Monthly Archives: April 2011

Fair Game

It’s tough to rate titles like Fair Game based solely on cinematic qualities like acting or the plot. Watching the movie version of how Valerie Plame’s job as a covert CIA officer was leaked in the media was much like seeing it on the news a few years back. Sure, there were actors and camera work to depict what happened, but the film style was more like a documentary because of its content. In addition to the true events, there are books written by Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, used to create the script.

Plame (Naomi Watts) wrote the book Fair Game and Wilson (Sean Penn) completed his The Politics of Truth after the events that started in 2003. Wilson published an editorial in the New York Times that was thought to criticize the Bush Administration and to be the reason why his wife’s very secret job became public.
As far as Plame, the film largely focused on her role in the CIA to ensure Iran didn’t secure weapons of mass destruction, among other undercover intelligence-gathering missions. That is before “the leak.” After it happened, she stepped into the shadows while Wilson worked in the limelight to show the truth. His efforts  only led to people think Plame used her role in the CIA to order Wilson to travel to Niger to investigate the source of uranium sold there, which led to his editorial in the paper. By the end Plame did speak to the public and Naomi Watts’ scene was identical to what happened. They even showed the actual footage parallel with Watts’ performance.
So acting and cinematography aren’t the main key here. It’s seeing a story of fact, and a pretty recent one at that, combined in a couple of hours to document a historic event. It’s surprising Plame and Wilson turned out books so quickly when sometimes it feels like this just happened. But, it was obviously a very personal story for them both to tell since the national scandal had roots in their marriage. In the movie, the political/criminal aspects of the scandal were the focus just as much as how their relationship survived.
Watts excelled in scenes to show her character’s personal strife about her marriage and strain on her family more than those about losing her career. If there is one cinema plus of Fair Game, it’s Watts’ acting. Otherwise, I overall enjoyed the truth at the heart of this film and attention to a story that made history.

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Scream 4

Well, Scream 4 definitely lived up to my expectations. It’s a perfect date movie, first of all, and as far as sequels go it stayed true to the original without being completely horrible. Well done, Wes Craven, well done.
To me, the first Scream was scary but watchable in that I didn’t feel the need to close my eyes most of the time. The fear factor has disappeared as Wes Craven continued his saga, but he’s also kept up the premise, characters and movie-within-a-movie plot.
In Scream 4, Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro for a book tour to share her story of being Ghostface Killer’s target. Neve Campbell reprised her role as Sidney and all that means as soon as she steps foot in Woodsboro is, let the murders begin!
LOTS of people die in this one and there is even more blood and gore. Bravo, I say, bravo. Scream 4 is a homage to where it all began and is campy, entertaining and funny while pulling off the whodunit factor for the audience. That brings me to who you should see this movie with, a date! Like I said, it’s not scary so if you tend to be a baby at true horror flicks (like me) you don’t have to embarrass yourself by not being able to watch or screaming in a movie theater full of people. And it’s a conversation starter, especially if you’ve seen the other Scream movies, to determine who the killer is and if Craven will return with a fifth installment.

Add in the Hollywood cameos and original cast members like Campbell, Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers-Riley and David Arquette as Deputy Dewey Riley, and you can also reminisce back to the days when the first Scream came out.
What’s your favorite “scary” movie? Scream is a contender. You can jump out of your seat a couple times, but not be scarred for life. Craven has got a gold mine on his hands and better keep producing.
If you’re looking for more of a fright risk and losing some sleep, try The Strangers or the first Paranormal Activity. Sometimes I am willing to be completely terrified in order to see some good cinema, so I’ll take your suggestions. In the meantime, I recommend Scream 4.

The Lookout

As a writer I should know that it’s never a good idea to leave a piece unfinished for too long, because then it may never happen. At work at the paper I can push through and get something on paper because of that whole deadline requirement, but this blog has proved to be a different story.

