Monday, June 27, 2011

Movies 153B: The Art of Getting By

Perhaps you haven't had a chance to get in a New York state of mind lately with so many comic book heroes coming to life on the screen. I wouldn't dare say this is a youth in revolt sort of film, either. Even if Freddie Highmore comes off just a wee bit Michael Cera, yet there is that sort of Nicholas Hoult charm about him too. I don't think anyone else could have pulled off this role of George, but Freddie Highmore.

He's a fatalist at heart. He knows girls don't get him. And he's OK with that. While other seniors are fighting their way to get their chances into the right Universities, there is George who cuts class and never finishes an assignment. And then he does something nice one day for a girl, Sally Howe played by Emma Roberts..which changes everything.

The film is written and directed by Gavin Wiesen who has said he wanted to show us his New York City for a very long time. And he does it splendid through the scenery of different hues of moods and the cool atmosphere and soundtrack of the movie. He also shows George's world and the outside world, as well.

The storyline is much like John Green's Paper Towns. Boy finds friend. Maybe possibly more than friend even while his home life is slowly falling apart. There are twists at that. George is befriended by Michael Angarano's Dustin who is an artist trying to make a living in New York City. But can he trust this friend around Sally?

Michael's pretty darn adorable in this film.

Some great performances from the supporting cast. Alicia Silverstone as his English teacher was definitely teacher worthy (I don't even think she wore make up). Sasha Speilberg came off as if she could be Lea Michelle's popular cousin. Rita Wilson is George's compassionate mother while Twilight's Elizabeth Reaser plays Sally's zany mom.

It might be hard to catch the subtle-ness of this movie. Because so many movies would over look George's strength. Yet, Freddie Highmore does it with such a sincerity. It is the sleeper of the summer.

STORYLINE: Believing the quote that you are born alone, die alone and everything else is an illusion, George doesn't see the point of life, school, or homework. Then he meets Sally and he now has a reason to go to school and make friends, even if he's not ready to admit to himself or to her that he likes her. The school's principal and art teacher introduce him to an alumni, and successful artist, Dustin, who can help guide George along life's path, but other distractions start surfacing, and George might not even be able to graduate from high school.

8/10 * Because its my kind of movie =). I had to get the soundtrack to this film, too.

Movies 153A: CHATROOM (DVD)

Like a new Clockwork Orange of the Internet

Aaron Johnson gets the pleasure of showing just how wicked he can get in this intriguing film by Hideo Nakata based on Enda Walsh's play. Nakata takes us on a journey. The life of a chatroom. Its such a visual moment instead of words typed on the screen. We get to see the persona created and how one individual can charm others and undo who they think they are.

even his hair has its own mood, too.

Johnson plays William who's rather complicated. He's the one who seeked the chatroom as his domain. Of course, he has a mother who's a well established J.K Rowlings type who created her own world by using his older brother's name as her main character, Ripley. Unfortunately, William doesn't take this too well. He's already had quite an episode that has taken the family into 'treatment' for his fondness of suicidal tendencies. Naturally, they think he's getting better. William has friends. Only, they are Internet friends.

Nothing like a girl's touch for a chatroom!

We meet Imogene Poots' Iva who perhaps has met her match when she fancies William. She's a small town model and enjoys putting others down. There is also Hannah Murray's Emily who wants to please her family with good grades and be the best she can be..only she isn't very popular. There is also Daniel Kaluuya as Mo who has fantasies about his best friend's little sister. And of course, last but certainly not least...a very sad Jim played splendidly by Matthew Beard.

opening scene..William finding a chatroom.

What makes the film mezmerizing is the vividness of the chats and how they react in the dark and mysterious atmosphere of the Internet. It isn't until near the end they meet in reality at the zoo. But it might be just a little too late.

Honestly, Aaron Johnson shows his potential of so many emotions through this movie. Oh, he comes off so charming. He always knows the right thing to say. His perfect persuasion to get his kicks from the others. His character is quite a voyeur that leads to the psychological horror of his trap. He is on his game... as a psychopath... his family can no way handle.
desperate and seriously alone...Matthew Heard's Jim.

Also Matthew Heard's Jim is intense and such a worthy performance he gives in this movie.

I'm so happy this movie is available on DVD.

STORYLINE: A group of teenagers encourage each others' bad behavior.

Rated R. Mainly for psychological horror.

