Monday, April 30, 2012

Avengers Assemble: Captain America aka Steve Rogers

Was Captain America aka Steve Rogers really the first Avenger like the film title of the film says?  Simply put, no.  In the comic books the first five Avengers were Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Wasp, and Ant-Man.  Captain America did not show up on the team until the fourth issue.  Yet Steve Rogers  appeared in comics much earlier back in 1941.

Steve Rogers was created from Timely Comics (the predecessor to Marvel) in March 1941.  Rogers was a scrawny guy who wanted to fight for his country.  Rogers was injected with the super solider serum, and he became Captain America.  Captain America was intentionally created as a means to fight the axis powers during World War II in the comic book world.  Captain America was meant to be a tool to help young boys find patriotism within the war effort.  When the war ended Captain America's popularity faded and he disappeared during the 1950s. Like within the film world Captain America was "thawed" and joined the Avengers; he stayed (Steve Rogers) stayed a part of the team and even lead the team.  In 2007 Steve Rogers was killed, and his friend Bucky Rogers took up his costume.  Steve Rogers eventually came back to life, and now is in charge of S.H.I.E.LD.  When Bucky died recently he took back his costume.

In the film world Captain America aka Steve Rogers is played by Chris Evans.  While I was skeptical about the casting in the beginning Evans had incredible charm, and played the role with great conviction.   In the film we get to see the early days of Steve Rogers, the birth of the costume, and the hero himself.  Captain America also faces his arch nemesis the Red Skull or Johann Schmidt.  The Red Skull is the successor to Hitler and like within the comics represents the evils of Nazism.

Steve Rogers may not have been the First Avenger (exactly), but he certainly represents everything this group stands for, and is a true representation.  Captain America is the eternal good guy; he is tough, strong, and as his name represents he is the all-American hero, who fights against the evils of the Marvel world.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Closing Time: Time for May Sweeps and Season and Series Finales

As another school year comes to an end, and I close the doors on another chapter of my life it makes me think about all of the wonderful times I had with the RAs I supervised, and the students who lived in the building I worked in.  There were also some crazy moments, but I am excited for some relaxing summer moments where I do not have crazy students damaging my building.  This is also the time of the year when many shows end their seasons or they end completely.

This time is traditionally referred to as May sweeps.  During this time there are lots of shows that end big, with weddings, graduations, deaths, births, elections, or other momentous life events.  The traditional television season has morphed with non basic cable networks, so they do not fit within this typical model, but here what is going on and what we may find out as the shows seasons/series come to an end.

April 29th

The Good Wife-The season has flown by with Alicia struggling with her relationship with Will, becoming friend with Kahlinda again, and trying to find a nice balance with her relationship with Peter.  This season ender has two of the firms most diabolical enemies Patty Niholme (Martha Plimpton) and Lewis Canning (Michael J. Fox) attempting to bankrupt the firm.  Peter is facing an uphill battle in the gubernatorial race potentially against Matthew Perry's character.  Kahlinda has had to face a lot of challenges as well and tonight she will get a major surprise.

May 6th

GCB-This shows pilot made it seem as though this show had no potential but with the show hitting its rhythm I am happy to say I am hope that this show returns next season.  As the season has progressed Amanda has moved forward to try and create a good relationship with mean girls Carleen and Cricket.

May 8th

The Voice-Does the winner even matter?  This show loses so much steam after the chairs stop turning around.  The show is different from American Idol, but at this point I have lost so much interest and honestly do not care who wins.  I do enjoy watching the judges.  I guess I like Jamar Brooks.

May 10th

Parks and Recreation-Will Leslie Knope win the election?  That's the big question on everyone's mind. This show is pitch perfect and has done something The Office could not do keep the the quality, because they do not try too hard.

May 13th

Desperate Housewives-This is end!  Last summer, I stated that this show should end, and ABC and Marc Cherry listened.  This show ran it's course, and I gave up a couple of seasons ago.  I will tune in to see how the 4 ladies will end their time on Wisteria Lane.

May 14th

How I Met Your Mother-Who is Barney going to marry?  We better find out who the bride is in the season finale.  It will be fun to watch Lilly give birth too.

May 15th

Grey's Anatomy-I gave up on this show the same time I gave up on on Desperate Housewives, but this is going to be an interesting finale.  There are a lot of contracts up on Grey's, a lot of doctor's will have offers to leave Seattle Grace, and someone is going to fail their boards.  Mix this up with another crazy ending like the gunman in the hospital, and you have one crazy cliffhanger ending on your hands.

May 21st

House-After many years on the air this show is coming to an end.  How will it end?  The last episode is called Everyone Dies, this cryptic title has a dark an ominous tone for the series ending episode.

May 22nd

Glee-The kids from McKinley High are graduating.  Where will they all go, and what will their futures bring?  Who will be back next season, and who is gone for good?  I think this will bring the show to an important cross roads that will make or break it for me next year.

May 23rd

Modern Family-Will Mitch and Cam adopt their second child, will Haley go to college?  No cliffhangers on this show, just good ole fashioned fun comedy.

Revenge-Amanda knows who killed her dad, and it's on!  The Grayson's are in even bigger trouble with her.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

MTV Movie Awards Add an Academy and Change Some Categories....I predict Twilight will Win Again

MTV is shaking things up at their movie awards this year.  They had one of their largest audiences last year with 4.5 million viewers at what has most recently become in my own words "The Twilight Awards."  Rabid fans have voted online in drones for their darling Bella and Edward in numerous categories.  I understand that this award show is for teens/tweens, but come on ladies get better taste in films.  

