Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Whisper of the Heart" Review

This anime film was produced by Studio Ghibli, as all my latest favorite anime films are, and written by the great Japanese storyteller Hayao Miyazaki. It's a wonderful romantic story, about a girl who at first reads fairy-tale stories all the time when she should be focusing on her junior-high school studies, but then becomes a writer after falling in love with a nice guy, even when he had to go to Italy to follow his dream a violin-maker. The story is a lot more involved than that, but that's all the details I'm going to share. You'll have to find out the rest by watching the brilliantly made movie. It's got breath-taking animation, and takes place in a Japanese city, which was pretty great for me since I've never been there. I sure would love to go to Japan someday, I really respect their cultural values, like bowing all the time in respect to elders, and being generally friendly. It's just not the same in America, I find. I love the characters and sets and the graceful movement that comes with slice-of-life anime films like this one. It makes it seem sooooo real!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Fame" Review

I'm here to talk about the movie I watched in the theater tonight, the 2009 remake of the 1980 film "Fame", a story of various students of the New York High School of Performing Arts. The film follows them and their studies from auditions to graduation. First off, before I really get started reviewing this movie, let me just say that I've seen the original "Fame", so I have with what to compare this movie too. In my humble opinion, this millennium's version was much better by virtue of it's filming, music, choreography, acting, and pacing. The 1980 film was grittier and more intense, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy watching it. I just liked watching the remake better.

One of the things I really admired was the voice of Naturi Naughton, who played a girl named Denise in the film. At first she only plays classical piano (thanks apparently to an oppressive dad who doesn't want her doing anything else, and an oppressed mom who won't say otherwise), but then her friends (and the audience, and even her parents) discover what fine vocals she has. I loved it!

I enjoyed being a witness to such a spectacle, and it was a welcome relief after the previews of such films as "Couple's Retreat", "All About Steve", and "September Issue". If I'm going to be a satisfied pop-culture consumer, I only want the quality stuff, or content of sentimental/historical value.
Goodnight everybody! (Remember, Yakko backwards is Okkay! Dangit, I'll do anything to stick an Animaniac in my blogpost, won't I?)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Julie & Julia" Review

Oh. My. Gahd! Have you seen this movie? You have got to see this movie!

Meryl Streep as Julia Child was absolutely sensational! I mean, I had no idea who Julia Child actually was, but she's such a wonderful character!

Amy Adams as the author of the book of the same name, Julie Powell, was adorable. The main idea is that Julie cooks every single recipe in Julia Child's famous cookbook, all 524 of them, in only one year! And she blogs about it all!
Masterfully woven into this story is the life of Julia Child and how she started cooking as a hobby and began working on her cookbook, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Both women get wonderful love and support from their husbands, which is truly an admirable thing to show in a movie.

Now, I'll only give this complaint: I'm a vegetarian, so anytime somebody cooks, eats, or talks about how delicious meat is, I'm not cringing or giving loud sighs, but I am thinking to myself, "Alright, enough already, next part please." There's a part in the movie where Julie cooks 3 lobsters, and she's all nervous about killing them and all. It was so interesting and funny to see how other people actually go about preparing home-cooked lobster, because I know I would never go about doing it myself.

Well, besides all the food involved, the movie was above and beyond fantastic! (I so love using extremely positive adjectives.) I felt so very good after walking out of the theater with my family and talking about our favorite parts on the car-ride home. On an unrelated note, I had fun with my brother Adam, making him laugh by pretending my arms were his arms and doing goofy things with them. You ever played that sort of game? Done right, it's hilarious!

Goodnight, god bless. Check out my Art Blog for kicks.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ponyo Movie Review

Tonight, we went to the theater in Tamarac While Benny, Shira, and Danny saw "The Hangover", Adam, Bettina and I saw the movie "Ponyo".
"Ponyo" is a very sweet anime film that makes me think that it's the japanese version of the Little Mermaid story. It's about a 5-year-old boy named Sosuke (pronounced Sos-KAY) who finds a magical fish who he names Ponyo. During the course of the movie, Ponyo gradually turns into a human girl, and for Ponyo to stay a human forever, Sosuke needs to prove that he can love her no matter what form she's in. As usual in an anime film (especially one directed by Hayao Miyazaki), the animation is absolutely gorgeous! Smooth, realistic, colorful, capturing the mundane and turning it into beauty and grace, simple, yet incredibly intricate. These are just some of the many adjectives that may be used to describe the animation of Ponyo. It is an excellent example of a family film, and I'll bet, without a doubt, that if Pixar's "UP" doesn't win the Oscar for Best Animated Film, then "Ponyo" will.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Tin Men"/"Citizen Kane" reviews + Day with Danny

I have done it! It was a close one, I almost didn't write a blog post today, but here it is, read it and don't weep (hey, it's not a bad blog)! I give to you two fine reviews of movies I have seen today, rather than 2 weeks ago, and a brief description of the days other highlights so I can go to bed with the knowledge that I'll never forget when I watched them and that I passed on my recommendations to you, my readers (are you still out there? Or am I talking to myself? ECHO! echo...echo...echo).

