Archive for January, 2011


Report Card: January 2011

Though I’d start something new for this year: a monthly report card for the movies I watch or re-watch.  I don’t always have time to write a full review, and many films just don’t need one.  But I’m hoping to start watching more movies again, so I’d try to at least log some grades and general comments.  Thus, here’s the inaugural installment of Zu’s movie report card:

Film Grade Comment
Elvis & Annabelle (2007)

B

Twisted love story about a young unlicensed mortician and the beauty queen he brings back from the dead.
[REC] (2007)

B

Fresh and interesting pseudo-documentary horror tale.
Fanboys (2008)

A

Hilarious misadventures of Star Wars geeks out to infiltrate the Lucas mansion and sneak a peek at the newest film.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) A Yes, I am a Star Wars geek myself, and nostalgia is a huge part of loving this movie. But it still stands up as a witty, exciting, imaginative adventure. (It was especially fun to re-watch shortly after seeing Fanboys!)
Dinner for Schmucks (2010) D Do yourself a favor and watch the French original, Le Diner de Cons, instead.
Easy Virtue (2008) A- Excellent cast in an intriguing, off-beat mystery with a side of character study.
Despicable Me (2010) A Just wonderful!
Going the Distance (2010) B- Cute romantic comedy with two stars I’ve always liked watching, but nothing to write home about.
Piranha (2010) B Fun, campy horror flick with lots of talent, all well used (though Jerry O’Connell is a bit over the top).
Step Up 3 (2010) B+ The acting is, of course, meh. But the dancing alone – more abundant than in the first and second films – is worth a look.
Clash of the Titans (2010) C- What was the point of making this again? It’s not as fun in a goofy-epic way as the original, and the effects alone are just not good enough to justify it. It’s an utter waste of talent.

Let me know what YOU think of these, if you have seen them, and what else you’re watching these days!

For the Love of Great Dance Scenes!

Joy, joy, joy!

I just love an exhilarating dance number.

Watching Step Up 3 tonight gave me a new one to add to my favorites (the battle of Gwai) and brought to mind several others.  There are many more, of course, but these are just a few that came to mind for your viewing pleasure.

Everybody dance now!

(Some of these will tell you they can be viewed on YouTube … I suggest you do, and feel some joy of your own!)


What can be said that hasn’t been dissected to death already about the haunting Black Swan from director Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain, The Wrestler)?

Well, first off, it’s not a horror movie (and it’s true; I know my horror movies).

The strongest impression I came away with was that this incredibly evocative psychological thriller is a masterful reworking of the Swan Lake tale itself, within the story of a ballerina taking on the challenging roles of the White Swan and her alter ego the Black Swan, and in her real life living through the same heartaches and ultimate demise as the characters she plays.  How meta!

If you don’t know Swan Lake, here’s the deal:

Swan Lake is a ballet composed in the late nineteenth century by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, based on a Russian folktale. It tells the story of Odette, a princess cursed by the evil Rothbart to live out her days as a swan and only able to take human form at night — until the spell can be broken by true love. Others are under the same spell and have made her their queen, hence her title, the Swan Queen. One day, the dashing Prince Siegfried is hunting at the lake where Odette lives and sees her transform into her human form. They dance all night and fall in love. He invites her to a ball where he can announce she is to be his bride. But before Odette can become human on the night of the ball, Rothbart brings his own daughter, Odile — disguised as Odette only in black rather than white — and tricks the prince into professing his love to the imposter. Siegfried sees the real Odette at the last minute, and follows her back to the lake, where she aims to kill herself as the only way to truly break the spell. After she flings herself, in human form, into the lake and drowns, Siegfried follows her, and they ascend to heaven to be together forever.

No such happy ending in the movie.

This is a visually absorbing film that excels in a countless number of ways — superb acting (Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, and Winona Ryder are all at the top of their games), perfect sets, amazing special effects — and perhaps the greatest of these is simplicity of story. It is the story of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, and the evil, black-attired nemesis waiting to take her place is none other than her own dark side, born of long-unfulfilled desires (and perhaps more than a touch of mental illness).

Thanks to the writing talent of Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughlin, and the directing dexterity of Aronofsky, this film is as riveting as it is disturbing. But movie-watchers looking for a good old scary flick will be disappointed. It is much more of an inner journey, and in that it lives up to its diva’s aspiration:

“I just want to be perfect.”

A

I’m now even more giddy that Aronofsky is directing The Wolverine, to be released next year!

Another Snow Day in Atlanta

Global warming. Hmm.

Last year, I built the first snowman since my days growing up in Wisconsin. And I built it in the deep south, in a suburb of Atlanta.

A week and a half ago, I got stuck an extra day in Arizona (not a bad place to be stuck, mind you) because snow had shut down the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta Hartsfield International.

And here we are again with a few inches on the ground and freezing rain and sleet expected throughout the day, so that we all may miss a couple of days of work. This is nothing to the northerners who are adept at traversing winter streets. But here, we have no snow tires, we possess a total of eight (yes, eight) sand and salt trucks for the entire city, and we simply … shut down with a few flakes.

Ah, well.  Enjoy the snow day.

Snow in the Air

by Raymond A. Foss

Snow in the air
long before the first flakes
started their long fall from the heavens
snow in the feel, the smell,
the texture of the air
feeling the falling barometer
the shift in the weather
Falling lightly at first, while
I stood at the sink,
mesmerized, watching
their dance downward
Go upstairs, roust the girls,
hear the excitement, the joy
at the first real snowfall
Accumulating white, flake by flake
on the ground, the cars,
still quiet snow, light and airy
a film of white, cell by cell
cleaning the world
in white

Farewell, Pete Postlethwaite

1946 – 2010

We’ll miss you.  Movie watchers everywhere will miss that distinctive lilting British accent, the twinkling eyes above pronounced cheekbones, the bulbous crooked nose overshadowing an expressive mouth. Most of all, we’ll miss additions to the striking and wide-ranging performances that we will, thankfully, be able to watch forever.

Pete Postlethwaite began his career as a drama teacher and playing bit parts on British TV, with his first film part in 1977’s The Duellists, starring Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine. He stayed mostly in television for another decade, until becoming well-known to audiences everywhere through roles in the 1992 films Alien3 and The Last of the Mohicans.

As Kobayashi in The Unusual Suspects

In 1995, he played a pivotal role in The Usual Suspects, as the lawyer who communicates instructions to the gang on behalf of Keyser Soze. He went on to roles both large and small, but always memorable, in films including Romeo + Juliet (1996), Brassed Off (1996), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Amistad (1997), Rat (2000), The Shipping News (2001), Aeon Flux (2005), Closing the Ring (2007), Clash of the Titans (2010), and Inception (2010).  I had just watched him Friday night in one of his most recent roles, as a flower-arranging Boston mobster in Ben Affleck’s impressive new film The Town. He’ll appear in one more film, slated for release this year, called Killing Bono.

As Fergie Colm in The Town

What is notable about Postlethwaite — besides his inimitable looks — is that he could play everything from innocent, to sweet, to smart, to downright evil. And he could do it all believably. I can’t think of a film I’ve seen that isn’t better for his being a part of it.

Luckily for his fans, like me, Postlethwaite was quite prolific in his thirty-three-year career. He played nearly one hundred roles in films and TV series. Thanks to that, there are plenty of chances to catch his wonderfully heartfelt performances.

Postlethwaite died yesterday after a prolonged battle with cancer.  He leaves us with an creditable film legacy.

So long, farewell, rest in peace.  We’ll see you on the screen.

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