MTV has most likely heard a lot of great things from viewers, but they also want this award to mean something.  In the past it appeared that to used to.  While the MTV movie awards was not on the level of the Oscars this show used to be a little more ground breaking, and honored films that were good that fans like but the Oscars forgot about.  Like the network which has develoved this award show has spiraled into a fan girls wet dream, honoring people like Taylor Lautener.
This award show is meant to to be for teens and young adults, but in the past balanced things out with quality films.  Looking at past years nominees for Best Movie will help show the devolution of this award show.
In the shows first year (1992) the nominees were:
Boyz in the Hood
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
While these are not five stellar films, this is a great cross section of popular/quality films during 1992.  The first winner is the classic sequel that may be deemed better than the original T2.
Four years later in 1996 the group of nominees to be a solid, they were:
Apollo 13
Dangerous Minds
With two best picture nominees (Apollo 13), and the actual best picture picture winner (Braveheart) this is a great list of nominees.  While Dangerous Minds was not the best it makes sense that it was there during the time.  The winner was Seven.  I am impressed with MTV for honoring this film, when the Oscars wrongly dissed this film.  At this point MTV was almost visionary.
The pattern of quality continued in 2000 with these nominees
American Pie
American Beauty 
Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me
The Matrix 
The Sixth Sense
I will defend Austin Power's nomination because people were high off getting into this series, and the film was pretty funny.  American Pie was the high school movie of my generation.  Like back in 96 there were two Oscar nominated films The Sixth Sense and the Best Picture winner American Beauty.  The winner at this show was The Matrix, which swept the tech categories at the Oscars.  The Matrix was a great film and deserved this honor.
In the era after this the MTV movie awards have rubber stamped series as Best Movie nominees some deserving, some not that were not.  MTV did a good thing honoring The Lord of the Rings Trilogy with three nominations and three wins.  The first film series to be rubber stamped that should not have was the Pirates films (the first film deserved its nomination).  Like with Twilight the girls turned out in drones to honor their boys Johnny Depp, and and Orlando Bloom.  I have to say if I wanted to watch an award show driven by hormones I would tune into the Porn awards, come on ladies.
MTV has noticed this pattern, and has now added an "Academy" (who knows who is it) to change their process. I imagine MTV did not want to have similar nominees to the Razzie awards so they decided to try and shake things up.  I applaud this change. I also recognize I am no longer a teenager, but my hope is that this show speaks to a wide variety of teenagers like it did in the past and honor films like Seven, Boyz in the Hood, and Clueless.  I am worried if Twlight register more with our generation than most films today.  Here's to hoping this change is good, here is a list of the categories that are gone and the new categories for the year.

New Categories for 2012:
Best Music
Best Onscreen Transformation
Best Gut-Wrenching Performance
Best Cast
Best Onscreen Dirt Bag
Retired Categories from 2011:
Best Villain
Best Scared-as-Shit Performance
Best Jaw Dropping Moment
Biggest Badass Star
Best Line From a Movie

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits is a Delightfully Charming Film

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (3 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Peter Lord (Chicken Run) and Jeff Newitt, Written by Gideon Defoe
Voiced by: Hugh Grant, Imelda Staunton, Salma Hayek, and Jeremy Piven

The producers of Chicken Run and Wallace and Grommit bring to life a charmingly delightful tale of The Pirate Captain (yes that is his name) and his quest to be named Pirate of the Year trophy.  The Pirate Captain (voiced by Hugh Grant) has a rag tag team of pirates who is as the title says a band of misfits.  When the crew loot a ship and help The Pirate Captain on his way to winning the award, they find out that competing against the other pirates like Black Bellamy (voiced by Jeremy Piven) and Cutlass Liz (voiced by Salma Hayek) the crew and Pirate Captain have to step up their plundering.  There is one major thing in his way Queen Victoria (voiced by Imelda Staunton) who in her words "hates pirates."

The story is cute, and and the script and direction work to make this an entertaining piece of work. The film has a lot of funny moments for the young and old at heart.  There are some funny jokes about Jane Austin and imperialistic sensibilities.  Then there are moments where the pirates try to take over ships but end up on a ghost ship, and a ship full of sick people.  The film is clever, and uses the visual techniques along with the solid writing to help make this film solid.

This film works within the same style of past films from Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation.  The film seamlessly blends stop motion animation with modern day CGI to create a visual marvel.  I saw the film in 3D, and I am not a huge supporter of the technology.  I think films use it as a crutch rather than letting it enhance the actual film experience (check out Hugo to see 3D done right).  Yet the visuals are stunning, and one of the best parts of the film.

The film is solidly made, with a decent script, and wonderful visuals, but it does nothing that reinvents the wheel.  I sat back and laughed, was entertained, and think this would be a wonderful film for mom and dad to take the kids to.  Pirates are all the rage these days, and this adds some a fun take on a tired genre, but never really wowed me.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Tribute to Great Television: The Golden Girls

Picture it Miami "Four women, friends.They laugh, they cry, they eat. They love, they hate, they eat.They dream, they hope, they eat. Every time your turn around, they eat.”  The Golden Girls (1985-1992) was the show about four women who come together in the twilight of their lives to live together. These four women were so brilliantly unique.  This show is the first classic comedy I am crowning because to me it is one of the most perfect sitcoms of all time.  