"Tin Men" is an enjoyable comedy that pins Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito against each other as rival aluminum-siding salesmen in the early '60s. That's right, nothing to do with the Land of OZ whatsoever, so sorry to all the Frank L. Baum fans out there, just a couple con-men practicing slick salesmanship. Sprinkled throughout with some catchy hit songs of the era, this flick was fun to watch, and I laughed a lot at Danny and Richards' antics, getting back at each other for some silly fender-bender accident.

This afternoon I have finally seen "Citizen Kane", and let me tell you, this movie isn't for the closed-minded. It's long, it's confusing at times, and it was made in 1941, an era that seems worlds apart from the modern-day flicks we see today. Still, I got a real kick out of finally seeing Orson Welles (who was the hero and inspiration for Maurice LaMarche, the voice of the Animaniacs lab mouse Brain), and I can safely say that I can now spot a "Citizen Kane" reference and understand which part it's from. My favorite part of the movie was this scene where Orson's character, Charles Foster Kane, completely destroys a room, until he comes upon the snow globe which he later drops in the beginning of the movie. (confused? o.O)

Now you might be thinking, what am I doing indulging myself in fictional people, places and events while my favorite uncle Danny is around and available to spend some time with? Well actually he and my parents were out most of the day scouting out some Florida real estate that he's looking to invest in, so he wasn't actually around, per se. However later this evening, after doing some night shopping at Target (got some hot sunny-glasses and sweet new tops using our birthday gift-cards), we did get to hang out with Danny while watching "This is Spinal Tap" and enjoying some homemade pumpkin-flavored ice-cream. ('Tis the season of autumn, god bless pumpkins!) That was some fun.

Goodnight everybody! (Nope, I never get tired of using that catchphrase. Never, never, never! Especially when it applies, it's past midnight now!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Honey, I'm home! Oh wait... I'm not married."

This post's title came directly from a quote from Michelle Pfieffer in the movie "Batman Returns" which I just finished watching with my bro and sis. I've been feeling very guilty about not getting around to blogging in around a fortnight, but "Batman Returns" was just so cool I am finally moved to action. However the focus of this post is not entirely Batman related, just be patient and let me get this out of my system, and then I'll let you in on some major developments on the home-front.
"Batman Returns" is a sequel to Tim Burton's successful "Batman" flick (which features Michael Keaton in the title role and Jack Nicholson as the Joker), and it's all about the character development of such Batman villains as The Penguin (Danny DeVito), and Catwoman (Michelle Pfieffer =^.^= Meow!!). There's also this corrupt businessman Max Shreck (Christopher Walkin), who has plans to open a new power-plant in Gotham that will render the city powerless, and to get approval for building it, he needs permission from the mayor, so then in a Tim Burton twist, he attempts to help the Penguin run for mayor!
In any Tim Burton movie, I've come to expect the weird and wonderful as well as the creepy and crazy, and I wasn't disappointed with "Batman Returns". My only comments on the less-than-excellent aspects of the film is that Michael Keaton didn't get nearly enough screen-time for it to fully qualify as a Batman movie; his enemies got plenty of lines and backstory and almost all the Bat had to do was swoop in to save the day whenever the Circus gang attacked. Also, even though it's what I loved most about it, "Batman Returns" is full of nightmare-fuel (a wraparound term meaning creepy parts from the Penguin biting some guy's nose to a guy who actually has the guts and lacks the remorse for pushing someone out of a window to their death), and innuendos that made it past the radar, which might make it unsuitable to watch for children who are squeamish at the sight of blood and still haven't heard about the "birds and the bees".
Overall, I loved watching this movie and it only solidifies my respect for Tim Burton as a filmmaker. The acting was great, the story was great (although the ending could've gone better), the costumes and special effects were top-notch, and the score by Danny Elfman is, as always, incomparable. Check this out at your local library if you have a card, or watch it online, or just buy it on DVD, sheesh, only trying to save you some money!

