Category Archives: Reviews

Beginners: Movie Review

One of the great things about being in Los Angeles is that I’ve started doing things I would never, ever have done otherwise. Like climbing a mountain, or eating meat. But I’ve also started seeing films that were never high on my list of must-sees for this summer.

So, last night I went to see Beginners. I had heard pretty good things about it from people, but had no real expectations.

It is not only one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but possibly in my entire life.

This comedy-drama follows 38-year-old Oliver (played brilliantly by Ewan McGregor and his faux American accent that I find oh-so attractive), his childhood relationship with his mother (Mary Paige Keller), his new relationship with the fun and unpredictable Anna (Mélanie Laurent), and his relationship with his terminally ill, homosexual father Hal. Oliver meets Anna only months after his father died (but not before coming out to him).

I know that synopsis may seem convoluted, but the film does a great job of telling a near stream-of-consciousness story, without it being horribly confusing. Normally, I hate stream-of-consciousness stories. But Beginners was something different.

The script itself was great, but what really brought it alive for me was the acting. I do tend to watch more comedies or sci-fi than anything else, which don’t get me wrong can have great acting. But I think dramedies often feature the best actors, because it can be difficult to make an audience want to laugh and cry, sometimes in the same scene. Every scene with every actor (including Goran Visnjic, who plays Andy, Hal’s lover AND Arthur, Hal then Oliver’s dog) feels so incredibly real, like I’m peering into the lives of other people.

That sounds pretentious, I’m aware of that. And yes, I’m sure some critics would say that stylistically, this film kind of jumps around a bit. Fair enough. I liked that.

But I just don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie that’s made me really feel so much in under two hours, whether it’s happy, sad, contemplative or anything. It’s sweet and hopeful and weird and amazing. And I think that means something.

Maybe it means I should just watch more experimental art dramas. It probably does.

Nevertheless, Beginners is one of my new favorite films. It’s about finding love and keeping love and, basically, being a beginner at it. I think that’s pretty universal.

Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Mélanie Laurent



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X-Men: First Class

Okay. If you’ve been checking this blog out for a while (and why wouldn’t you, right? I’m clearly awesome) you’d have noticed that I’m somewhat into superheroes. Just a little.

And that I’ve been talking about this summer’s superhero movies for a few months now. Enter, stage left: X-Men: First Class.

The story is set in the 1960s (with the exception of a few scenes in the 1940s), when Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) first meets several other mutants, including his soon-to-be rival Erik Lenshierr (Michael Fassbender). The two show completely opposing views on being a mutant in a human world. Charles wants to live in peace with humans, and Erik knows they are better than humans. Nevertheless, the two join together, along with Raven AKA Mystique (played by the much talked about Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy AKA Beast (Nicholas Hoult, Skins), and more.

The villains of the film are Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his sidekick Emma Frost (January Jones), who are planning a nuclear war where only mutants will survive. The result of their plans? Cuban Missile Crisis. Yeah. X-Men went there.

Okay, enough plot talk. Here’s the thing.

I loved this movie. And I don’t say that lightly because I know how iffy people can be about superhero films, and how they can either have no substance story-wise, or just be all about exposition. X-Men: First Class had a perfect mix of action, story, interesting background of character, and let me watch McAvoy and Fassbender act amazingly well in roles passed down to them by Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan.

I was not huge fans of either actors previously (McAvoy and Fassbender, that is), having seen them both (and find them both attractive) in films like Becoming Jane Shakespeare Re-Told (McAvoy), Jane Eyre and Inglourious Basterds (Fassbender). So, can I just say, with both of their performances: wow. Seriously. I am just floored by how well both of them did. It’s hard to really describe, but they have such nice chemistry with each other. Also, I love Charles Xavier as a young Casanova. It’s amazing. And there should be a spin-off series of Michael Fassbender, as Erik, just killin’ Nazis. Really.

Kevin Bacon was also great as Shaw, and the up and coming mutants (especially Banshee) were funny, interesting and well characterized for having not a lot of screen time. The one actress I wasn’t really impressed with was January Jones as Emma Frost. I’m not sure exactly what it was that I didn’t love, but she didn’t hold up to the standards set by the rest of the cast.

The location did jump around a bit, but I’m okay with it. The writers (Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz) had a lot to cover and I think they handled it really well.

Needless to say, I’m going to see it again. Soon.

EDIT: Okay, so after some thought, I guess I was kind of hoping that they wouldn’t give Charles the cripple so soon, only because in the sequel (there NEEDS to be a sequel), McAvoy will be in the wheelchair the whole time. Which, I suppose, never stopped Stewart from being awesome. Nevertheless, there better be a sequel.