There was Dorothy  who was played by Beatrice Arthur who, and is lovingly referred to "Brooklyn Italian" by her roommate Blanche.  Dorothy is a substitute teacher, divorced, and one strong lady.  Blanche played by Rue McClanahan is the no so proper southern belle, picture a wannabe modern day Scarlet O'Hara.  Blanche was widowed because "No man in his right mind would leave me willingly" she jests.  Caught in the middle of these is the good-natured farmer's daughter Rose played by Betty White who hales from good ole St. Olaf Minnesota.  Rose's sweet but naive personality helps bring out lots of laughs.  Then last but certainly not least there is Sophia played by Estelle Getty.  Sophia is Dorothy's who has had a stroke which inhibits her to say exactly what's on her mind.  Together these four ladies live together, make fun of each other, support one another, and create one of the best foursomes in television history.

Looking back even now this is an impressive pedigree of women.  Beatrice Arthur was an indelible stage presence starring in multiple productions including her Tony winning role in Mame.  Arthur's most famous role prior to the The Golden Girls was the Norman Lear show Maude. As Maude Findley Arthur was a different women for television; she was outspoken, and liberal and was one of the earliest feminist characters in television history.  Arthur shared the screen on Maude with Rue McClanahan as well.  Rue played Maude's best friend Vivian a quieter less obnoxious, and more genteel character.  Rue also played a similar role in Mama's Family for a year where she played Aunt Fran.  Rue's quiet gentility was juxtaposed to Betty White's sassy ways of her niece on the show Betty White's Sue Ellen.  Betty White had a long prestigious run on television but she was known most for her role as sex kitten Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  In a freaky Friday situation McClanahan and White had a role reversal, one of the smartest moves for the creators of the show.  While these three where television and stage veterans Getty was a relative newcomer, but she held her own.

From eating tons of cheesecake to some pretty bad St. Olaf stories these four women held their own year after year.  They did one thing that shows today have a hard time doing, this sitcom created a show about strong older women and made them the central focus.  There were episodes about their love lives, but there were also episodes about menopause, age discrimination and the difficulties of finding a job, and many other areas.  In today's world it's rare to see such quality writing for women, especially at an older age.  Often times older women portray guest starring grandmothers, yet this show broke boundaries, and set the bar higher.    A show that simple focuses on women prior to this was not there, but without this series we would not have more recent shows like Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland (and many more).  Not only was the show well made, and historic, it was and still is one of the funniest shows of all time.

The laughs are non stop when you watch The Golden Girls.  Whether Rose is saying something dumb or cooking something we can't pronounce or Dorothy is dateless yet again or bantering with her mother.  Then there is Blanche and her high libido sleeping with hundreds of men, and Sophia calling her the "human luge" "slut puppy" and a "50 year old mattress."  You would think these women who are always bickering hate each other, and with their differences would not have made it seven years, but they did and they still make millions of people laugh.  Below is my favorite scene from the history of the show. Thank you for being a friend!  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Breakthrough Performer of April: Lena Dunham

Get on the train folks this is one of Hollywood's new "It" girls, and not only is she an "It" girl but she created, directed, wrote and starred in the new television series Girls on HBO.  This show has gotten a lot of attention from all areas.  Many television critics have applauded this show for starkly contrasting the perception of being a young woman in her 20s. Lena Dunham is at the center of this on all levels, and boy is she talented.

While I was on lunch today my TiVo suggested I watched The View, don't laugh.  I fast forwarded to an interview with three of the stars from the show Girls, including Dunham.  The ladies on the gabfest were swooning over Dunham and talking about how wonderful she is, how talented, and what a great piece of work for someone at such a young age,  Dunham is 25.  They also talked about the depressing realistic subject matter.  In my opinion this is what makes her the standout performer of this month.  Dunham represents one singular voice within the female population speaking out about the difficulties women face as the grow up and fight through the things expected of them, and what they have to assume people expect.

While I have only seen her act in the first episode of this show, there is one thing that's clear; she has great chops and comedic timing based around her wit is on point.  Dunham has plans to move to her characters development in places other shows are afraid to go, and I think he frank/honest portrayal sets her a part from other working actresses.

Not only does Dunham have this show but team work with Judd Apatow (who produces Girls) has cast her in his newest film which is being released this Summer called This is 40.  This film follows Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd) from the film Knocked Up. Dunham also has supporting role in the film ironically titled Supporting Characters.  While her name still may be flying under the radar Dunham will surely be someone we will all be talking about a year from now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Judy, Liza, Barbra, Bette, These are Names I Shan't Forget"...The Evolution of Gay Icons

During one story line in Will and Grace, Will and Jack are tasked with helping Karen's cousin Barry become a nuanced gay as he comes out.  The story has four parts, all with the central title "Fagmalion."  Fagmalion is a reference to the George Bernard Shaw book Pygmalion.  In the book Henry Higgins makes a bet he can turn a woman with a cockney accent and turn her into a proper lady and fool the duchess at her ball.  As Barry yearns for his lazier straight days and tries to learn gay culture Will and Jack give him a mantra to help further him along and it goes like this  "Judy, Liza, Barbara, Bette, These are Names I Shan't Forget."

Lately there have been numerous articles written about Judy Garland no longer being a gay icon.  I say rubbish, but more about that in a bit.  Last night while I went to show tunes night at D Bar in Boston the night was consumed with lots of fun musicals including more recent stuff from Glee, Camp, and Next to Normal.  The DJ also played lots Judy, Liza, Barbara, and Bette! From "Happy Days are Here Again/Get Happy" with both Babs and Judy to lots of variety show performances from Bette.  I have to state this before I go any further, I know not all gay men are interested in musicals therefore they may not love these women (odds are they one but just don't want to admit it).  I also know each letter of the alphabet within the LGBTQA and more have their own icons.  At the moment I am solely focusing on the loss or passing the torch of icons for males.

