Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Muppets (Spoiler Alert)

Dear Readers,

(Spoiler Alert- some plot points are givin in this review.  Also- the spell check isn't working right now so please forgive any errors) 

                    This week I had the pleasure of seeing the much-anticipated new Muppet Movie.
Well thought-out screen-play by Jason Segal and Nicholas Stoller kept me engaged and entertained.
There were lots of peppy new song and dance numbers as well as the old standard "Rainbow Connection" which I have to admit- left me feeling very nostalgic and perhaps a tear or two escaped my smiling eyes... but that's between us!

             Jason Segal and Amy Adams make a great sugary-sweet couple who have been together for 10 nausiatingly sweet years.  And I loved Jason's interaction with his muppet brother "Walter" they are insperable with matching pajamas/twin beds/etc  "I know what you're thinking- we could be TWINS!"
Chris Cooper does a fine job as the ridiculous oil tycoon villian- "cue maniacal laughter: Mwah ha ha!"

             Believe it or not- what I truly loved to see is the growth and maturity of the Muppets...
In the beginning of the film- we find that Kermit is not his usual jovial self- but a more mature muppet who has been through both good and bad times and is perhaps a bit scarred.  Miss Piggy is also more grown up and established a new life for herself working at the Paris offices of Vogue Magazine.  When Piggy and Kermit talk after not seeing one another for many years-Piggy calmly tells her frog,  "I'm through waiting for you Kermit.... it's never about us, it's always about your show. I've made a new life for myself with new friends."  The old Piggy would have gone into karate chopping hysterics- but this is a new self-assured Piggy. Bravo!   Fozzi is not in the best of work/living  environments and Kermit actually apologizes to him for not keeping in touch and is sad to see him living in such poor conditions.  I was so moved.  To top it off- Animal is in anger managment classes- and Jack Black is is sponser!   I was floored- these muppets are socially contious and responsible.

                  As with most all the Muppet films, there were plenty of charming celebrity cameos... My one dissappointment was that they didn't give Neil Patrick Harris more screen time.  Seriously, Harris is a brilliant entertainer and he only had 1 moderately funny line?  If I had any say- I would have given him a big song and dance number and he and Piggy would run off together- now THAT's a movie!  ha ha! 

              I loved this film- and I highly reccommend it for both children and adults alike.  It's highly entertaining and sends a beautiful message of teamwork, forgiveness, independance, and growing up.  
My personal favorite Muppet film is still "The Muppets Take Manhattan"  however this new release        "The Muppets"  is a very close second.

See you at the movies!

-Francesca Marrone

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jack and Jill... Adam Sandler's latest effort...

Dear Readers,

                    Last night I had the pleasure of watching Adam Sandler's latest venture- "Jack & Jill" where he plays both the character Jack and his own twin sister Jill (in drag of course).  As in many of Sandler's film- you must endure a wide variety  of flatulence/fart jokes- nothing like relying on the lowest common denominator- which is fine if your demographic is 12 year old boys... but this film does have more substance than other Sandler films.  Forinstance- Sandler's film "Grownups" was an absolutely nightmare with one fart joke after another- with very little substance at all.  On the other hand- "Spanglish"- perhaps one of Sandler's best films- did not have one low-brow joke in it- so I went into Jack & Jill with hopeful expectations...

                  Thankfully- Jack & Jill did raise the bar.    The children in the cast steal just about every scene they're in. Katie Holmes did a fine job as Jack's wife trying to keep the peace. I loved watching Al Pacino venture into a comedic role.  Pacino has a natural presence and great comedic timing and he was a delight to watch- playing a "self-absorbed" version of himself while trying to woo Jill....I loved that Pacino could poke fun at himself and hearing him sing a few bars of a Broadway show tune had me swooning in delight. :-)  Many SNL alumni appear in this film and David Spade really sent it out of the park- he had me laughing out loud!
                Be for-warned, there was a good deal of sexist humor, racial humor, and bodily function humor. If this sort of thing offends you- then perhaps you should avoid this film.  I personally think this kind of humor can be entertaining as long as it's done with a bit of restraint and as long as there is an underlying thread of good will.  There's a charming song called "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist"  from the Broadway Musical "Avenue Q."  The character Jill has definitely had a more sheltered life than her brother- so racist comments tend to come flying out of her mouth.  However, no one is actually offended by Jill because her comments are clearly meant in good will and are a result of her naivete and that no one is actually offended by her remarks- it is very funny.  Of course, her brother Jack is angered/mortified/etc- but that is a big part of the fun!   

