Monday, May 30, 2011

Movies 149: The Hangover Part II

Director: Todd Phillips 
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha and Ken Jeong. 
Run Time: 102 minutes. 
Rated: R
Plot: Sequel to the first film (The Hangover), the wolf pack returns for another adventure this time for Stu's wedding. Stu originally hopes for a subtle bachelor party but things go wrong when they wake up in Bangkok with no memory of the night before and Stu's fiancé's brother missing and only 48 hours to find him.

Summer blockbuster season has officially started and what better way to start the season than the sequel to the 2009 comedy hit The Hangover. The problem? The Hangover Part II hasn't been receiving rave reviews, let alone good ones. While The Hangover Part II pales in comparison to The Hangover, by no means is it a movie to skip out on because where the first film lacks, the second excels. 

The Hangover Part II starts off feeling a little trite when the first twenty minutes is almost an exact remake of the first film, with the exception with some more background to the story. There are some great parts sprinkled in between the opening scenes, making fans happy to have the wolf pack back again. It doesn't take long though for the trouble to start up again when Phil (Cooper) wakes up in a mysterious apartment in Bangkok, only to see Alan (Galifianakis) with a freshly shaven head and Stu (Helms) with a Mike Tyson tattoo blazed on the side of his face. Things get worse though, no one remembers what happens and Teddy (Mason Lee), Stu's future teenage brother-in-law is missing. That's when the fun begins, for the next hour is dedicated to finding Teddy. This journey includes finding kidnapped monks and a smoking drug dealing monkey, and going into a transgender strip club. 

The fun doesn't stop there, there are also fun guest appearances from Mike Tyson, Paul Giamatti, and Ken Jeong reprising his role as asian gangster Leslie Chow. As for the performances as a whole, they were solid. Ed Helms surprisingly took the head reign in this film and carried it out well. Zach Galifianakis reprised his role as a comedy king while Bradley Cooper brought up his humor too. Those who were looking forward to Justin Bartha having a bigger role will be sorely disappointed to see his role is not much bigger than it was in the first film. 

So why did this film get bad reviews? It was mainly due to being unable to top The Hangover and the fact that at some points it was just too blatantly ripping off the first film. Don't let that stop you from seeing it though because if you loved the first Hangover then you will definitely love the second. 

Overall Rating: 7/10

Monday, May 23, 2011

Movies 148: Thor

Thor is still going strong at the box office. A lot of that has to do with Chris Hemsworth taking the lead as Thor with so much thunder, as it should be. He's rather likeable in this role and of course, eye-candy too. Seriously, he makes the perfect Thor to be banished to earth.

Thankfully, Kenneth Brannagh, as director, gave a lot of heart to this film. Anthony Hopkins as Thor's father Odin gives such a wonderful performance. Anyone else might have made it cheesy. But with such great sets and adventure in the film, Hopkins is perfect for this part.

Also, Tom Hiddleston finally has a chance to show what a truly great actor he is as Thor's brother, Loki (he's now filming the AVENGERS). Loki is so complex and just finding out who he truly is. He certainly added a lot of depth to this comic book tale.

CONFESSION: I liked Dennings over Portman.

Of course, there are the earth people in this epic adventure that Thor meets once he crashes to earth. Natalie Portman is Jane the science girl. She has a few awkward moments with Thor when he lands on earth. But Natalie's Jane is there for the ride, like the rest of us. Add Kat Dennings as Jane's sidekick Darcy, and a scene stealer she becomes in this movie.

The film has a lot going for it. Lots of action in so many realms of fantasy. Still Thor is learning a lot about himself on earth, and we are learning a lot about where he's from too. And then there are the feds. But they can't hold him long even if he doesn't have all his strengths.

Some wonderful performances from Thor's circle of friends. Josh Dallas plays Fandrall and Jamie Alexander as Sif and Tanobu Asano round out the trio who are always there for Thor.

This movie will definitely get your summer started.


STORYLINE: The warrior Thor (Hemsworth) is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard by his father Odin (Hopkins) for his arrogance and sent to Earth to live among humans. Falling in love with scientist Jane Foster (Portman) teaches Thor much-needed lessons, and his new-found strength comes into play as a villain from his homeland sends dark forces toward Earth.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Books 147: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

At this point I think it's safe to say I've gotten into a pattern of bringing up books that have been or are soon being turned into movies. Let's just face the facts here. But it's not my fault that movie producers apparently haven't thought of very many original ideas lately, is it? Haha.

Which brings me to The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. We learn about a freshman boy named Charlie through the letters he writes to someone of undisclosed name, age, and gender, a stylistic technique that adds to the heart-wrenching earnestness saturating this teen's story. While Charlie would not be considered the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular either. He's what you would call a wallflower; he is shy and introspective and intelligent beyond his years, despite not being very savvy in the art of socializing. Charlie encounters the same struggles that many kids face in high school. Making friends, first crushes, family tensions, deaths of loved ones, exploring sexuality, experimenting with drugs, as well as dealing with his best friend's recent suicide.

"And all the books you've read have been read by other people. And all the songs you've loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that's pretty to you is pretty to other people. And you know that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing 'unity'. It's like when you are excited about a girl and you see a couple holding hands, and you feel so happy for them. And other times you see the same couple, and they make you so mad. And all you want is to always feel happy for them because you know that if you do, then it means you're happy, too."

