Movie review

Media Monday…Mona Lisa Smile

I’ve been rolling through a few movies on Netflix that I *know* the hubster won’t enjoy, and Mona Lisa Smile was one of them.  All in all I’d probably give it a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1-10, but that’s more because of pieces of the plot, rather than the performances.

For starters, what a great cast!  Seriously, Julia Roberts, Marcia Gay Harden, Julia Stiles, Kirstin Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ginnifer Goodwin?

While the premise of the movie was a bit simplistic, I loved the acting.  Julia Roberts was great (altho seemed to almost too reserved, IMO), but the younger women in this ensemble cast really stole the limelight.  I especially loved Julia Stiles’ character, and the fact she could back up the choice she made, even if it didn’t seem like the “right” one.  Kirstin Dunst was great, so good, in fact, I wanted to smack her character through a huge percentage of the movie 🙂  And Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ginnifer Goodwin were just fabulous.  Marcia Gay Harden was also fantastic.

The “romance” in this?  Not so much.  This is definitely a movie about all of these women, so the romantic secondary story seemed almost gratuitous to me…it just didn’t need to be there, and seemed to be more of a way to make Julia Roberts’ character more sympathetic, when she was just fine as she was.

This is a great girls’ night in movie, so butter up some popcorn, grab a few tissues (because the end WILL make you sniffle) and chill with your best girlfriends.

Media Monday–Winter’s Bone

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this movie.  I knew it was going to be dark, but how dark? I knew the performances were supposed to be stellar, but were they as good as rumor?  Hell to the F-in Yeah.  I know Jennifer Lawrence started to get serious looks from viewers after the Hunger Games, but she rocks the role as Ree, a Missouri mountain girl with the weight of her family on her shoulders.  Her father is on the run (ostensibly cooking meth) right before his court date, leaving the fate of the family (and their house and land) in question.  Ree, as the real head of the family, must care for her clinically depressed mother and two siblings, all while trying to track down her father.

For some reason I thought this was going to be a ‘searching through the trees, on a righteous quest’ kind of movie, and in a way it is, but Ree isn’t searching through the physical trees, she’s climbing a family tree that’s as steeped in crime as it is tradition.

Dale Dickey was AMAZING as Merab, the head of the female side of the clan, and without a doubt the most dangerous one of the lot.

While this isn’t a gory movie, it is brutal, in that it shows a life that is likely all-too-real, but all-too-easy for city dwellers and suburbanites alike to brush aside as fantasy.

Standout performances by Lawrence, Dickey and John Hawkes (as Teardrop) make this a move well worth your time!!

Movie Review…Twister

 Sorry for the absence last week…I was under the weather a bit, so just concentrated on getting well.  With tornado season right around the corner, I thought I’d talk about Twister.

Twister (1996)…I remember the first time I saw this movie…we were stationed in the Azores, it was winter, and we were watching anything and everything to pass the time.  So we’re watching this movie and scoffing at it a bit, because no tornado could possibly that big (keep in mind we’re both originally from California, and had no experience whatsoever with twisters).  Then, a few months later, we get our orders stateside, and lo and behold, we’re heading right into the area the movie was filmed.  So of course we put the flick back in and watched it carefully…still scoffing until we actually heard the name of the town we’d be moving to mentioned.  Holy crap!  I flew into Oklahoma a week before my hubby, and on my first night in base billeting we had three tornadoes touch down about thirty miles north in the infamous town of Wakita.  Welcome to Oklahoma!!  And then, two years later, the mother of all tornadoes roared through most of the state, making the movie version look like a piker.

When it comes to the movie itself, at the heart of it, it’s a romance, albeit one with tons of special effects.  The most spectacular special effects still make me giggle…most notably the flying cows.  I’m not seeing that EVER happening…sorry.  The characters, specifically Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, were fun and didn’t take themselves too seriously, which made their one-liners particularly amusing.  While this flick isn’t Oscar material, it’s fun, the special effects are pretty damned interesting and all in all, it’s a decent way to spend two hours.  The best part for me?  The music was seriously kick ass!

Movie/Music Monday…Ghost Rider (2007)

Ghost Rider (2007)… As a huge Nic Cage and Sam Elliott fan, I was really looking forward to catching this movie.  Alas, this flick never quite reached the level it could have.  For starters, the beginning was entirely too long and drawn out.  Yeah, I realize we have to get to know the character to understand his motivations, but for it to stretch out over an hour was just too long.  I realize this is a classic graphic novel, so the character development is told through action (just like in a screenplay/movie), but it just wasn’t fleshed out enough, despite the long opening, for me to be truly drawn into the action.  The same goes for the villains…they were supposed to represent elementals, but that power and their prospective abuse of it was never fully drawn out.  Additionally, when the action did kick in, it was too dark (literally) for me to follow.  While I was interested enough in this to watch through to the end, when the 97 minutes were over, I found it to be ultimately forgettable, which is just too bad, given Cage and Elliott’s considerable talent.