                    I actually liked Sandler's portrayal of Jill.  His female mannerisms were spot on and while he does not make the most attractive lady- he is definitely likable and endearing.  Once you get over the obvious "ugly" jokes- you find that there is a inner light to this lady and you feel sad that her quest for love and acceptance has been a tough road- while her brother Jack seems to have had it much easier his entire life. And while the two siblings argue and fuss- you see how the sibling bond over-rides all obstacles.  
Kinda makes me wish I had a twin!  

During this movie I snacked on popcorn and Sierra Mist.  (Boring! I gotta step up my snacks!)


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Rum Diary

Dear Readers,

             It has been a few weeks since I have written... I'd love to say it's because I lead such a thrill-a-minute life and I haven't had the time to write.  The truth is- the last few movies just left me feeling... uninspired.
Thankfully- tonight's film broke the ho-hum routine. 

            The Rum Diary (Clearview Cinema- Hoboken) starring the amazing Johnny Depp,  Aaron Eckhart, and Giovanni Ribbisi was an enjoyable experience.  How can you go wrong with a line-up like that?  All superb actors and the setting was certainly interesting- American journalists in Puerto Rico.  Lots of panoramic scenes of beautiful beaches and luxury hotels juxtaposed with plenty of not-so-pretty environments of poverty and undernourished children.  The premise- A newspaper who insists that the writers compromise their artistic integrity by ignoring the obvious suffering of the locals in favor of writing commercial fluff pieces that cater to rich American tourists.  Giovanni Ribbisi was especially strong as a far gone alcoholic newspaper reporter.  The older Giovanni gets- the more he becomes a chameleon in his work.  He was brilliant and for the first half hour of the film I didn't even recognize him...

            The only mild criticism I would give this film is that the pacing was....very.... slooooowwwwww.
Seriously- if I wanted to get up in the middle of the film- make a phone call- get a snack- visit the ladies room- and return- I wouldn't miss much.  Lots of pregnant pauses.   Normally- I'm not chatty during films- I'm not that person..  I like to become engrossed in the movie-going experience.  But in this film I clearly annoyed my movie companion with some of my impromptu commentary.  With all that silence- it was hard not to say something...  But let me just say this- my commentary was relevant to the film.  His commentary consisted of how the young lady in the cast- model-turned-actress Amber Heard is a "hotter version of Scarlett Johansson."  Oye vey!- In my humble opinion Amber is certainly lovely and her acting was fine-But Scarlett Johansson is a much stronger actress who could have brought more dimension, more levels of emotion, and if you want to go the shallow route- much more sexiness to the part.  Scarlett is all that an a bag o' chips! But I digress...

All in all- I'm glad I saw this film.  It sends a clear message about how the media often chooses not to report on ugly truths and things that matter in favor of advertising dollars and income revenue.  We as consumers pay far too much attention on gloss- with very little attention to substance. 
That said- despite the pacing- I have nothing negative to say about this film. This is a quality film with an important message and I do encourage you to see it.   

As for the "morsels" part of my commentary- my friend and I snacked on some "fun-size" Halloween candy. 
And after seeing all the characters in the film indulge in Puerto Rican Rum-  I decided to have a nice rum cocktail and ceasar salad with friends.. (Carpe Diem- Hoboken)

See you next time!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Afternoons With Marguerite- French with English Subtitles

After weeks of predictable Hollywood productions, It was a pleasure to take in a foreign film.
I went to the Claridge Clearview Theater in Montclair with a good friend.
Right before the film, we dined at "Raymond's" a quaint restaurant on Church St.  I've always enjoyed Raymond's because of it's interesting atmosphere.  It feels like to a throw back to a simpler time.  The walls are done in white subway tiles, the tables and the shelves on the walls display multi-colored soda fountain bottles.   It's clearly a 1950's inspired decor, but there is no retro kitch.  I usually love kitchy decor- but this place doesn't need it.  It's whimsical and charming- yet understated at the same time.
I enjoyed a vegetarian chili that was clearly made with love... it warmed me up from the sudden autumn chill that's in the air...
Onto the film,  My Afternoons with Marguerite.  It's a simple story about a illiterate man who befriends an well educated elderly woman.  She introduces him to the wonders of great literature.  Their love is not sexual, but it's a wonderful connection.
This is the type of movie that will not have you on the edge of your seat, or rolling in laughter.  But it is the kind of movie that you will reflect on as a perfect example of human connection.

Gerard Depardieu is a genius of an actor.  Everything he does and says is so engaging- and this film is no exception.  He makes eating a sandwich look interesting!  Gisele Casadesus is a triumph as Marguerite- an elderly woman with the spirit of a child with a twinkle in her eye.  The supporting cast is remarkable and brings the story to a brilliant, realistic level.  
I'm usually a bit more critical about films.   Perhaps I'm just biased about this film because it's in French.  There is something about hearing the French language spoken.... Everytime I heard a fluent French speaker I'm put in a trance.  It is probably one of the most beautiful sounding languages in the world.  I hear it spoken and the vowels and consonants simply wash over me.  I'm helpless to it's charms. 