8/10. It's a keeper in many DVD personal collections.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Poetry 152: The Confession of an Apricot

The Confession of an Apricot
by Carl Adamshick

I love incorrectly.
There is a solemnity in hands,
the way a palm will curve in
accordance to a contour of skin,
the way it will release a story. This should be the pilgrimage.
The touching of a source.
This is what sanctifies. This pleading. This mercy.
I want to be a pilgrim to everyone,
close to the inaccuracies, the astringent
dislikes, the wayward peace, the private
words. I want to be close to the telling.
I want to feel everyone whisper. After the blossoming I hang.
The encyclical that has come
through the branches
instructs us to root, to become
the design encapsulated within. Flesh helping stone turn tree. I do not want to hold life
at my extremities, see it prepare
itself for my own perpetuation.
I want to touch and be touched
by things similar in this world. I want to know a few secular days
of perfection. Late in this one great season
the diffused morning light
hides the horizon of sea. Everything
the color of slate, a soft tablet
to press a philosophy to.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TV 152: The Glee Project

In case you didn't get enough of the show Glee this past season, you can tune into the summer series, The Glee Project. As the title suggests, it is a spin-off the original and involves 12 talented teens competing to earn a seven-episode guest starring role on the original show.

But why is this necessary? Well, Glee creator Ryan Murphy realized that he'll need "new blood" when the current cast graduates soon -- within the show, of course! Then he decided the selected 12 will undergo a Glee boot camp, which is essentially a singing/acting.dancing masterclass, and viola, The Glee Project was born.
Every week there's a theme (so far Individuality and Theatricality), a "homework" assignment, a mystery guest from the actual Glee cast, and a group number. The show promotes that it follows the same process as Glee would: vocal recordings with Vocal Producer Nikki Anders, and dance lessons from Choreographer Zach Woodlee. The show's host/guide, as it were, is Casting Director Robert Ulrich. He auditioned 40,000+ aspiring stars and narrowed it down to the mere twelve (pictured above).

The homework assignment requires each participant to perform an assigned line from a song and through that, best display the theme. The winner of this challenge, generally the person who stands out the most, will earn one-on-one time with that week's guest and a featured role in the group number. This reward is also just freakin' cool.

After that, participants work and train hard to learn their parts in the group number. Anders and Woodlee double as advisers tasked with observing each teen's efforts. These observations will combine with the teen's final performance and help determine who makes the call back list, and who is at risk of going home. The three that are deemed the worst for that week will be asked to sing in front of Ryan Murphy, who will ultimately decide who stays and who goes.
Of course, it wouldn't be a reality-type show without some drama mixed in. As the participants interact with each other more, tempers flare and conflicts arise. I don't need to go into detail, but you've been warned.

So far two episodes have aired and both are available for free viewing on Hulu. (First episode, second episode.) Otherwise, you can catch this show 9/8:00 p.m. est on Oxygen.

What do you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Movies 152: Super 8

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, AJ Michalka, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich and Elle Fanning
Run Time: 112 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Plot: In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth - something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined. Written by Official site
To settle one of the biggest misconceptions about this movie, Super 8 does indeed refer to the type of camera used by the kids throughout the film. It is not the Motel of the same name nor is it the moniker for the monster.

With that squared away, this movie is an homage to Steven Spielberg, the director renowned for his Sci-Fi works such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jurassic Park. It thus follows a similar formula of child actors, alien/foreign entities and a stunning score.

Here's how this one goes. Grieving the loss of his mother to a nuclear power plant accident, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), agrees to take part in his friend Charles' (Riley Griffiths) Super 8 film festival entry. Due to a rewrite of Charles' making, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) is cast the part of the lead detective's wife. Those three, plus three other friends --Cary (Ryan Lee), Preston (Zach Mills), and Martin (Gabriel Basso) -- decide to film a climatic scene at the train station in the dead of night. Suddenly, Joe notices a truck pull onto the tracks, causing the train to derail and trigger a series of catastrophic explosions. Luckily, all the kids survive save a few scratches to their name. Among the wreckage, they discover the driver of the truck was their school's Biology honors teacher Dr. Woodward (Glynn Turman) and small white cubes, one of which Joe pilfers. Moments later, the Air Force sweeps in and the gang flees, vowing to never admit they were there.

Very soon after this incident, all dogs are reported missing along with various metal appliances. This mystery serves as the main story arc and small sub plots emerge. For instance, the love triangle between Joe, Alice and Charles, the strained father/son relationship between Joe and his dad, Lillian Deputy turned Sheriff, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) and of course the shooting of Charles' film.
The ensemble cast of six characters give a pretty believable performance. Joel Courtney is especially endearing, solidifying his chances of a decent acting career in the future. In a lot of ways, this is a slightly updated version of The Goonies, which you can either consider a good or bad thing. Other minor roles provide comic relief to a otherwise frightening movie. I say frightening because there are several scenes where the monster appears out of nowhere all of the sudden. Needless to say, the effects are well done and in addition the music heightened the action on screen. Detracting from the overall quality, however, were the noticeable goofs. If you're comfortable looking past that, then fine, pay it no mind.
As a warning to any parents or older siblings going with youngsters, there is a fair amount of swearing and drug/alcohol references. Viewer discretion is advised!