ANYWAY......(a familiar phrase back from my old sock-puppet show days)
I've had so much cool stuff happen to me and I've been too lazy to write it all down that most of my memories I fear have gone to some sort of "happy-memory-limbo", so I'll just type up what's been going on recently. For one thing me and my family had a happy and mostly uneventful Yom Kippur (seeing as it's a Jewish holiday for atoning for the past year's moral backsliding and not for having a good time doing it), my mom Shira had a birthday yesterday, and my family had pancakes for breakfast, and me and Bettina made cards for her, and we got her an awesome earring making craft book from Borders (she was so totally surprised that we got her anything at all!). Also, my dad's brother, my uncle Danny from Israel came over to our house for a week-long visit, so we're playing hotel here and having a good time. I haven't seen Uncle Danny in 2 years, so it was really wonderful to see him again.

Finally, I would hate to forget to write about these other awesome films that I've happened upon and so I'll just give away the titles and when I watched them, as well as a 10-word review on each one:
"Casablanca" Sept. 22 2009 ~ "Here's looking at you kid" is the best quote ever!

"Transformers" Sept. 25 (or something) 2009 ~ Giant robots fighting, pseudo-science, very awkward teenage-parent relations.

"Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" Oct. 1 2009 ~ Pee-Wee's bike gets stolen, road trip with a Tim Burton flair.

Wow, that was a neat exercise there, reviewing a movie in only 10 words! Of course I could go on and on about what an American treasure "Casablanca" is, how interesting it was to finally see "Transformers" after hearing what a bad rap the sequel got, and getting introduced to the wit and child-like wonder of "Pee-Wee Herman", but I don't think I would do a good job going all out about movies no matter how much of a film-geek I am. I'll end this post by saying I intend to write at least one post every day that Uncle Danny stays at our house, and if I don't deliver, why then I'll...I'll...
I'll enter NaNoWriMo along with my sister and try to write a 50,000 word novel from the beginning to the end of the month of November. If I do write one post a day for seven days, then I am excused from this unusual method of making up for lost time. I swear, Girl-Scout Honor! (I was a girl scout for only a few months as a 10-year-old, and I never sold a box of cookies, just to dispel any assumptions.) Bye now!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Into the Woods

This post is about the Stephen Sondheim musical play called "Into The Woods" which me and my brother and sister watched last night. At first, Adam didn't feel like seeing it, but when me and Bettina started laaaaughing, we had to talk him into sitting down with us to watch. "Into The Woods" is a modern fairy-tale blend with a comedic twist, merging together such childhood classics as Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and by a lesser degree, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, plus introducing brand new characters: a baker and his wife who desperately wish for a child (notice that when someone thinks of "baker" in the fairy-tale sense, it's always a man, isn't it? Food for thought, huh? And not the baked kind).

It is a play in 2 acts. Act 1 is there to get you reacquainted with the characters you knew as a little boy or girl, and find out what actually happened in the stories, all the while listening to Stephen Sondheim's fast-paced lyrics set to wonderful music. The witch in the story (who comes from the Rapunzel part of the show) is played by Bernadette Peters, who has such a marvelous vocal range, I had no idea! When she does a witches cackle, she can reach those high, high notes like no one I've ever seen! Plus the character she got to play is so funny; who would think that a witch could have some real depth of character? (Unless of course you read books or watch musicals like "Wicked", to those of you who have, I say never mind.)

By the beginning of Act 2, Jack has killed the giant, Little Red Riding Hood survives being eaten by the wolf, the baker and his wife have a baby boy, both Cinderella and Rapunzel get their princes (there are 2 Prince Charmings in this story, and they're brothers! Who knew?), and the witch has changed from an ugly old crone to a young and youthful beauty, but her witchy powers are lost in the bargain. Everybody thinks that it's happily ever after for them, but to be continued... Actually the 2nd Act is a lot better as a surprise. I don't want to spoil it for you. Just know that it's got a lot more drama than in Act 1.

"Into The Woods" is a wonderful story with some lessons to learn from, and even if it's based on fairy tales, adults can appreciate the wry humor and intelligent lyrics of Stephen Sondheim. Check it out at your nearest library if it's got it, and you'll be happy you did, I promise.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Movie Review: "The Notebook"