See you next time!  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Abduction- aka: The Taylor Lautner fan club meeting will now come to order...

Dear Readers,

                  Ever eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Of course you have.  You know exactly what it tastes like, you know what to expect.  There are no surprises.  Abduction, an action/suspense film does exactly we all expect it to do.  No big surprises.   Basically, it's a vehicle for Twilight teen heart throb Taylor Lautner.  He smiles and pouts and karate kicks his way into our hearts.  Hell, if I were 14 I'd probably be taping his pictures on my bedroom wall right about now... but I digress...
                 With an impressive supporting cast that includes Alfred Molina, Sigorney Weaver, and Dermot Mulroney, Abduction had the potential to be a much better film.  Sadly, these great actors had very little screen time.  That camera stayed focused on Taylor Lautner for dear life! How else will the movie studios cash in on all the "Twilight" fans?  

                 Despite the predictability and flaws- I actually did enjoy this film for one reason- the audience.  There were a group of young teenage girls sitting right behind us, not to mention all the moms and teens scattered throughout the theatre.  These girls were all there for one thing- Taylor Lautner.  The fact that a movie with a plot and dialogue was secondary. Normally, I'm the first person to whip my head in the direction of a chatty offender and shoot them my polite but stern "please be quite" look.  In this case, I just looked at my movie companion and rolled my eyes.  He, in turn, leaned into me and whispered "They're just little girls."  We both chuckled.   Ah, to be young again! When the mere sight of a handsome young actor or musician would be enough to send you swooning.  I found it all so entertaining.  During one scene, Lautner removes his shirt- suddenly there is collective gasp in the theater- all these girls had to catch their breath at the same time!   One young lady exclaimed in an excited whisper "Oh my GOD! I hope he keeps his shirt off!"   During another scene, Lautner was kissing his costar Lilly Collins.  It grew from an innocent kiss to a heated make out session.  One mom exclaimed "They better keep it PG!"  Hilarious. Poor mom, trying to keep these girls from viewing sexually charged images.
Too late mom. 

       That said, if you must see this film, do it in the presence of teenage girls.  You'll definitely be entertained.  


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Drive VS Taxi Driver

Dear Readers,

          Earlier this week I had an interesting experience watching Drive- starring Ryan Gosling.
As my movie companion and I arrived at the theatre late- we had no choice but to sit in the second row of the movie theatre.  Oye.  We could almost touch the screen.  I almost couldn't enjoy my popcorn!  (I said almost)  Tip: if you find yourself in this uncomfortable seating- try to sit in the far right or far left of the row.  If you sit in the center you will be forced to creak your head back and forth as if you're watching a crazed tennis match. 

          As for the film itself-- I must say I really wanted to like Drive.  The premise interested me and it did have a promising beginning.  Strong and silent Gosling is a stunt driver for the movies by day- and by night he works as a driver for an illegal heists.  Throw in a little romance and scary mob bosses and you've got something for everyone- right? Wrong.  The script just wasn't there...

         Let's start with the romance- Gosling and Carey Mulligan are neighbors who meet- exchanged hellos- then they have several scenes where they awkwardly smile and stare at each other for what feels like an eternity.  No doubt these two have chemistry, but I like to hear actual dialogue between characters.  The initial silence was intriguing- but after a while- it gets dull.  The Italians call it "Pasta Sensa Salsa."  Perhaps this film was made during one of the many writer's strikes and they just didn't get around to writing dialogue?  Guess we'll never know. 

          Secondly, I wanted a back story for Gosling's character- he goes from strong and silent to and violent and crazy in the blink of an eye.  No build-up at all.  During the first bloody scene, an audience member shouted "Well that came out of nowhere!"  I couldn't agree more.  There was no real indication that this man was a loose cannon.    
          Then there was an interesting casting choice with Albert Brooks- the man who has spent a life-time in comedic roles is cast as a scary mob boss. Really? I guess Jerry Seinfeld wasn't available?  No disrespect to Mr Brooks- he's a legend.   I admire the fact that he wanted to play a role that is outside his norm- but it was just hard to embrace this snugly funny man as a violent character. 

      As an aside- I was genuinely happy to see that Christina Hendricks was cast in this movie- if only she had a bigger part.  I love her work on Mad Men and I think she's gorgeous curvaceous woman who does not subscribe to the Hollywood pressures of dieting to the point of becoming a walking skeleton.  She's my hero!   But I digress...

