Game of Thrones Season 2!! April can not get here fast enough!

HBO’s Game of Thrones is awesome!  And the new year is upon us…if you have not seen Season 1 yet–then you may not understand the excitement!  The rest of us, that have invested our time, are on pins and needles, as we wait for the awesomeness to return. 

The first season aired last April to wide critical praise and about 2 million viewers.  The show is based on author George R. R. Martin‘s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels (which I have yet to read because I do not want to spoil the show) and from what I hear it is a very truthful adaptation.

At first, it may seem overwhelming with so many characters and different locations–but after 2 episodes it is easy to follow.  It is a drama full of political dealings, betrayal, family strife, dragon eggs, dire wolves, kings, wannabe kings and power, with a bit of the unexplained.  If you love that kind of world, clever word play and enjoy the medieval time period this is for you. 

With a powerhouse cast (so pleased that Peter Dinklage won the Emmy–he’s my favorite), beautiful sets and costumes, and fantastic writing Game of Thrones is a wonderful escape from the ordinary. 

Winter is coming!! Be prepared…

Season 1 :

Season 2:

 

Like Crazy is a fresh approach to the typical romantic drama–how nice!

Like Crazy is refreshing.  It is a simple, quietly told love story.  No Hollywood tricks here.  Just a narrative that follows two young people as they fall in love and struggle with finding their place.  But, it would not work as well if it wasn’t for the strong performances by Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin–both up and coming talent that get a chance to shine here.

I am not a sucker for romance.  Actually, I hate the predictable, formula romances–comedy and/or drama.  I find them frustrating and unoriginal.  Girl meets boy in some kind of “meet cute“–they have a new love montage–they encounter a problem and/or secret–they fight–they break up–and then they make up and live happily ever after.  BORING!   For that reason, most of my favorite romantic movies tend to end with death. 🙂  What can I say?  It’s realistic!  (I do like happy endings–but it has to stem from a realistic source.)

That said, writer/director Drake Doremus has taken a very real approach.  So real that he gave Jones and Yelchin an outline and basic plot points and allowed them to improvise their scenes together.  It works.  You feel like your watching two real people discover each other.  My favorite parts are when they say nothing–you can feel their chemistry and if you have ever been in love–you remember that feeling.  The direction tends to be full of montages and borders on cliché at times, but what saves this from tipping into eye rolling territory are the wonderful, strong performances by Jones and Yelchin. 

Felicity Jones garnered a lot of attention earlier (festival circuit) and I think she was snubbed by Oscar.  She is lovely.  Her Anna is Intelligent, determined and hopelessly in love.  Anton Yelchin continues to impress me.  I like this kid.  He has this every man charm, but with something going on behind his eyes.  His Jacob is the weaker of the two–torn, but also afraid of this powerful emotion.  Together they are sweet and tragic–able to convey all the emotions that being in love can evoke.

Like Crazy is the film for you if you enjoy a good love story–even if it is realistic. 

p.s. No one dies.  ;D

Sherlock how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

A view of the London skyline, with the word "Sherlock" in black letters

I have been smitten!  Sherlocked!  I am head over heels in love with Sherlock!  It has quickly and easily become of one my all time favorite pieces of storytelling from television and/or film.   It continually impresses me–the writing, the performances, the mind-bending puzzles and Benedict Cumberbatch.  Series 2 is now over and I am already planning to re watch Series 1 and 2 because I am not sure how I will survive almost a year before Series 3!

I stumbled upon this awesomeness while browsing the PBS Masterpiece Mystery website last year. I read “Last chance to see Sherlock–a reinvention of the classic sleuth–still set in London, but in the 21st century!”  I was intrigued.  I knew Martin Freeman (already cast in The Hobbit) but was unfamiliar with anyone else.  I have always enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes stories and up to that point, Hollywood’s latest version with Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law was a fun, although predictable, action-filled blockbuster.  So, Sherlock in the 21st century?  Could that work?

YES!  It works wonderfully!  What writers and creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, have done is taken the original Victorian stories and given them a contemporary update.  This version allows Holmes to use all the modern technology available and makes the necessary tweaks to make everything fit the present world–it is very cleverly done.  They use visuals to accompany Sherlock’s process and it is cool to not only hear, but see how his mind works. 

The best update is Sherlock himself–he is now a fast talking, arrogant, “high-functioning sociopath” and Cumberbatch is perfect.  Freeman as Dr. Watson is the perfect counterpart–intelligent, stable, and calm.  I love their chemistry–it is natural and yet, electric.  Watson: Why didn’t I think of that. Sherlock: Cause you’re an idiot. No no no, don’t be like that, practically everyone is.

Add a strong supporting cast and some truly mind twisting cases and it is pretty awesome.  Yet they also added an amazing villain, James Moriarty (Andrew Scott) and pushed it over the top.  Scott’s Jim Moriarty is spectacular!  It is a performance not to be missed.  I do not want to spoil anything, but I will say that Cumberbatch and Scott, together are an impressive duo.  (Series 2 finale Reichenbach Fall is fantastic!) 