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of watching, with my mom and sibs, one of the most wonderful romances of our time, "The Notebook". Based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, this story has it all; phenomanal acting (Rachel McAdams plays as the fantastic female lead, Allie), a nicely paced plot, a riveting story, and true-to-life characters. I love well-done romance stories, because they make me believe that anything is possible. Even if you love someone who is in a different social class, and you don't see them again for years and years, you can still pick up where you left off if the love is strong enough. The guy, Noah, as an older man, had to live with his wife suffering from dementia, she couldn't remember who he was, but he still loved her, and she him. This movie had such beautiful moments too; in one part Noah and Allie are just dancing at night in the middle of a street, and in another part, the couple is rowing on a lake covered with white geese, and the birds don't fly away. This movie was also a very sad story, because Allie's parents, especially her mother, did not approve of the relationship, and she kept the 365 letters that Noah wrote away from her daughter. How mean! There were other parts that made my mom cry. Strangely, I didn't cry, because I usually do if the story's really good and it makes me feel for the characters. In any case, if you like epic romances, then you should see "The Notebook", unless of course you've seen it already, in which case you know what I'm talking about.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movie Review: Strangers on a Train

I just finished watching this excellent movie! If you've never seen any of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, don't watch The Birds, don't watch Psycho, watch Strangers on a Train!

I remember seeing only a few snippets of the movie from another great film called Throw Mamma Off the Train, with Danny Devito and Billy Crystal, only I never knew that they were watching Strangers on a Train. Anyway, the plot in a nutshell is that two complete strangers, one a tennis player and the other an unsuspicious-looking guy who in actuality is a psychopath, meet each other on a train, and before they part ways, they have a very interesting conversation about the perfect murder: two strangers who each had someone they wanted done away with could hypothetically commit the other one's murder, and neither one would have motives for doing so, thereby leaving both killers to get away with the crimes. Mr. Tennis thinks it's all a strange, harmless joke, but the other guy is dead serious. Later on, he kills the tennis player's nasty wife thinking that he's keeping up his end of the "bargain", and that the tennis guy should repay the favor by killing his mean old father, who rightly says that his son should be locked up somewhere. I mean this guy, Bruno, he's completely creepy, and crazy! Of course you wouldn't tell just by looking at him, but take it from me, don't let him give you a neck-rub under any circumstances!

One of my favorite parts was when the tennis player goes to Bruno's house to warn the father, but Bruno is in the bedroom, and then they argue, and Mr. Tennis says that he wants no part of this scheme, and he walks out, and then Bruno takes a gun and follows him out the door. It was so thrillingly suspenseful with both of them walking down the stairs! When the tennis guy turns around and sees Bruno with the gun, Bruno says "Don't worry, I'm not going to shoot you. Wouldn't want to disturb mother. I've got a much better idea anyway." And then a cut to the next scene. It was so suspenseful I felt absolutely tickled! Do you know I wasn't scared at all about this movie, but it's just like the feeling you get on a rollercoaster ride; it's not entirely scary, but it certainly is a thrill! 
Speaking of rollercoasters, the climax actually took place at an amusement park, and the Merry-Go-Round is spinning out of control, and both main men are fighting and holding on for dear life at the same time. Innocent bystanders are on the ride! I was smiling and thinking to myself, "Oh how scary...for them!" My imagination was captured, and my funny bone was nudged at (it's the dramatic irony that did it). I'm so grateful that my little brother, Adam, consented to watch this movie, and I believe that even he enjoyed watching it. It's a wonderful movie, please, watch it!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Movie Review "Singing in the Rain"

Just last night Adam, Bettina and I watched this classic musical, and we loved it. I adore old-time musicals; whenever I watch them, I think to myself, "Why didn't I see this sooner? I'm watching film history!" What a Glorious Feeling! I love Donald O'Conner's character in the movie, Cosmo, and his number "Make 'Em Laugh." He sure made me clutch my sides! xD
Having watched this movie, I finally understand what "doing Singin' in the Rain" means in theatre terms. (When someone sings behind the curtain while someone else, who doesn't have a good singing voice, lip synchs the song and takes credit for the performance). Great movie, great music, and great dancing! What fancy footwork! My goodness gracious, if people danced like that all the time, they wouldn't need to go to the gym!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Yes Man" Movie Review

I so loved watching this movie! Did the film-makers know that when they were making this movie they were making it with me specially in mind? "Yes Man" had all the qualities of being one of "Annette's Top Favorite Movies of 2009":1. Jim Carrey (obviously)
2. A thought-provoking "What If" type plot (more on that later)
3. Great music that I recognize and/or get introduced to (original music done by The Eels)
4. Romance (I've only recently gotten into romantic movies, and now that I'm older I appreciate all the spontaneous kissing scenes, and not go, "Cooties!" Makes me wish my life was a movie.)
5. Out-of-the-ballpark-crazyness (the kind that Jim Carrey does best)

First off, time to gush about my favorite Canadian rubber-faced actor, Jim Carrey. He is the best at what he does! In this movie he tapes his face into a ridiculously funny position, drives a motorcycle while wearing only a hospital gown, and plays guitar to save a suicidal building-jumper. He is a master of drama, as well as a king of comedy. The character he plays is easy to relate to and very likable (eventually lovable).
 Jim Carrey is one of the most versatile comedians that I know, (voice-acting, stand-up, TV, drama, slapstick, singing, and I'm not sure which category the Grinch or the Mask fall under, but he sure looks good in green) and for that, he is one of my heroes. Thank you Jim Carrey for being you!

