almost instantly lifts whatever movie he's in, yet he's not a performer you're constantly thinking about. So I decided to compile....big shocker... a list; this time celebrating the often times underrated and unsung heroes in the acting world that are currently working today. Let me know if I missed any in the comments below and be sure to tell me some of your all-time favorites.

ALAN ARKIN - We'll begin with the one I introduced the topic with, the always reliable Alan Arkin. Lately he's made somewhat of a living as playing the funny, crotchety old guy (thanks in part to Little Miss Sunshine,) but with timing like his it doesn't really matter to me if his characters are all cut from the same cloth. I think one of my favorite roles of his would have to be in Edward Scissorhands, as the clueless, yet well-meaning father of the family who takes in Edward. His delivery never fails to put a smile on my face. The guy can't save ANYTHING though (see The Incredible Burt Wonderstone or Grudge Match actually no....do not see either of those, stay far FAR away from them.)

RICHARD JENKINS - This guy is one of my favorite actors right now. There's just something about his voice and presence that makes you feel at ease....even if you're in the middle of viewing mediocrity (see, unfortunately, most of his filmography...) He's also one of those guys that you don't realize has been in A LOT of things, yet when you do realize it...you know that the guy gave solid performances all those things you'd seen. He fits so many small roles that you don't realize it until the more and more valued he became...kind of like quite a few of the others below.

JK SIMMONS - JK can almost be anyone. He can be a lovable dad to a quirky pregnant teenager (Juno,) the overbearing boss of Peter Parker (Spider-man trilogy) and the intelligent go-to psychologist in Law & Order. This guy has serious morphing skills. He blew me away like never before when I saw him in Sundance's best of fest pick: Whiplash. The verbally and emotionally abusive jazz instructor to young prodigies at a Julliard-esque school was a detestable character....yet undeniably fascinating.

ALLISON JANNEY - Speaking of Juno, here's the other half of the parent equation from that film. Janney is a talented actress with great comic timing. In the last few years she manages to steal scenes in every film she appears in (The Way, Way Back and Liberal Arts come to mind...) I never made it through an episode of the show Mom, however, so I can't speak with authority on her efforts on the small screen. I'm gonna guess though that since it's a CBS sitcom, her talents are being wasted.



GARY OLDMAN - I love this guy. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was nearly flawless, but what I would have changed would have been to have seen far more of Gary Oldman. Whether he's playing a villain or aiding a hero, he always compels you to watch him. The man was solid as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films and simply delightful as Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. But honestly, even in something like the Robocop remake he made all the difference.

JUDY GREER - Speaking of Apes, did you know that Judy Greer provided the motion capture acting for Caesar's wife? Usually, Judy seems to find herself in the thankless role as the wisecracking sidekick in a terrible rom-com...so being hidden behind a CGI monkey can't be too much worse right? I must say, Ms. Greer almost always winds up being the best thing of anything she's in. The big exception? I didn't really care for her much in Arrested Development, but otherwise the woman always takes her moments and makes the most of them.

STANLEY TUCCI - I don't know how long I've loved Stanley Tucci. Like many on this list, it's like he made the most of everything he did and the more you saw him, the more you remembered how much you liked him in the last thing you saw. He's a guy that really just seems to genuinely love what he does. So many people in Hollywood take themselves way too seriously, and you really get the sense from every movie you watch with Mr. Tucci that he's having fun.

PATRICIA CLARKSON - I mentioned the parents in Juno, now I'm adding both of the parents to Easy A to my list. There's something nice about Patricia Clarkson. She just comes across as some wise lady you'd like to know. She gives consistently great work, even if the material is beneath her. When does it match her? It's fantastic. I'm particularly fond of her work in Shutter Island and Lars and the Real Girl.




PAUL DANO - Paul Dano, like so many others on this list, is just so versatile! From emo-teen (Little Miss Sunshine,) a sniveling baptist minister (There Will Be Blood,) an introverted yet idealistic young novelist (Ruby Sparks) and finally to an abused and mentally handicapped young man (Prisoners,) he never ceases to amaze me that this is all the same guy. I think he's got great potential.