Recently the New York Times and had articles talking about the death of Judy Garland as a gay icon The New York Times piece written by Robert Leleux entitled  "The Road gets Rougher for Judyism's Faithful" discusses his interaction with his friend Brodie who is his 30s who does not get Judy's iconic status within the gay community.  Robert convinces his friend Brodie who knows only about The Wizard of Oz and that "clang clang" song to go see "End of the Rainbow" which recently opened on Broadway and shows the last  brutal days of Ms. Garland.  Robert poses the question to Brodie essentially "Is she an icon?"  His reposne is just this:

“Not to me, she isn’t,” Brodie said, after the show. “I mean, I know she used to be important to gay guys, but I don’t see what she has to do with being gay anymore, except she did sort of remind me of Whitney and Lindsay and Britney. You know, train wrecks. The whole play was like that YouTube video where Britney goes after that car with her umbrella. Some gay guys do seem to like that kind of thing.”

In the past men who were gay would playfully refer to themselves as "Friend of Dorothy or FOD" with thoughts like Brodie's does this mean the iconic queen of the past is gone? The answer is fully formed, there are yes and no elements as well, but I would say her time is not done.  When I was talking to my friends last night one said "The young gays just don't who she is anymore" and "they do not know the others either" (referring to Barbara Liza, and Bette.  Yet at every show tunes night in every city that holds that event these women are lauded with numerous numbers.  With that I also noticed not as many gay men singing these songs because they did not know the numbers.  I am guilty of not knowing a Liza and a Bette number myself (gay gasp).  This is allowed.

Shows like Glee center around two Broadway obsessed teens who love these women.  Kurt and Rachel did a wonderful duet to "Happy Days are Here Again/Get Happy."  Yet younger viewers most likely watch to hear Santana belt Adele or Britney rock it out to some Beyonce.  I do not discredit the shows strong theatre fan base who love these moments that pay tributes to these icons, but the most successful songs have not been the Broadway tunes, or the ones from these great ladies.  So even though this show pushes them into relevance, they lose traction to younger music once again. 

Why are these women's fame and iconic status within the community fading?  Simple answer, people do not know their history.  As the AIDS/HIV epidemic wiped out a large number of men we have lost many of our storytellers who could have shared their love, joy, and laughter about their own past, and their experiences with the wonderful women, like Judy Garland.  

Of course there are numerous people around to still tell her story.  What made her and others like her an icon for our people?  Some say its because she was married to a gay man, Vincent Minelli, Liza's dad.  Other's sight her music and songs spoke to our community.  "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is poignant song about hope that things will get better.  The rainbow is a symbol for the gay community and together these elements combined make her another person who when gay men had to stay hidden they could listen to her music and long for a better place.  The Advocate writes " Her concerts were major gay meeting places, and in her later years, she made money singing at gay piano bars. Garland's father was gay, as were her studio-executive mentor and two of her five husbands. She had many gay friends and went to parties where she joked that she was the only woman present. But her appeal was based on more than her own acceptance of gays." It was also said that the famous Stonewall riots erupted because of her death. All of these elements represent something incredibly timely and important that have passed down to future icons from Judy's daughter Liza to Barbara, Bette, and all the way to Lady Gaga.

In today's society people are much more open about being gay than they were in Judy's days so many will argue that her message, and what she represents has faded.  Gaga is the new ally she fights for her little monsters.  Yet in a world where there is countless teenage suicide still, homelessness, and many other issues I can't help but wonder if the ultimate icon, Ms. Garland should be pushed further into the forefront.

If all Robert Leleux's friend Brody sees this woman as is some pill popper like Lindsay Lohan (which Judy was a pill popper) than I think he is missing the bigger message.  While every person, forget celebrity has their issues.  Judy Garland is the first gay icon; she is the queen who spawned not only her daughter, but she paved the way for other celebrities like her.  Garland made it cool to be a "Friend of Dorothy." and while her legend may be fading we need to remember where things started and never forget that simple mantra "Judy, Liza, Barbara, Bette, These are Names I Shan't Forget."

Monday, April 16, 2012

HBO's Girls has a Sex and the City Vibe with Angst

Like it or not creator Lena Dunham will hear a lot of people compare her new television series Girls to former HBO series series about four women in New York City, Sex and the City.  My guess is that based on the dialogue Dunham admires the former HBO series.  Dunham created this show; she wrote, directed, and stars in the series as well.  In the first episode her friend Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) welcomes back the groups friend Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and while asking about Jessa's conversation Shoshanna talks about the girls from Sex and the City and that she is a Carrie, but sometimes she acts like a Samantha.  This interaction sets the scene to establish one of the most basic premises within this show four girls battle it out with the great city of New York and being in your 20s.

Enter creator Lena Dunham who while she may admire the former HBO series sets her show a part.  Girls has incredible wit while balancing the seriousness of growing up today.  Lena plays Hannah who like Carrie Bradshaw is hoping to be a journalist and write a memoir.  Hannah like apparently many young people in their 20s are being supported by their parents in order "make something of herself."  Hannah sits down to dinner with her parents only to have her mother abruptly and hilariously cut her off completely.  Hannah retorts "you are lucky I am not doing drugs."  In a great twist of fate Hannah ends up in her parents hotel room a day later high on opiates hoping her parents will change their minds.  Hannah wakes up to find forty dollars-two twenties in two different envelopes as though they are gestures of good faith and a parting gift.