Next point is the plot. What a concept! One that I have put to use for much of my young life: saying the word "Yes" more often than "No" when an opportunity presents itself. "Yes Man" takes this idea to the next level: the main character has to say Yes  to every offer. Granted, Carrey finds himself into pretty funny situations that can be called "unbelievable" and "Never gonna happen in real world!" He stays up one night drinking Red Bull (come one, I know you've seen the
 previews, you must have seen the previews!), he gives all his money to a homeless guy, and he does something that surprisingly gets through in a PG-13 movie (I'm not specifying what it is though), all because of the word Yes. The less extreme cases where he says Yes to life is refreshing. More people should break out of their routine and do things they never thought of doing before.
3rd point, I have to say that the music was very good. A few Beatles references here and there (but not everywhere, if you get my drift. You know, "Here, There, and Everywhere"? Sorry I had to go and explain the punchline. That song isn't in the movie, just so you know). The original music written for the movie had pretty good lyrics, so that was nice to see too. Jim Carrey has a very good singing voice, did you know that?
Now about the romantic parts. Don't worry, it's not the "Oh, George, Oh Marsha," type film. Just a little courtship between Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel, a little spontaneous kissing, no big deal. It's basically a well-put-together love story that happens to make you laugh. It's because of the word Yes that the main character finds love again, after shutting himself away following a divorce. If he never went to the Yes motivational seminar, he would not have met her. It's fun watching characters fall in love. For me anyway. I'm still not sure about the rest of you.

Well anyway, here's the last point I'd like to write about. "Yes Man" is so crazy! Jim Carrey gets to do a bunch of things I fantasize about, but may not actually get to do in the future, like attend an HP costume party/marathon, go bungee-jumping, and taking the next airplane out of town. The gags are fresh and funny, and I was smiling through the whole thing. Except for the sad parts of course, like when Zooey Deschanel's character finds out about the whole "Saying Yes to Everything No Matter What" commitment and starts to doubt Carreys true affections. But don't worry, alls well that ends well.

Thanks for reading (or not reading as the case may be) my review, and so sorry for making this a long one where you have to scroll and scroll and think "Ohh, when is this going to end already?" I hope that if you haven't seen this movie yet, the movie stills I have provided will get you to see "Yes Man" and enjoy it as much as I did. Happy viewing!

P.S. Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your opinions. In fact I'm demanding it. Comment people! Please prove I'm not the only one who thinks Jim Carrey is a hero and Yes is the best word in the known universe!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Twilight" Review (Book and Movie)

I can hardly believe that I watched the movie 2 days ago, and only finished the book yesterday! I so wanted to read the whole thing before going to the theater, but I still had half of the story to go. I don't get bitter about these things anyway. I'm a pretty mellow person. 
I loved the movie first of all! And not just because of Robert Pattinson's portrayal of Edward Cullen, although I would be the first to admit that he is a great actor. I liked everything about "Twilight" the movie; the camera angles, the make-up, the settings, the music, the actors, the attention to detail, loved it! Plus the romantic scenes. And the battle scenes. And the scenes with Bella's cute red truck in it. The acting was great, the story was great, and I loved the special effects! However, I did notice something a bit odd. In a scene where Bella and Cullen are at Forks High and they're in the cafeteria, there is an organic looking salad-bar! A salad-bar! Where in the world is there a high school that pays attention to the nutrition of it's students? I don't know, seemed a little idyllic to me. But besides that, I enjoyed sitting still for 2 hours very much.

The book, "Twilight", is so cool! Even if I saw the movie I still was hooked on every word. It didn't matter that much that whenever I read the name Edward I picture Robert Pattinson's face. There were quite a few parts from the book that didn't make it into the script, so I was free to imagine the character's voices and whatever they were doing, without remembering the part from the movie. I love the attention to detail! I love attention to detail in any story, and any author who pays attention to attention to detail is on my A-list. Stephenie Meyer is a great writer, in my humble opinion. 

Hey, now I'm free to read Pendragon 7!

For all who are curious about Sasha the cockatiel, he is doing great and he and Sammy are getting along as normal. He still needs to grow in his crest feathers though.