SALLY HAWKINS - Sally Hawkins hasn't quite broken through yet in the way that the others have, but everything I've seen of her I've thoroughly enjoyed. Her incredible work in Blue Jasmine is the strongest example showing how valuable she is as a supporting actress. As a lead, she nailed the character Anne Elliot I loved from Jane Austen's Persuasion. She did a great job too in the latest version of Great Expectations and if she had had a more fleshed out character in Godzilla I'm sure she would have been fab in that too.


So tell me, did I miss anyone? ETA: Yes I did! I'd totally add Kathryn Hahn to this list. She's great.

7.18.2014

Felines in Film

As I mentioned in the post before my last, I've been going through a big adjustment in my life. The adjustment? Becoming a mother.......to a rambunctious gray kitten I adopted named Merriweather. The little cat has kept me from blogging too much by occupying a lot of time and attention....but also any time I sit down to my computer she jumps from the floor, onto my lap and keyboard messing up everything. She's a cutie...in looks. In personality, she's a bit of a brat (I guess she takes after me eh?)....which I'm hoping she grows out of. The aggressive kitten behavior can't last forever right.... RIGHT??? But anyway, her introduction into my life led me to ponder another list: 10 memorable cats in film. (In no particular order..)

LUCIFER - The movie cat mine most resembles? Without a doubt, it's the cat from Disney's Cinderella. In fact, I've contemplated renaming her Lucifer. Lucifer's antics are definitely less annoying though. You can't blame the guy for wanting to rid the house of mice, and besides they totally had it coming. They did steal the stepsisters things, after all, to make Cinderella that fugly dress. Really she should have thanked the stepsisters for destroying it so she wasn't seen at the ball in it. But back to Lucifer, he's awesome and totally hilarious. Way better than Bruno.



BINX - Back in the 90's talking black cats that associated with witches were the coolest! Who wins out between Sabrina the Teenage Witch's Salem and Hocus Pocus' Binx? I'll let you be the judge. But since this is a movie list, we'll be discussing Binx. Who didn't love this boy turned cat? He was the wisest person/animal in the film, he was constantly cheating death, and he was just a loving and selfless little furball. I don't think anyone really wanted him to turn back into a human at the end.

And here's Salem.

CAT - Cat is a nameless slob that isn't exactly owned by Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Our heroine identifies with said stray cat, but won't admit that she needs him. After all, who can let anyone into their heart when they could betray them... even if it is only a cat? It's only after she can admit the cat's worth in her life that she can truly be happy. Or maybe I'm misreading the ending...

MILO - The titular cat in Milo & Otis was so beloved in our household that we named our own cat after him (RIP to the cat that became dearer than any to us.) The orange kitten Milo, befriends a pug dog named Otis and are inseparable....until they're well... separated! They both go on an incredible coming of animal age journey (not to be confused with The Incredible Journey...) find love within their own species, and one day reunite after having families of their own. Is this the Brokeback Mountain of pet films?? No no no. They were just friends!



DC - Haley Mills had such a cool cat in the original That Darn Cat the FBI was onto her. Actually, they just needed the cat's help to crack a case that just happened to be in his usual nightly cat romping route. DC is smart and very savvy. Honestly, he kind of gets a bad rap with the title of the film when really everyone should be thanking them for leading the cops to solving a robbery, or kidnapping or whatever it was. (I must confess, it's been awhile since I've seen it.)

FIGARO - How adorable was Figaro in Pinocchio? I'll be honest, the movie could have used a LOT more of him. Luckily Disney cartoons made up for his lack when he got his own song on one random cartoon I remember from my youth "Figaro was an itty bitty cat.." Really, this cat has to be one of the cutest on this list.



PUSS IN BOOTS - But remember that look Puss makes to get what he wants? That might be the real winner. Puss was a great addition to the Shrek franchise, in fact he's probably the best character in the whole series. He was so popular he got his own film...that I can't remember if I thought was good or not. So obviously it stuck with me.

DINAH AND THE CHESHIRE CAT - I'm not sure what the significance is of the cats in Alice in Wonderland (or if any and all deeper meaning in that story can only be attributed to drug use...) but whatever the reason I am fond of both Dinah and the Cheshire cat. If only all cats had the temperament of Dinah. Sigh.