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The Tree of Life

Let me begin this review by sharing a general fact about me.

I’m not big on experimental films. I’m not saying I never watch them, because as a cinema major, they make us watch everything. Everything. Nevertheless, experimental films make my head hurt and they’re just generally not something I go to see of my own free will (in this case, it was a group field trip of sorts).

With that said, I didn’t hate The Tree of Life. Honestly, I didn’t. I completely understand what Terrence Malick, the director, was trying to accomplish, and he succeeded in that.

I understand the relationships, and the balance between grace and nature, and I even, somewhat, understand the 30-minutes of nature and universe clips that made me feel like I was watching the Discovery Channel. It’s a beautiful film. It really is.

I understand it. I get it. Really. I do.

But I can’t say I liked it.

This is the kind of movie that TONS of critics will say “this movie is a beautiful, cinematic masterpiece and if you understand film and beauty, you’ll love it and bask in the wonderment that is art, but the general public of Cro-Magnons will hate and never understand.”

And if that’s the case, I think I’d fall somewhere in the Neanderthal or Homo-Erectus (hehe) category.

Rating: N/A because it just isn’t…rate-able for me. I can’t even tell you the story, because there is NO STORY ARC. I DON’T GET EXPERIMENTAL FILM.

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Thursday Night T.V. (Skins – Feb. 11th)



Grace’s episode. Wow. Just wow.

I’m still soaking it all in, but I think this was my favorite episode of the series – although judging from the sneak peek at the finale, next week’s episode could beat it. But for now, this episode had everything I had been wanting the whole season in one lovely episode. The writers and producers were very smart with that, saving the best for last.

Let me begin by saying that Grace is such a great character. I suppose, if you wanted to stretch it, you could say that she’s a bit like Generation 1 Cassie, but I think I like Grace more (don’t shoot me). Grace is sweet and gentle, but has very real moments of sadness and anger. Jessica Sula was fantastic in this episode, and she gets major props.

And Rich and Grace. As I’m sure I’ve delicately mentioned before, I’ve been wanting to see more of them. And I finally did. They took a lot of what I expected to come up in their relationship, and ran with it. And it made my very happy. Don’t you love when television does that? It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? I love that.

And I’ve decided I like Mini now (shocker, I know). I don’t know exactly what it is about her, but I’m okay with her. She’s got my vote (the Russian judge is still on the fence. HA.).

I also appreciated all of the Shakespeare references in the episode. It could have been overdone, but I think it fit nicely, especially with the character of Grace.

Anyway, I really did like this episode a lot. I might watch it again tonight.

Episode Score: 9.2 out of 10 castles in the clouds


I know I’m excited.

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Tuesday Night T.V. (Feb. 8th)

I am an awful follower of Glee. I really am. Maybe, as it’s my guilty pleasure show, I felt too guilty to watch. Or maybe I didn’t feel like watching Gwyneth Paltrow. Don’t get me wrong, I like her, but her and Will Schuester have this weird dynamic…I won’t go into it. Anyway, no Glee review this week. You guys will deal.

Raising Hope

Two words: brother husbands. Two more words: J.K. Simmons (is that three words?). Hilarious episode. Raising Hope reminds of of Arrested Development in a way, where they’ll take what could be a clichéd storyline, and make it something fresh and funny and all0around entertaining. In this case, what could have been a simple, sitcom-y, crazy-cousin comes to town and his father is jealous of the relationship he has with his uncle, ended up being a story about polygamy and kidnapping and hide-and-go-seek. I loved the hide-and-go-seek. This was probably one of my favorite episodes thus far.

Episode Score: 9 out of 10 creepy Gollum impressions

Traffic Light

I think I finally figured out why I love this show so much. It’s awesome. Seriously. I think that’s what it is. It manages to nicely interweave three completely different storylines, without being too Friends-y, while still managing to throw curve balls at us. My favorite storyline in this episode was Adam and Callie dealing with the elderly woman from…Romania? Or some country that really likes to bake bread. I didn’t like Callie much at first, but she’s grown on me a lot.

Mike and Lisa seem to be falling into an episodic pattern where he’ll do something wrong, and she’ll forgive him in one way or another while holding the baby. It’s funny, for now, but I’m hoping they find something else to do with them, since I do like their characters a lot.

And Ethan and Phil. What can you say? Really, though, I don’t know what to say for that, it was so weirdly funny, I can’t put it into words.