I read this book for the first time in my freshman year of high school and I wasn't incredibly blown away, but I decided that, in preparation for the movie that I think is coming out in 2012, I should try rereading it one more time to refresh my memory. I've heard so many people express their love for this book over the years, and I was thinking that perhaps my opinion of it would change this time around. For some reason I can't seem to be able to make myself feel the exact same way. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about Chbosky's style just doesn't agree with me for some reason. Not to say I didn't enjoy this book, cause I did! Just not as much as I wish I would have. But don't take my word for it, because you might end up absolutely adoring this book to pieces. Read it and see for yourself. :)

I'll definitely be seeing the movie, too, to compare them and all. It's starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, which is certainly sounding like a promisingly good cast. Since the book is set near the Pittsburgh area, which is in fact where I live, it's been kind of exciting to hear about places that they're filming at. I'm determined to somehow get Emma Watson's autograph. Somehow....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Music 147: Mumford & Sons

Mumford & Sons are known today for being a band that makes banjo seem bad-ass, but in short you can call them folk-rock. Mumford & Sons was formed in October of 2007 and is made up of Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, "Country" Winston Marshall, and Ted Dwane. Their debut album Sigh No More was released in 2009. 

The band gained popularity throughout 2010 through their hit Little Lion Man, but soon gained recognition through some of their other songs off their album Sigh No More. They are also known for being heavily influenced by playwright William Shakespeare and author John Steinbeck. 

1) Little Lion Man (WARNING: song contains language)

2) The Cave

3) Winter Winds

So what do you think?

You can buy Mumford & Sons' latest album Sigh No More here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Poetry 147: Cherry Tomatoes

(So it's not exactly August yet, but summer is quickly approaching and I couldn't be happier.) cherry tomatoes 

Cherry Tomatoes
By Annie Higgins

Suddenly it is August again, so hot,
breathless heat.
I sit on the ground
in the garden of Carmel,
picking ripe cherry tomatoes
and eating them.
They are so ripe that the skin is split,
so warm and sweet
from the attentions of the sun,
the juice bursts in my mouth,
an ecstatic taste,
and I feel that I am in the mouth of summer,
sloshing in the saliva of August.
Hummingbirds halo me there,
in the great green silence,
and my own bursting heart
splits me with life. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Books 146: Water For Elephants

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen 

 "Water for Elephants is the touching story of Jacob Jankowski, a ninety-three-year-old man, who is reminded of his colorful past when a circus sets up next door to his assisted-living center. When Jacob overhears a man at the assisted-living center claim to have been a water boy for the elephants on a circus, Jacob knows the man is lying because Jacob himself once worked as a vet on a traveling circus. The lie causes Jacob to spend much of his time remembering his colorful past, wishing he could move back in time and return to those days of camaraderie and excitement. It is a story of coming of age, of facing the realities of death, and living despite it all. Water for Elephants is an adventure for readers of all ages." (Summary via BookRags)

Yes, I've brought you yet another book-turned-movie. But this time, I've actually both read the book and seen the movie! This book has always been one of my favorites. It's not just some typical romance novel, either. It's an intriguing adventure that you're reminiscing back on along with Jacob. But when my friends and I went to see the movie, starring Starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson,  I have to admit that I was a little worried that they were going to end up messing up the book entirely. Luckily, I am very delighted to say that they didn't at all! In fact, I really enjoyed this movie, and it even made me tear up in a couple of places. And, going to be honest here, Robert Pattinson was looking pretty attractive here. I definitely prefer him as Jacob than as Edward Cullen. There were a few differences between the book and the movie, but nothing too major that interfered with anything too much, so I was pleased. 

Anyways, I would most definitely recommend this book, and the movie as well! Enjoy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Movies 146: The Conspirator

If your immediate thought is "Gee, this looks boring," I urge you to think again. The Conspirator delivers a profoundly compelling, and yet entirely true, retelling of the events that transpired after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

I first heard about this film through my habit of *stalking* actor James McAvoy's profile. From its pre-production days, it was hard to judge if this was going to be worth seeing, but I was very happy I did.

The first 20 minutes surround the assassination itself. If you know anything about it from studying U.S. History, you know it occurred in a theater in Washington, D.C. and John Wilkes Booth was the assassin responsible for firing the fatal bullet to back of the President's head. However, this murder was only one of three planned -- the two other targets were Secretary of State and Vice President at the time -- a detail never learned or forgotten brought to the forefront. This entire scene is re-imagined well on the screen.

Lincoln's death prompts the swift response of Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline), Lincoln's Secretary of War, to locate and prosecute the conspirators. During this pursuit, Wilkes (Toby Kebbell) is gunned down, John Surratt (Johnny Simmons) cannot be found, and seven accused men and one woman, Mary Surratt, (Robin Wright) are taken into custody. A military tribunal is then set to occur instead of a civil court with a jury of their peers as the Constitution dictates.

Enter Friedrick Aiken (James McAvoy), a young Civil War hero made to defend Mary Surratt. As evident through early correspondence with his client, Aiken is hesitant to accept her story and even more hesitant to stand by it in a courtroom.

From here on out the movie is much like any other courtroom drama. Lawyers cross examine their witnesses, Aiken conducts counsel with Surratt herself and Surratt's daughter, Anna (Evan Rachel Wood) and gathers more evidence that he comes to believe supports her innocence.

The viewer, however, is ultimately left with the choice. Was she innocent or guilty?

Overall, this movie contains an excellent main and supporting cast (okay, except for Justin Long who added little sans minimal comic relief) authentic set designs, gorgeous period costumes, and a riveting lesson about the justice system. What's not to like?

Rating: 8/10