Allison Williams plays Marnie and in her words she is Hannah's "best friend."Marnie appears to be "normal" whatever that means within this world, except she no longer has any feelings for her longtime boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott).  Marnie and and Hannah discuss the different ways and levels in which someone can break up with someone.  As this occurs Charlie appears to know their love is dwindling but wants to hold onto Marnie as long as he can.

The show is a product of Dunham's mind and is produced by the typically male oriented frat boy humor Judd Appatow (Bridesmaids is the rare exception). Dunham's show is a clever/witty piece of work that looks to go nowhere but up.  Dunham has been described as the female voice of this generation.  Dunham certainly represents this "pre-adult" and what Kay S. Hymowitz refer to as the rise of the "knowledge economy."  These women in this show represent a rising culture of women who are using the opportunities to buck the traditional and play different roles, while dealing with their own femininity.

While Dunham has done a great job representing the voice of the twenty-something woman she has received some criticism about not representing a diverse voice.  I have to simply say one person should not represent the voice of the many, and its impossible for Hannah and her friends to be everything.  I do hope Hannah expands her vantage point, and bring a diverse perspective to the show.  In the meantime check out this wonderfully well written show.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Star Making Roles Part 3: John Hughes

I woke up in this morning and was in the mood from lighthearted 80s fun, so what's better than John Hughes film.  I picked my one of my favorite Hughes' films, Sixteen Candles (1984) starring the iconic 80s star Molly Ringwald.  Except for the somewhat racist gong that signals Long Duck Dong's every action this film is a great movie and introduced the world to one of the first actors who played a significant role in John Hughes films and in the landscape of popular culture during the 80s.

John Hughes was an incredible magic maker with film in the 80s and early 90s.  What people assume is that he directed most of the film he is associated with, but in reality he only directed 8 films which included: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Planes Trains and Automobiles, She's Having a Baby, Uncle Buck, and Curly Sue.  Hughes was also associated with many other films as a writer, there films included: Vacation, Some Kind of Wonderful, Christmas vacation, Home Alone and Home Alone 2.

Hughes had a great deal of impact in the world of film. He was never nominated for an Academy Award nominated, and none of his films deserved a nomination, but the cultural impact of these films was indelible.  Even though he never had a nomination from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences (the Oscars), at the ceremony two years the actors who helped make his films what they are honored him in a special in memoriam.  Hughes past away at the young age of 59 in August 2009.

The first crown jewel in his career is the star of his first film Sixteen Candles.  Molly Ringwald represented the average girl of the 1980s; she was cute, and represented the average young woman well.  The current film landscape often prevents actresses that look like her from becoming major leading ladies in films (but that's another story.)  Sixteen Candles was he first film with John Hughes.  Prior to this Ringwald's big screen success she had a major role in the first season of the television series The Facts of Life, when the cast was trimmed down Molly was let go, and it was probably one of the best things that happened, in her early career.  Sixteen Candles was her first major film role, and it launched her on the fast track to being one of the most memorable names in film.  Ringwald became part of what is known as the Brat Pack.  The Brat Pack emerged primarily from Hughes films.

The most interesting thing about Ringwald's career is that her fame came from three films, all either written, directed, or produced by John Hughes.  After Sixteen Candles she starred in two other films both written and produced by Hughes.  The first film was The Breakfast Club (1985) where Ringwald played the spoiled popular girl in high school who lands in detention.  In 1986 Ringwald starred in Pretty in Pink where she played Andie the girl from the other side of the tracks who fell in love with a popular rich boy played by Andrew McCarthy.  These three films had a tremendous impact on the 80s and the teen generation of this time.  I grew up watching these movies with my parents.  Hughes Molly Ringwald films represent the time period and act as a time capsule of youth culture during this time period.  Molly Ringwald was an it girl of the 80s.

Today Ringwald's career has taken a nose dive throughout most of the 90s she had roles in failed television shows, and bit parts in film.  One great cameo was in Not Another Teen Movie where she mocked the cliche aspects of high schools films.  Ringwald currently has a starring role on the hit ABC Family series Secret Life of the American Teenager.  This marked her her first successful vehicle in more than a decade.  While her career has faded Ringwald still represents some of the best moments in 1980s cinema.

Of course after watching Sixteen Candles I had to watch one of my other favorite John Hughes film, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  The star of the film Matthew Broderick has had one of the longest careers in his post John Hughes world.  Broderick only starred in one of his films, but Ferris Bueller was an incredible film that launched this guy into superstar status.  Critic Richard Roeper cites this film as one of the best films of all time, and his favorite.  The film has an energy, and it's Hughes best directorial work ever.

After starring in this film Broderick established a decent career in film and television landing roles in Glory, The Freshman, doing voice work for the animated feature The Lion King, and guest starring on hit shows like 30 Rock.  While the mainstream public may know his wife better (Sarah Jessica Parker) Broderick's Broadway career has allowed this man to have a truly wonderful career.  Broderick has two Tony Awards, and is cited as one of the youngest Tony winners of all time;  he is also a part of the dynamic duo that brought one of the most famous musical to the stage, The Producers.

While Broderick and Ringwald's careers have had different trajectories they have one thing in common, John Hughes.  Hughes started many careers, but these two had the most impact.  Hughes also not only started a dynamic change in film, and for that I say, danke schoen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

War Horse Feels as Though it were Made to Win an Oscar not to tell a Moving Story About a Young Boy and his Horse During World War I

War Horse (2 1/2 out 5 Stars)
Directed by Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List, Munich, Catch me if you can)
Written by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and Lee Hall (Billy Elliot)
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson

War Horse feels as though it were made to win an Oscar not to tell a moving story about a young boy and his horse during World War I.  Steven Spielberg can make magic happen in films, but this film feels as though the "magic" is forced.