ULYSSES - The newest addition from our list comes from Inside Llewyn Davis. The orange cat here not only resembles Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany's in look, but in purpose as well. He always seems to pop up at the most pivotal moments for our protagonist. The cat represents a deeper meaning, no doubt about it.

SASSY - Yes, I forgot this silly 90's film even existed! But remember the valiant efforts of a cat and two dogs trying to return home to their owners? Why they were separated I forget, but what I do remember is the cat saving the day on at least one occasion. But Total Film in their list of the 50 best movie cats (read that list HERE) summed it up best: The Cat: Sassy is the feline element in Homeward Bound’s two dogs and a cat arrangement. Bizarrely, the trio all seem to get on rather well together. Not how we’d been led to believe the dynamic works at all.

If It Was A Dog: Yawn! Who wants to watch a film about three missing dogs? No one, that’s who.



THE END!

HONORABLE MENTIONS: SI & IAM, MR. JINX, GARFIELD, CROOKSHANKS, MRS. NORRIS

7.13.2014

Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z

Sadly I wasn't able to give you a review sooner, but as you all know I'm always a proponent of the phrase "better late than never." Last Friday Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (yeah...I don't think I'll ever approve of the mouthful of a title that this and it's predecessor have...) hit cinemas. Dawn is the follow-up to the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes that acted as both a reboot and a prequel to the original Planet of the Apes series (Read my original review of that film HERE.) Rise caught me completely off guard as an incredibly entertaining and somehow uniquely feeling summer blockbuster. But was it merely that I, as well as so many others, had zero expectations for the film that it became such a surprise hit? Now with expectations in place for its follow-up, the pressure was on Dawn to prove that the success of this reborn franchise wasn't a fluke and that it could continue.

I purposefully avoided trailers as much as I could for this movie and tried not to let the hype influence my expectations toooo much. But that's a hard thing to do when you reach 24 hours before a movie opens and its score on Rotten Tomatoes is at 97% (it has since dropped to 92%, but that's still is nothing to sneeze at.) So, whether I liked it or not, this movie had great expectations riding on it....and couldn't pull off the same come out of nowhere and surprise us all feat that Rise did. Instead, it had a tall order to fill. And I have to say, this customer was more than satisfied. This movie wasn't quite perfect (tiny holes here and there and containing some human characters that definitely could have used more depth...,) but I think it was my favorite summer blockbuster of the season.

What's impressive here, and what was impressive about Rise, is that it's really the story about one ape that this whole thing hinges on. The humans in both films are fine enough though I must say this movie could have used a lot more Gary Oldman...but it's never really been their story. This tale has always been about Andy Serkis' chimpanzee Caesar, and his character remains just as fascinating, if not more-so than he was the first go around. Serkis brings him to life in a way that's truly remarkable (and honestly, I can't wait to see his contributions to Star Wars Episode VII...) and the visual effects that accompany him, are truly some of the finest I can think of in all of film history. The level of detail here is just incredible....so lifelike that you almost forget what you're watching. But Caesar isn't the only fascinating ape visually or character-wise. The tortured lab ape first seen in the last film named Koba, gets a much larger role in this film and it wouldn't be the film it is without him.


Dawn and Rise are very different films tonally and structurally, yet very much intertwined. After watching them, side by side you can definitely see how one led to the other....almost like it couldn't have been any other way. I'm very excited about the possibilities this sets up for the future of the franchise. There's so much potential and even if it pulls a Dark Knight Rises in terms of third installment quality that can't quite live up to the standards set by the second, I think the world can still be satisfied. Just no Terminator Salvation franchise killing films, okay? EMILY RATING: 9/10. 9.5 on a good day!

7.08.2014

Boy Meets Redux

My sincerest apologies to my beloved readers for neglecting you once again for so long. A variety of factors are to blame for this...such as: being swamped with work projects, as well as other duties like being everyone's favorite aunt, getting plagued with a couple illnesses, experiencing a major life adjustment (which I'll tackle in the next post....how's that for a teaser?) AND finally and most importantly there hasn't been much to write ABOUT this last month. What a crappy summer month for movies it was! Since Edge of Tomorrow came out about a month ago, there hasn't been much of anything that's caught my eye. What a drought! Luckily it all ends on Friday as my thirst for a hopefully quality blockbuster will be met with the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes... and I couldn't be more thrilled. But until then, I did manage to find something to talk about.

