In the midst of my move, blogging fell by the wayside. I've had time to enjoy my fair share of television, movies, and I even read a few books. The brief recaps and ratings follow:
Knocked Up - (2 stars - liked it) - I made it to see Judd Apatow's eagerly awaited comedy on opening day. I was underwhelmed. There were countless funny parts of the movie, but as a film, it didn't work for me. It felt like the funny dialogue was many improv versions away from the script. Although the story flowed, the spirit of the story didn't flow for me. It was too often immature teen drug-focused comedy with a few sprinkles of mature, relationship melodrama. Katherine Heigl was superb, as was Paul Rudd. I'm normally a huge Seth Rogen fan, but I found his performance to be rather elementary. He and his friend pandered incessantly to trite drug humor. Are there any original or even funny marijuana jokes left? It's definitely worth seeing for the funny parts, and I even enjoyed the sappy last twenty minutes, but the film as a whole was disjointed and dragged at times. I'd prefer to watch it again with the 45 minutes or so that I laughed out loud pulled out.
Half-Nelson (3 stars - loved it) - I'm a huge Ryan Gosling fan, and his performance was fantastic. The movie was slow, deep and disturbingly realistic. It was refreshing to see an accurate depiction of a how a functioning drug addict exists. It was a beautiful film.
The Holiday (2 stars - liked it) - This film surprised me immensely. The first thirty minutes were quite dry as the stage was set for the two women to switch lives. We all saw the thirty second trailer and understood the premise. Still, as the film went on, it kept getting better. The characters were quite well developed, and all five of the major roles were stellar. It was a little hokey and over-the-top predictable, but it still had heart. I did groan aloud when Kate Winslet asked Jack Black if he composed the music in the scene they were in. Let the characters stay inside the film, please. It's worth seeing for a light-hearted film. I'm also a little bit of a sucker for most movies set around Christmas.
American Dreamz (1 star - eh) - I wanted to liked this movie; I love the idea of this movie, but it was not good. I spent the whole film wondering if it wasn't funny because it was too close to reality or too far from reality. I never figured it out, but I still want to believe in the concept of this film.
Friends with Money (1 star - eh) - How can a film with Frances McDormand (I heart F McD), Catherine Keener, Joan Cusack and even Jennifer Aniston be dull? Not much happens in Friends with Money, but the action does increase as the film goes on. It has a few nice moments, and I thought the characters were finally being developed and it was getting interesting when the film abruptly ended. I'm still a little bewildered.
Bobby (4 stars - life-changing) -Bobby blew me away. The ensemble cast was fantastic, but the three best performances were: 3. Nick Cannon - I didn't even realize it was Nick Cannon until the closing credits. 2. - Demi Moore - I never had a strong opinion on Demi's acting abilities, but she was outstanding. 1. - Shia LaBeouf delivered an Oscar-worthy performance; he was unbelievably good. The last thirty minutes of the film are absolutely breath-taking. Estevez sets up the final scene, one in which everyone surely knows what happens, so poetically that one realizes he's been quietly preparing ever character and detail throughout the entire film. Admittedly, the first hour of the film was above average, but not incredible. I enjoyed some story lines more than others, but when I realized how all the parts perfectly fit into the whole film, I was mesmerized. I have not stopped thinking about this film since I watched it. The Screen Actors Guild got it right - this cast hands down gave the best ensemble performance of the year, and the film deserves far more accolades than it received.
The Da Vinci Code (0 stars - don't bother) - I enjoyed the book, although not nearly as much as Angels and Demons. I didn't find the book earth-shattering, but it was entertaining. It became clear to me in the first twenty minutes of the film that what was enjoyable about the book was that the reader participated in figuring out the clues; as a reader, I had time to think about what they meant. The movie moved so quickly it was dull; there was no mystery or intrigue.
The Guy Not Taken (stories) by Jennifer Weiner - (2 stars - liked it) - Weiner provides stories she's written from high school to the present, and it was a fascinating collection. I've read her other books, and two stories offered early insights into her beginning ideas for two of her novels. The collection was a fascinating look into the way a writers thinks and sees the world over time. Her themes are the same, but her angle shifts throughout her life as a writer. Some of the stories were better than others, but the only one I did not enjoy was the idiotic title story (Naturally, that story has been optioned for a film). It's a good collection, and it's worth reading.
Hidden Palms (the premiere episode) - Summer television is here, and the CW has brought me a teen soap opera from Kevin Williamson. I was underwhelmed by the premiere, but I enjoyed it enough to want to watch more episodes. I appreciate that the teenagers look shockingly young by television standards and are probably actually teenagers. I enjoy that the adults have as many juicy story line options as the teens; multi-generational soap operas are so much more entertaining. The jury is still out on this program, but in the heat of summer, I do love teen drama.
Sunset Tan - I cannot explain my fascination for this program, but it is divine. It's what reality television should be. At the heart of its likability is the realness of most of the characters: these are good people with actual life struggles trying to make the best choices for themselves. Despite the irritating presence of the Olly girls, the rest of the staff seems genuine, and there is certainly a lack of honesty in reality drama these days.
The Next Food Network Star - I love it! This season is the first one I've watched, but I commend the producers for a three-part opening challenge. The contestants are quite good as well. It's of the same vein as my beloved Top Chef, which premieres next week, and my one complaint is that these dueling networks schedule the seasons to air at the same time. I imagine more tv viewers would watch both if the seasons did not overlap. Still, TNFNS is a little more lowbrow: Bobby Flay sends the contestants squealing and makes them starstruck. I must be a food snob, but I couldn't stop giggling at their excitement.
So You Think You Can Dance - I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying this program. I've never watched it before, but the premise is the same as American Idol. I am not by any means a dancer, but I appreciate the blending of styles and genres and the sheer ability of the dancers. I may tire of the dancing by the end of the season, but for now, it's a lovely summer indulgence.
So Notorious - On vacation, I watched the entire season of So Notorious in a single sitting. It is hysterically funny and smart. You won't believe it until you watch it to, but if you're a television fan at all, you will adore this satirical scripted reality show. The cast is exquisite, and the humor is non-stop. Even the skeptical nomadreaderboy fell in love with it within five minutes of viewing.