The film follows the story of a Horse who is bought at an auction and named Joey by its owner Albert (Irvine). Albert's family is poor and when his father buys Joey he uses the money that is needed to help pay the rent for the land they have.  Albert forms a bond with Joey and together these two work to make sure the land is plowed and form a friendship.  Joey's father decides he must sell the horse to pay to keep their home, and Joey's horse is bought by a soldier going off to fight in World War I.  The horse survives the different elements and becomes intertwined in different stories making an impact on its owners for being strong, determined, and a creature that battles out its underdog status to become a symbol of hope.

This all sounds incredibly moving.  The problem is that inter-spliced between Spielberg's great direction and Janusz Kaminski's utterly stunning cinematography there there is a story that feels disjointed.  Within each different story of this film the connection is this horse, and within each story the horse represents some different emotional context.  The problem with this is that some of the stories work, and some of them fall flat.  I liked watching the bond between Albert and Joey this felt real, but also cliche within the context of the first story.  The best story within the film was when a British and German soldier come together to help cut Joey from barbed wire.  This moment was incredibly poignant, but also felt out place.  The film does not completely register on an emotional level that it should.

While it never registered as a film its interesting that this was one of the most successfully crafted plays on Broadway.  The play won 5 Tony awards including Best Play, and is still running on Broadway because of its incredible success.  The play uses puppets for the horses which is obviously different from the film, but what makes this successful on Broadway and not as a film?  The play hit at something a little bit more genuine while the film forces the emotion onto the audience.

When you adapt material from being something real like a play, the creative teams needs to make up for the different emotional journey the audience will experience.  Plays create in an intense live experience where the audience feels the genuine struggle because the actor presents these emotions vividly in front of them.  

Spielberg 's direction was solid but his films are not evolving.  War Horse feels like a classic film without the great quality.  I wanted to like this film, in fact, I tired to like this film more than I did.  Yet the film feels forced and as if it were trying to force emotional experiences rather than let them happen naturally.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

American Reunion has Enough Nostalgia on its Side to Make me Care About the Characters Again, but Falls Flat

American Reunion (1 1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars)

Directed by Jon Hurwitzand and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo BayWritten by Adam Herz, Jon Hurwitzand and Hayden Schlossberg 
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Sean Williams Scott (and the rest of the gang)

Exactly 30 years ago in 1982 the raunchy high school film Porky's was released.  Porky's is not that  different film from the original American Pie.  The film was set in 1954 and is about high school boys trying to lose their virginity, the only extra element is the titular establishment Porky's.  Porky's is a sleazy night club where the boys make an attempt to lose their virginity, but they are humiliated, and the vow revenge on the owner and his friends.

While the characters change, films have used this story of young men attempting to lose their virginity throughout the years.  Looking back at the cast of Porky's the only person who has made a name for themself is Kim Cattrall who played one of minor supporting characters, Honeywell.  American Reunion attempts to never let the audience forget the past, and uses a millennial tactic of nostalgia to bring back every significant character from the first film.

Thirteen years ago the gang from the American Pie film was in their senior year of high working on losing their virginity, except for the Stiffmeister (Sean William Scottt).  Now thirteen years later each of the characters has moved on and attempted to grow up. Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are still married, but now they have a child.  Oz (Chris Klein) is a sportscaster and a famous reality star. Kevin (Thomas Ian Nichols) is a stay at home husband and architect-although his story about his life is not explored as fully as it should.  Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is supposedly a world traveler with thinly veiled stories.  Then there is good ole Stiffler who is a temp and still has not grown up and lives as though he is still in high school.

Even the supporting ladies from the first film returned.  Tara Reid with her unfortunate plastic surgery and even worse acting returned to play Vicki Kevin's first love.  Oz's choir girlfriend from the first two films Heather (Mena Suvari) was still the same; she returned to play Oz's moral compass.  Jim's dad Eugene Levy and Stiffler's mom payed Jennifer Coolidge returned to raise hell with their children.  How could you do a reunion without the MILF guys, Jessica, the Sherminator, and the hot lacrosse team.  How can any of this go wrong?

While this films has pretty funny moments the creative team focused too much on the nostalgic factor thinking that just getting every back into one film would make the movie good.  The story is silly, and yes all of the first three had that, but silly tends to be less funny when the characters are not the same people.  The point of the film could and was in a sense that some people change and some people do not after they leave high school.  Throughout Reunion the writers do a decent job getting this message out their, I think they forgot something, these jokes have been done before and just aren't adding anything to the story.

The first film ended on a poignant moment, even the second and third films made you feel as though these guys were becoming adults and figuring things out.  So thirteen years later all of that changes, and they have what 30 Rock calls Revertigo?  They go back to being teenagers.  I did not expect a Citizen Kane type storyline, but I expected that the laughs combined with the nostalgia of the 90s would make this film worthy of a follow-up, and unfortunately masturbation and shit jokes just make this film incredibly less funny.

Monday, April 9, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird Celebrates 50 Years!

Last year I celebrated West Side Story's triumphant 50th anniversary, and now this year it's To Kill a Mockingbird's turn.  In recent weeks this film has become more and more salient.  People assume that temperament like this racist ideology in this film is gone, or decreased.  While things do not happen exactly like they did in this film, there are still numerous issues.