Over the Fourth of July weekend I came down with a nasty bug that left me bedridden all day (when I wasn't in the bathroom puking that is...) In my delirium, I somehow managed to peruse the "On Demand" offerings and found that the pilot episode of the Boy Meets World sequel series, Girl Meets World was available for my viewing pleasure. Now I'll be honest, I've always been more of a Saved By the Bell kind of girl over BMW. In fact, I think it can tell a lot about a person by asking which show they prefer. That said, I do enjoy the show in its own right and watched it faithfully when it was on air....so I was pretty curious to see the result of this daughter series. So how'd it fare? Well... it was kind of a mixed bag. It seemed to me like a carbon copy of the old series during its first season both in tone (which you can choose for yourself if you think that's a good or a bad thing..) and in the fact that all the new characters are just renamed versions of old ones (with some genders being switched here and there.)

It's too early to truly judge the show by its pilot so I don't plan to label it "cringeworthy" or get into a rant fest about how it ruined the old show (not that I care about Boy Meets World's legacy haha.) Girl Meet's World's undeniable cheesiness and the fact that it's trying to be EXACTLY the same show as BMW weren't quite so much what causes me concern. Rather, I'm not sure that trying to recycle a formula that felt so at home in a specific decade of programming that was family friendly, to a modern context will actually work. The television landscape where Boy Meets World lived no longer exists. Can a show trying to be the exact same thing as its predecessor, from a time of morality lessons, work in this day and age? It seemed like just yesterday when the original was on, but as I watched the pilot I couldn't help but feel how dated the show was. I guess it all depends on if there are audiences looking for "old fashioned." And who ever knew the 90's could be deemed that! It'll be interesting to see how the show's future will unfold and whether it does succeed or not, but in the meantime I thought it'd be fun to re-imagine 5 other beloved 80's/90's series as having sequel series made today. If any of these get made by anyone out there, I might have to sue you..

SAVED BY THE BELL: THE NEW NEW CLASS. Okay, obviously I was gonna put this one in here based off of what I said in the second paragraph.  Yes, there was The New Class, but THIS time it's not about a bunch of random kids no one cares about! This time Zack is the principal and all the gang's kids attend! Zack & Kelly's daughter, Jesse & Slater's twin boys (that both fight over Zack and Kelly's daughter,) Lisa's cool son, and Screech? Somehow he got someone preggo (Violet? Crossover Kimmy Gibbler?) and has a nerdy daughter that joins the group!

FULL CONDO: DJ'S TURN. Sadly DJ and Steve wind up divorced and so nerdy jokester Aunt Stephanie, and heartbreaker rocker Aunt Michelle move in to help her raise her 3 sons. Don't worry though, the reconciliation of DJ and Steve will be a major arc in the series because those two can't stay apart forever... just long enough to set up some family chaos!

SELENA THE MORTAL HUMAN. Sabrina's best friend Val dies in a car accident and leaves her and Harvey as the sole guardian of her teenage daughter Selena. Now Sabrina will have to remember what it's like again to live as a mortal since she can't let this girl in on the family secret! Otherwise, the Witch realm will ban her powers forever! Or something like that...



GRANDFAMILY MATTERS. Steve Urkel and Laura get married only years months days down the line to discover how hard their relationship would actually be. Urkel finds to his surprise, that Laura's voice eventually becomes like her mother Harriet's and it grates his soul every day. The precocious, yet unobnoxious son of Stefan Urkell lives next door and Steve can't help but find everything this kid does insanely annoying to him. Eventually, he seeks the guidance of his Father-in-law Carl because he honestly never expected to be in his shoes after getting everything he's always wanted!

EVER GROWING PAINS. They create the series to show constant flashbacks of that year Leonardo DiCaprio was on the show to try to lure him into doing a guest spot. They are unsuccessful.

You can't blame them for trying to cash in on Leo's fame. Who wouldn't!?

The End! What other shows would you like to see revisited one day??