All in all, this is a decent summer blockbuster movie to enjoy with friends/family.

You can watch the official trailer here.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, June 17, 2011

Poetry 151: Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare

Sonnet 130 by Shakespeare

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
  And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
  As any she belied with false compare. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Poetry 150: How To Eat a Poem

How To Eat a Poem by Eve Merriam

Don't be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the juice that
may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, whenever you are.

You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.

For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
or skin
to throw away.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Movies 150: X-Men: First Class

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Micheal Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence
Run Time: 132 minutes.
Rated: PG-13
Plot: Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-MEN. Written by Twentieth Century Fox

This movie is the prequel to the X-Men trilogy, chronicling the lives of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Micheal Fassbender) as friends turned foes that unite to defeat their common enemy, Scientist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) during the 1960s. For Erik, his motive for defeating Shaw is deeply personal: to avenge the murder of his mother, while Charles is roped into the situation through CIA agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne).

The legacy of the series aside, this film has most of the key ingredients to concoct a summer blockbuster: the large scale special effects, the dramatic dialogue, and the interesting juxtaposition of romance and humor. Fortunately, though, they aren't overtly over-the-top, they can't be considered a bad thing nor do they detract from the straightforward plot. In fact, these elements help enhance the film's overall impact. Regardless, as I go onto to explain the full plot/setting, you'll realize it's necessary to suspend disbelief.

The plot essential provides an alternate scenario for the 1960's Cuban Missile Crisis, which as the name suggests, is very foreboding. Scientist Shaw has formed his team comprised of his right-hand woman and telepath, Emma Frost (January Jones), teleporter Azazel (Jason Flemyng), flying fire-spitter Angel (Zoe Kravitz), and tornado producer Riptide (Alex Gonzalez). Together, they are determined to intervene with Russia and United States relations to induce WWIII.

Meanwhile, Charles and Erik seek out Mutants to enlist as government operatives to combat Shaw. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) was an obvious recruit; she and Charles have been like brother and sister since little children. Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) was already an active member of the CIA, Alex/Havok (Lucas Till) was rescued from solitary confinement and Sean/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones) was a teenager unable to impress girls. Each have unique abilities that, when danger is imminent, are fine-tuned under the instruction of Charles aka Professor X.

Also, as a minor storyline, Raven/Mystique and Hank/Beast struggle to accept their respective Mutant appearances and become "Mutant and proud."

Generally, all performances were decent, but a few stood out. Bacon, for instance, delivers a spot-on performance of a man evil enough to conspire such a plan as nuclear war. He also spoke an impressive three languages (English, German and Russian). Landry Jones stole a lot of the scenes between the youngster, providing timely comic relief. Fassbender, however, was the real star as a tormented soul, desperate to kill Shaw despite everything, including his friendship (okay, speculative "bromance") with the young, potentially naive Professor X, brought remarkably to life by McAvoy.

Clocking in past the two hour mark, this movie is certainly long. Fortunately, though, very few scenes lag and the story is compelling enough to not lose the audience's attention. Seriously, the suspense build-up is tremendous. I think I should mention that the movie does contain some risque material and therefore isn't necessarily suited for the kiddos. That said, its PG-13 rating is appropriate.

The movie ends on such a note that possibly suggests a sequel. I guess we'll have to look out for it summer 2013.

Overall, it is a solid summer movie that everyone, not just die-hard X-men fans, should definitely check out this June.

You can watch the official trailer here.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, June 3, 2011

Books 149: The Jessica Darling Series by Megan McCafferty

Megan McCafferty's young adult series is about the life of one Jessica Darling, beginning with the summer before her junior year of high school at the age of 16 and up until the final book ends as she turns 26. The series touches on all of the major milestones that young adults face, from prom, first sexual experiences, choosing a college, and eventually a career.

The books are written as Jessica's journals, where she details all of the dramatic, exciting, depressing, and humiliating events of her life. She's intelligent and writes with witty sarcasm and dry humor that I can't get enough of. You might be inwardly groaning and thinking "oh man, not another stupid girly teenage fiction series..." but I promise you, this series is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Obviously I must really enjoy them or else I wouldn't bother to share them here. :)

So far I've only read Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, but I'm so incredibly excited to get my hands on the next three books. They've been around for quite a while, taking place during the early 2000s, so I'm not sure why the heck it's taken me so long to read them. If you're looking for a fun read this summer, definitely consider these.