I have a couple of drafts about films in the hopper, but those will be have to put off longer because of my recent viewing: The Lookout.
I came across the title while perusing Joseph Gordon Levitt’s resume on IMDB. While I would have rented the film solely because he’s the star, I was intrigued enough by the plot and rest of the cast to move it to the top of my Netflix queue.
Gordon Levitt is joined by Matthew Goode (Match Point) and Jeff Daniels in the “intelligent crime thriller,” as billed by the Netflix DVD sleeve. Usually I don’t give much bearing to those descriptions, but in anything else I read that is all I heard about the plot. The little research I did ended up being a blessing in disguise because I was able to experience the layers of the story as a surprise and without judgement.
Gordon Levitt plays Chris Pratt, a former high school hockey star who is in a serious car accident and suffers a brain injury. From then on Pratt is a different person trying to start his life over while battling the mental and physical side effects caused by his injury.
Creator Scott Frank takes much of the film reel focusing on this and Gordon Levitt met people in real life who experienced what his character did to prepare for the role. The “intelligent crime thriller” plot only comes into play in the background.
Pratt works as a janitor at a small town Kansas bank that a group of “bad guys” intend to rob, with his help of course. The bank robbers befriend Pratt and designate him to serve as the lookout in their plan.
Strangely, an idea that can only go wrong in some way and not be a good experience becomes part of Pratt’s recovery and process to move forward from his tragic past.
The Lookout does good by its plot choice and will make you think enough that if you were going to try and write about it as I am now, several edits will be in order.
But I gave my draft a second, and third chance and for that I recommend you try The Lookout at least once.

Your Highness

Who cares about Prince William’s royal wedding, how about that of Fabious and Belladonna?
I had the pleasure of attending the festivities last night during a viewing of Your Highness. To be honest, I had no idea what I was in for and went because of the A-list cast and David Gordon Green from Pineapple Express in the director’s chair.
He is joined by Danny McBride and James Franco, both of Pineapple Express, and starlets Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel. Rumor has it that McBride and Green, who went to film school together, came up with the plot during a game where one person thinks of a movie title and the other has to come up with what it should be about. Many years later their impromptu idea for Your Highness, a comedy about brothers Fabious and Thadeus on a quest to save Fabious’ bride from the evil Leezar, was bankrolled with a sizable budget for special effects and again, the cast.
I’ve also heard that much of the actors’ final lines came from improvisation on set, perhaps extending the level of low brow humor you can fit into an hour and a half.
Trust me, I have no complaints. I was not ashamed to watch and laugh while Fabious (Franco) and Thadeus (McBride) class it up on screen with about every dirty joke in the book.
I can’t even repeat anything they said and the trailers on mainstream TV are all a mish-mash of the few appropriate scenes in the film.
But, I was happy not to have a full preview and be surprised with how far the cast and crew would go with their antics.
You’ll get the most out of Your Highness if you’re a fan of the cast and can appreciate their range in a comedic role. Franco was the perfect fit to play Fabious. If you’ve seen Pineapple Express, you’ll know why. Your Highness is right up McBride’s alley, from his stardom in the series Eastbound and Down and Pineapple Express as well.
He shares writing credits on the film and I wonder if there will be a sequel. As with most the products of Hollywood, especially comedies, I wish they would all end at No. 1. But that’s rarely the case. In the previews before Your Highness two of the upcoming features were Hangover 2 and Scream 4. Hangover 2 looks like the same Las Vegas bachelor party, but in Thailand. I am debating seeing it as to not ruin my enjoyment of the first one. Scream I may see since it’s been a while since the last release in the series, but they better draw the line with the fourth installment.
So, take this chance to see Your Highness now and then put it in the vault of excellent comedies that should not have a part two.

Flashback: The Brave Little Toaster


A while ago I watched Toy Story 3 (as part of my 2010 best picture nominees retrospective) and I was reminded of a very similar movie from my childhood: The Brave Little Toaster. All you have to do is swap out the toys in the Pixar series for household appliances and their owner Andy for an adult who abandons the items at a cabin and the result is still a movie every kid should see.
The appliances, including an electric blanket, vacuum, lamp, radio and of course the fearless toaster, come to life when their “master” is away and have their own daily routine, much like in Toy Story. And, as in the last feature film with Woody and Buzz Lightyear, the vintage appliances eventually decide to venture out to find their owner.
I’ll admit it wasn’t quite the same watching this movie now than as a kid, but the old-school animation was welcome nostalgia back to the 1980s.
I hope The Brave Little Toaster continues to stand the test of time. So, whether you’ve got a few youngsters at home now or are young at heart, please check it out.