The recent death of Treyvon Martin proves there are still many people who racially profile based on appearance.  Then after this young boys death you have people on FOX news like Geraldo Rivera spouting off statements like young teenage Black and Latino boys should not wear hoodies, and the network citing that no one talks about black on black crime.  I have worn a hoodie at work everyday since this has happened.

This type of dialogue is not only happening within the context of real life situations, but within the world fandom and popular culture.  When the The Hunger Games was released 3 weeks ago CNN reported that many fans were outraged that Rue and Cinna were both played by black actors (Amadla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz).  People will always complain about casting, but I have never heard such negative remarks about casting associated with race, here were some of the tweets:

"why does rue have to be black not gonna lie kinda ruined the movie"
"EWW rue is black?? I'm not watching"
"Sense (sic) when has Rue been a n****r"
One person complained that their picture of Rue as a blonde haired blue eyed girl ruined was ruined by the films.  In the books Rue is described as dark skinned, with dark hair, did this person even read the book?
To Kill a Mockingbird is told from the point of view of Scout the daughter of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression era south.  Atticus Finch is one of the most heroic men in the history of film and literature.  In a time when racial issues were slowly intensifying this man stood up for someone who was different, and helped tried to save him from false rape charges from a white woman.  Atticus is a good man and a good father he wants to show he children how to stand up for something you believe a midst the pressure of societal discrimination.
Atticus is the epitome of the everyday man fighting for injustice, and Gregory Peck does a flawless job in this role.  Peck was one the best actors of his generation, and it feels as though with such natural acting abilities he was born to play this role.  Peck beat out some heavy hitters to win the Best Actor trophy at the Academy Awards for this role role, including Peter O'Toole for Lawrence of Arabia.  The film itself was nominated for 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture, and Best Director.  This was also the film that introduced the world to another great actor, Robert DuVall who played Boo Radley.  This film made a difference in people's lives and it made a difference in the film industry.
To Kill a Mockingbird represents a trend that took off in Hollywood, the white crusade for the black cause. Some people have issues with this because they feel as though this takes away the genuine voice from the person who is struggling.  This has been a contentious issue even up until this past year with the film The Help.  The Help centered around a white female writer working to tell the story of the black maid is Mississippi.  While I understand the pros and cons to this style of story telling these two films have something in common, morality.  The two films center around characters who regardless of their race are standing up to fight for what is right.
Harper Lee wrote the novel the film is based on, and she herself is represented in the character Scout (her best friend in the film is said to be a young Truman Capote).  I remember being in 7th and my literature teacher told me specifically that it was a requirement I read this book.  I could not put it down, and since then this has been one of my favorite books, and also one of my favorite films of all time. I made my sister sit and watch this movie with me when she was younger in hoping she would love the film, and live the message; she always talks about this memory, and about how much she loves this film.  The message from my teacher Mrs. Black, and the book itself is one of standing up for injustice in the world.  Mockingbird helped me to be the person I am today someone who stands up for what they believe in, and that works be a little bit more like Atticus everyday.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

In Memoriam: Mike Wallace

Mike Wallace is one of the most famous new journalist of all time, and while I did not get to see most of his first hand his legacy lives on within the television series 60 Minutes,  throughout other pieces of popular culture.

Mike Wallace was with the news program 60 Minutes from the beginning (1968), and while the show was not a massive hit from the beginning, the show became a top ten hit in 1977-1978.  The show remained in the top ten until 2001, and was often the most watched program of the year.  Mike Wallace was one of many new reporters but his solemn reporting often drew people to admire and respect the work that he did throughout the years.

Wallace hit hard at everyone from the public to private sector.  Challenging different people from members of the Nixon administration in the post Watergate era to Barbara Streisand.  His interview style challenged the interviewees.  Wallace did his research on the people he was interviewing; he also was the master of point out the obvious with questions that clarified and phrases like "forgive me but...." or "come on."

One the major situations Mike Wallace reported on was the 1995 was the whistle blower for tobacco industry Jeffrey Wigand.  Wigand had accused Brown & Williamson of intentionally putting extra nicotine in cigarettes.  The story ended up falling flat because CBS feared they would be sued for releasing an interview with Wigand because he had signed a non-disclosure deal with the company.  The New York Times released pieces of the story and showed this element, and exposed the unfortunate events at the end of Wallace's career.  In the final broadcast Wallace showed dismay over the story that had been gutted.  This represent not a low point, but the sign of changes in journalism.  If this sounds like a film, you are right this even was eventually made into a movie called The Insider where Russell Crowe played Wigand and Christopher Plummer played Mike Wallace.

Wallace is regarded as one of the best television journalist of all time, and his legacy will live out in quality work he put in throughout the many years on 60 Minutes, and even after he retired.  This man was   an incredible new reporter, and his memory will live on.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Religulous Revisited!

Today while I was relaxing my father called me saying he was sad I was not coming home for Easter.  My response was simply I am sad I will not be able to see you, but "I don't celebrate Easter."  My father talked about his own lack of religious yearnings, but mentioned how people tend to come home around holidays, and he missed my youth and getting me an Easter basket filled with candy as he saw people buying these things at Target.  I have to admit I miss the chocolate, but not church.

A few hours later I called my grandmother to thank her for the nice card she had sent for Easter; she to had wished i was coming home for the holiday.  I did not have the same conversation about religion with my grandmother, it would have been a moot point.  Like most of the people who raised Catholic from her generation (in the northeast) mass/religion are more about tradition and center on ways to bring the family together.  The same sentiment was in my father's thoughts.