         I could see how some would find this film entertaining.  There were plenty of fast car chases and gorgeous women who don't utter a word- I can see how this movie could appeal to a man's baser instincts.    There was one scene in particular that was so unbelievably sexist that I was dumbfounded.  (Slight spoiler alert)   Out of nowhere, a fight ensues in the dressing room of a strip club.  The naked ladies don't scream and run at this bloody display- they sit calmly and observe this fight- not even one eyebrow goes up.  Mind you, the ladies weren't forced to stay- or held at gunpoint.  They just sit there and calmly watch this violent fight- completely naked and cool as cucumbers.  Nobody even grabs a towel.  Really?  Don't get me wrong- I have no problem with nudity in films- but this was simply gratuitous and nowhere based in reality. 

      Half way through the movie- I couldn't help but think of the iconic 1976 film Taxi Driver
I know all the Scorsese and DeNiro fans are gasping right now- but stay with me...
Both Drive and Taxi Driver have leading men who are silent and brooding.  Both of these characters have awkward relationships and are prone to violent outbursts. Both drive for a living.  Whether or not this was the intention- Drive is clearly a nod to Taxi Driver.  Even the wardrobe, editing, and styling of Drive has a 70's inspired look.   

        But the immense difference is this.  Once you see Taxi Driver- it will be etched in your memory forever.   Taxi Driver has an amazing screenplay with rich multi-dimensional characters.  Superb acting and direction make this the film that has inspired countless aspiring film makers and actors.  Even people who have never seen the film knows the iconic line "Are you talking to ME?"  Taxi Driver is more than a film, it's part of American history and culture.  If you have never seen this film- do yourself a favor and rent it today. I promise it will rock your world.  

           As for Drive, there were some interesting moments and the film has a cool retro vibe.  Some will find it entertaining.  And hey- I got to stare at Ryan Gosling for two hours- how bad can that be, right? 
See you next time! 


Monday, September 19, 2011

The Best and the Brightest

Dear Readers,

        As there is very little quality programing on television these days, I am a frequent DVD renter.
And conveniently, we have the "Red Box" DVD vending machines in just about every supermarket in the NJ/NY area.  For just $1, you can take home the movie of your choice.   As I see most of the popular blockbusters on the big screen, this gives me an opportunity to view lesser known independent films, or films that just flew under my radar... which brings us to today's blog...

        The Best and the Brightest:  Strong actors, but the storyline/plot left me a bit confused.  Wife pressures husband to move from Delaware to NYC.  She "wants a second shot at her dream."  We never get to find out  what that dream is.  Did she once upon a time want to be an actor? dancer? writer?  We never know.
All we know is that she's convinced that her dreams will eventually come true if she uproots her family to NYC and gets her daughter enrolled in an elitist ivy league school.   But as their humble Delaware background isn't quite impressive enough to wow any of the admission boards- they hire an admissions coach to help them get a leg up on the competition.  Amy Sedaris was very charming and funny as the coach- her comedic acting is always a treat.  In one scene the wife tells the coach that she once again "wants one last shot at her dream" and that she "kind of settled" for her husband- who's a mild-mannered computer programmer expertly played by Neil Patrick Harris.  It was clearly the intent for you to root for the wife and somehow feel sorry for her- I just found her character to be so whiny and unlikeable.  You've got a great husband who loves you and a beautiful child- but you're life isn't exciting enough.  Poor you.   And you are living in a basement apartment so where are you going to come up with the tuition money?  Rather than the wife work on herself and her work- she insists that the key to future happiness is to get the child in an elitist private school.  Her poor little girl is gonna need some serious therapy when she grows up.  Perhaps the husband should file for divorce and marry me!  Sorry, my little Neil Patrick Harris fantasy...

    Just when I ready to turn off the DVD player- the sub plot is revealed....
The coach convinces the husband to lie and say that he is a poet with a book about to be published.
But since the husband hasn't written a poem since high school, he must scramble to come up with some creative prose, but simply can't.    Then we meet the husband's friend Clark, played by Peter Serafinowicz, a sex-crazed slacker who spends most of his time playing video games and living in his rich father's brownstone.  For entertainment, he frequents sex clubs.  In a very sit-com style, Clark's x-rated text message are suddenly passed off as the husband's poetry.  A bit low-brow, but funny none-the-less.  The fun begins- The refined head mistress of the elite private school calls the work "Brilliant!" and "Extraordinary!"  Book clubs are formed, and the NY Elite world and the underground sex world collide.  I enjoyed this part of the film and loved how it poked fun at the private school system and the NY elite culture.  Although, I must admit that this sub-plot was a bit too much of a diversion from the beginning story line.  It lacked continuity.  Then again, I really didn't mind the story being moved away from the unlikable wife and her narcissistic expectations. 

Essentially, the film was choppy. So the chopped salad I ate right afterwards was fitting.  (groan!)
During this confusing film, I did squeeze out a chuckle or two, so I guess you could say my $1 was well spent.  

See you next time!