M/M Monday…Miss Congeniality

M/M Monday…Miss Congeniality (2000) I watched this one again over the weekend.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this movie, even through its semi-cheesy moments.  Sandra Bullock has a real flair for comedy, something I guess we’re not really used to seeing from her.  Never mind that Ben Bratt is some serious eye-candy in this flick and Michael Caine is hysterical as they flamboyantly gay contestant handler.  Candace Bergen is a hoot as the tyrannical pageant manager, and William Shatner is…well, he’s William Shatner, and he plays his role with unabashed Shatnerness. 

There are some laugh-out-loud moments, and a few “that’s too cheesy for words”, but for the most part, this is a feel-good movie that’s the equivalent of meringue cookies…light and fluffy, with no real damage done.  If you’re looking for a chick flick that even your hubby will enjoy (mine did!), then definitely grab this for some mindless fun.

M/M Monday…Veteran’s Day Edition…We Were Soldiers

We Were Soldiers (2002)  This is one of those movies that just kills me, pretty much from the opening scenes.  It tells the story of the first group of Army cavalry troops to eschew horses and tanks and leap into the air.  Relaying how the 1st Air Cavalry began behind Lt Col Hal Moore, the story takes us through their training to their deployment to Viet Nam, and the truly amazing, gut wrenching and deadly “last stand” in the Ia Drang Valley aka The Valley of Death.  Keep in mind this is a true story, the screenplay written from the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young by Hal Moore and Joe Galloway.

We Were Soldiers shows the true hell of battle, in a no-shit “last stand” where the US Army won (instead of Custer’s debacle).  It should be noted that in a freaky coincidence, the regiment these soldiers belonged to was the 7th Cavalry, the same as General Custer’s, and Hal Moore took those lessons to heart long before going boots-on-ground in Viet Nam.

Ia Drang was one of the most violent battles in US history, with 400 soldiers holding off more than 2,000 Vietnamese Army regulars for three days…and then emerging victorious.

While I’m not a latter-year Mel Gibson fan, in this movie he was fabulous, as a Harvard-educated soldier who wanted the best, not only for his country, but for his men.  His performance was highlighted by kick-ass performances.  They’re soooo damn good, I’m going to run then down individually, rather than gloss over them!

Sam Elliott portrays hard-nosed Sergeant Major Basil Plumly to perfection; a paratrooper who fought in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam, and successfully made all four jumps in World War II.  This is the guy you want by your side when the shit hits the fan.

Chris Klein (perhaps best known for his American Pie role) is the newbie lieutenant who does the right thing for his men.  While his role is to be the “heartstring puller”, he does is very, very well.

Barry Pepper (and you KNOW I’m a total Barry Pepper fan-girl) plays AP stringer Joe Galloway, who covers the battle from inside the wire…he was the first journalist on record to pick up a weapon and help defend the encampment…and for that measure (and his truly great reporting over the course of his career), I’ll always trust him more than almost any journalist around.

As a side note, the helicopter pilot Maj Bruce Crandall, call sign Snakeshit (played by Greg Kinnear), received the Congressional Medal of Honor just last year…over thirty years after his hellacious and truly awe-inspiring bravery where, for 14 hours, he and another pilot flew their helicopters on 22 missions that rescued more than 70 wounded soldiers. The intensity of the ground fire forced Crandall and Freeman to switch helicopters three times to continue their missions.  You can read his citation and more about him here.

There were a few inconsistencies with the actual battle (which I expect in a movie), but perhaps the most disappointing was the gloss-over of The Lost Platoon-these men were separated from the main company, and spent almost the entire battle trapped between lines.  Notably, ABC correspondent Jack Smith (who was not a journalist at the time, but an infantry troop), survived the battle and later went back to Ia Drang with a group of fellow survivors, to meet with his old enemy, and retrace the steps of The Lost Platoon.  Talk about heart-wrenching!

I watched this movie for about the umpteenth time with my critique partners earlier this year (two women who have no military ties whatsoever), and I was struck by how truly “innocent” civilians are to the military lifestyle and reality.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been affiliated with the military for almost twenty years (and my father and father-in-law are Korean War vets), but the sections of this movie that made my heart pound and my eyes tear up weren’t the parts that affected my friends.  While I was totally drawn into the battle and the bravery of the men (on both sides of the line), they commiserated much more with the spouses left behind.  I guess I can understand that, but it really highlighted the difference between those of us entrenched in the military life, and those who have no real clue what goes on behind the scenes.

Sorry for that tangent *g*.  In the end, my recommendation is to see this movie, if you already haven’t, and really “see” it, because besides Saving Private Ryan, I haven’t seen a movie depict the “real” military quite so well.