Episode Score: 7.5 out of 10 french doors

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Biggest Oscars Snubs of 2011

Award season is very similar to a high school prom. There are the films, actors and directors that everyone knows will win, or the stereotypical popular crowd everyone knows will get asked, like “The Kings Speech” or David Fincher. There are those that get nominated, but won’t win, or the pity invites, like “Winter’s Bone” or “Alice in Wonderland.” Then, sitting at the metaphorical band geek table in the cafeteria are the films, actors and directors that don’t even get asked. Not because they aren’t good, or they don’t have enough fans, but because the Academy is picky and for some reason they just weren’t good enough. However, if they had looked past the glasses, braces and sloppy ponytail, perhaps the Academy would have seen the brilliance in some of the biggest Oscar snubs of 2011.

Cinema fans were in shock of how little accreditation the film “Inception” received. Sure, it got nominated for Best Picture, but when it’s up against “The Kings Speech,” a film far more beloved by the Academy, there was no way it would win. The real disappointment is that Christopher Nolan wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Nolan who has directed many popular films, like “Memento,” “Batman Begins,” and “The Dark Knight” hasn’t won an Oscar yet, which would lead one to believe that the Academy doesn’t like him or his entertaining blockbusters very much.

Several animated films escaped the Academy’s attention as well this year, due to an interesting Hollywood rule. If Hollywood spurns out less than 16 animated films a year, than only three can be nominated for Best Animated Feature. However, this year, only 15 were made which just missed the cut-off. This reason is why films like “Tangled” and “Despicable Me” weren’t seen on the list of nominees, which is quite a let down, even if they would have lost to “Toy Story 3” anyway.

With actors, one of the most obviously ignored was Andrew Garfield for “The Social Network.” Although it was one of the best films of the year, it may not have been so without Garfield’s great performance. Several other actors overlooked were those who starred in comedies, which is well known as the Oscars least favorite genre. Comedies are never prestigious enough to even gain a nomination, unless they have several dramatic elements, like “The Kids Are All Right” or 2007’s “Juno.” Some of the best comedies of the year like “Easy A” won’t ever get the award recognition it deserves.

A film that many were sad to not see even get an Art Direction nomination was “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.” Several can argue as to whether or not it was worthy of a Best Picture nomination or a Best Director nomination for Edgar Wright, but regardless it was received as one of the best films of the year by critics and fans. Once again, though, it made audiences laugh just a bit too much and enjoy themselves to be considered for an Oscar.

In spite of these and several others not being asked to the Oscars prom, it doesn’t mean they won’t be remembered. So raise your snubbed flag high and appreciate the fact you didn’t have to worry about corsages and limos.

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Thursday Night T.V. (Feb. 24th)

Skipping Wednesday this week, because there wasn’t much to report. Modern Family was funny, and I didn’t watch Mr. Sunshine. Are you surprised?


Jeff tries to be an asshole. Annie makes him feel bad about it. Abed and Troy are the best characters ever. Pierce is an ass, but you still want him to hang around. Shirley and Britta make funny comments. Same old Community keeping me entertained.

Episode Score: 8 out of 10 “pop-pop!”‘s

Parks & Recreation

I love when shows spotlight side characters and make them stand out, and that was done really well with Ben and Tom. You got to see loads more of Ben last week with his…awkwardness. And putting him and Tom together was sheer genius. I’m guessing Rob Lowe won’t be on the show much anymore? Maybe? Regardless, his plotline with Ann was funny, if nothing else to get Leslie to share all of her stories of how she was dumped.

And Ron Swanson. Nothing else needs to be said.

Episode Score: 8 out of 10 ALL. OF. THE. BACON. AND. EGGS. YOU. HAVE.

The Office

Todd Packer pisses me off. He really does. But “Justice Beaver” makes up for it, as does Jim pranking Dwight once again.

Episode Score: 7.5 out of 10 new computers

30 Rock

I was really intrigued to see what was going on with the Abby character, and maybe I was off my game, but the ending TOTALLY through me off guard and I loved that. Plus, anything Chloe Moretz is in, I have to like. And, sue me, I found the period jokes hilarious.

Episode Score: 8.5 out of 10 dolphin noises


I don’t know how the writers managed to get me to even somewhat like Nick, but I do. So, good on them. I do think it’s funny, though, how Frankie is like this endless abyss of knowledge for everyone to talk to. She’s always just there. Nevertheless, I better see more Rich/Grace next week or heads will roll. HEADS WILL ROLL.

Episode Score: 8 out of 10 bloods and cripples

For those interested, I don’t watch Perfect Couples. I just don’t.

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