As the day went on I thought a lot about not being home with my family and celebrating with them, and how we all used to celebrate Easter together with ham (which I hate).  Then when I got in from the gym with dinner my TiVo with some magic recorded, in the suggestion area, the film Religulous (2008).  Religulous is a documentary directed by Larry Charles (Curb Your Enthusiasm) about Bill Maher's perception on the current state of world religions.  While this is not the best documentary there are some great perspectives about different religions that are explored by Maher.

Maher is a self proclaimed atheist, and throughout his movie he goes to speak with a wide variety of people whose religion are the central part of their life.  Maher starts by going to a Church for truckers (Christian church), goes to speak with an ex-gay who tries to help people with their "transition", he goes to holiest lands from the Vatican, to places in the Middle East, and in the end he speaks with former Mormons, and people from Islam.  Maher conversations with these religious people are edited with scenes where Maher speaks with his mother and sister about their familial and his own life experiences with religion.  Each of these conversations centers around Maher's disbelief, and his thought that people cling to religions (not faith necessarily) which claim to have divine authority.

The film is filled with numerous memorable statements that provide some incredibly thought provoking moments like:

"The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having in key decisions made by religious people. By irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn't learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says, "I'm willing, Lord! I'll do whatever you want me to do!" Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don't. How can I be so sure? Because I don't know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that's what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let's remember what the real problem was that we learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That's it. Grow up or die."

This quote from Maher made me think a lot about religion and the power it has over people today.  I do not know where I stand at the moment.  I grew up in a Catholic family went to Church every Sunday was an alter boy, and believed in everything that my religion centered.  As I grew up and started to learn more about the world outside of religion I began to ask questions.  In the world of the Catholics there is a do as I say mentality, and I do not often play by the rules.  I was also gay.  There were so many things priests, deacons, and bishops would say and I just fundamentally disagreed with them.  I felt/feel conned.  My own spiritual development is still in flux.  I do not know if I am spiritual or what if anything I believe in.  This statement made me think deeply about what I believe in and made me want to assess where I am at, and where I am going.

Film can have a powerful influence over thought processes, but in the same breath, my own emotional journey is not defined by film.  I have many friends who believe in different things that I no longer understand.  I respect/appreciate their journey and their beliefs, but like Maher I often find myself on the sidelines thinking why do we let the undefinable define who we are as people.  I do not know if I would characterize myself as an atheist on the level of Maher but I appreciate his voice in today's society as some challenges the common thoughts centered around religion.  Maher is, after all, not incredibly likeable (even thought I like him).

Maher including his family in this film was one of the best aspects of this film and helped viewers to have a better understanding of his religious journey, and allowed me to know him better.  One of my favorite moments was Maher's mother talking about Bill being angrier that there was no Santa as opposed to losing his connection with religion.  While Maher often comes across as pretentious, and stubborn.  The moments with his family give him more humanity as the narrator of the story.  Maher's analysis of other's faith can seem jarring, but as he says throughout the film "I'm just asking a question" and he is doing just that.  Maher is an outsider and talks about the fact that people who have his disbelief rarely can have honest/candid conversations about religion with those who have strong faith.  I agree with this statement but also wish he went deeper into other religions that are defined by spirituality or religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and even Satanism, but maybe in a sequel.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April Movies to See and Movies to Skip!

March had a strong set of films.  Within the last three weeks 21 Jump Street and The Hunger Games provided a lot of entertainment, and strong box office numbers.  April on the other hand begins with some nostalgia bringing back the team from the American Pie series, and Titanic in 3D, but the rest of the month seems to start to fall flat.  I do not want to wish April away, but there are too many May movies I excited to see.

April 6th
American Reunion
Titanic in 3D

American Reunion's preview looks pretty hilarious, and all of previous installments were pretty hilarious/entertaining (the third being the weakest).  Revisiting this franchise does not seem cheap because of the premise of the story, a ten year reunion, sign me up.  Will Kate Winslet's breast pop out of the screen?  While I enjoy Titanic it's not one of the films I want to go see again.  I do think it is a net concept though.

April 13th 
The Cabin in the Woods 
The Three Stooges

This is wear April starts to fall flat.  While I was excited that Joss Whedon produced the thriller The Cabin in the Woods, the preview made me change my mind.  The Three Stooges went through several cast changes, directors, etc. and when the preview released my exact thoughts were "What a waste of time" and "This tarnishes the reputation of the television series."  I think the film looks and will be awful.  Lockout looks like Taken in I need to say more?

April 20th 
The Lucky One 
Think Like a Man 

Zac Effron takes on Nicholas Spark; he looks hot, but Spark's stories are so predictable, cheap ploys at getting emotions.  The only reason I will see The Lucky One is to watch him shirtless (honest).  Chimpanzee will be a cute family friendly film that may surprise and be more successful than people think.  Think Like a Man which is based on Steve Harvey's book looks like mindless fun entertainment.

April 27th 
The Five-Year Engagement
The Raven
The Pirates! Band of Misfits

As the middle two weeks of the month feel painful the last week is where things may start to pickup.  I think Engagement looks good, and Seagal and Blunt will make a great time on screen.  I have seen previews for this damn Pirates movie for forever (it seems), and I think it looks hilarious.  The Raven looks painful, time reassess your carer John Cusack.  Jason Stratham thanks for making the same movie  over and over again, I appreciate it!

Movies to see:American ReunionThe Five-Year Engagement, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Titanic3D
Movies to Skip:The Three Stooges, Lockout, Safe, The Lucky One, The Raven