I could go on and on.  There is something special in every episode and so many little details.  I can quote many, many classic lines, but, as always, I do not wish to spoil the pleasure of you discovering all of this on your own.  Check it out–as Sherlock would say…”The Game is On!”

Series 1:

Series 2:

 

Downton Abbey is a fine, well told saga and I want more!

Downton Abbey.jpg

Downton Abbey is a big, lavish and sprawling narrative that is full of human drama.  Add some top-notch performances and excellent writing and you have entertaining, addictive story.  I just finished the two seasons and now I must wait– impatiently–for the next season due return in September.

Downton has way too many characters and threads to try to explain–but are easy to follow when watching. The basic premise follows the lives of the aristocratic family, the Crawleys (their lives upstairs) and their servants (their lives downstairs) at the family’s Yorkshire country home during 1916 to 1920.  I love the differences between the classes and the fact that honor and dignity does not limit itself to social status.  But to keep it simple I will say it’s good…really good! 

Writer and creator Julian Fellowes has an incredible talent!  He is able to weave these intricate stories together seamlessly and has created some wonderful characters that cover the range from sweet and innocent to conniving and bitchy.  I have several favorites–Anna and Mr.Bates, Lord Crawley, Mr.Carson, Mary and Matthew–but the best is Maggie Smith‘s Dowager Countess Violet Crawley.  She is the reason to watch–Ms. Smith has a pitch perfect delivery–her expressions and quips are CLASSIC!  It is always a pleasure to find a new beloved character–hats off to Ms. Smith!

If you can spare some time and you enjoy British drama (and humor), you will not be disappointed spending it at Downton Abbey–in fact, you may want to stay there. 

Season 1 promo:

Season 2 promo:

Haywire kicks ass! But disappointingly, that is about all it does…

I was excited about Haywire.  It boasted Steven Soderbergh, a great cast, a spy thriller AND a real badass woman.  Excitement seemed like an appropriate feeling.  But in reality, it turns out that all the separate pieces, while most are strong alone, as whole, they did not come together very well. Sad.

Soderbergh is starting to worry me (I was seriously disappointed in Contagion too) because although the action sequences were good they were not anything special and the story was a bit…boring. This is not a new idea–trained spy becomes the hunted–and you have to bring something unique to the table.  (Sidenote: The music was strangely upbeat and happy–it did not match the feel of the movie–at all! Weird choice.)  The supporting cast was indeed good–everyone playing their parts well–but, again nothing special and no real stand outs.  The spy thriller part was weak and I did not appreciate the over explanation of things (I hate being spoon fed).  And the badass woman? 

Well, Gina Carano is an amazing fighter and the fight scenes are the best part of movie because they are heavy and real–no sound effects or glossy moves. I can believe that she kicks ass–she is solid and appears powerful–I like that, a lot.  But, as an actress?  Ms. Carano is NOT amazing and by surrounding her with good actors, it only helps to magnify her shortcomings.  She is almost like the Terminator–no emotions show on her face–but at least with the Terminator it was intentional.  I would hope that was not the case this time!

 Oh well!  Another one bites the dust–hard–just like one of Ms. Carano’s opponents!

Underworld Quadrilogy is a fun diversion with a solid mythology!

10 minutes of plot.  Maybe, 10 minutes of light emotional content. 70 minutes of blood, fangs, fur and decapitations!!  SWEET!  Sometimes you want mindless fun and Underworld delivers that in spades!  You should know already that I love vampires and monsters–so when you mix badass Lycans (Werewolves) and some serious Death Dealers (vampires that kill Lycans)–I am in gory, brainless action-packed heaven!

Before we went to the cinema to watch the latest installment–Underworld Awakening–we decided a marathon was in order.  It was a good idea for me because I have only seen each movie once–at the time of release–so it was a refresher course on the mythology that Len Wiseman has created and that is the strongest aspect of these movies.  The background story is solid and they are very consistent with all the details and you have to respect that in a genre that usually doesn’t care about those things. 

My favorite is number 3–Underworld Rise of the Lycans.  This one, to me, has the best story.  It is a prequel and features my 2 favorite characters–Lucian (Michael Sheen) and Viktor(Bill Nighy)–played by two incredible actors (obviously getting a paycheck and having a blast).  The rest is pretty much a showcase for cool effects, prosthetics (which is a dying art) and bloody deaths and there is nothing wrong with that.

And that leads me to what else I like about the Underworld universe–it makes no excuses for what it is–if you want high brow, intelligent film watching–THIS is not for you!  But if you want to spend 90 minutes in an adrenaline rushed atmosphere where Kate Beckinsdale is running around in a tight, shiny black outfit and kicking all sorts of ass!  Leave your brain at the door–grab some popcorn–and enjoy the ride!!  Bring on Underworld 5!

The Strain Trilogy ends perfectly with The Night Eternal

The Night Eternal was the last act and despite some unexpected religious overtones–it was a satisfying conclusion.  Now I can’t wait for the movies!  This trilogy was a very creative and unique addition to the vampire mythology.  They’re written in such a vivid, detailed way that a film adaptation seems only natural (I’m keeping my fingers crossed!) 

I already reviewed the first two installments–The Strain and The Fall–and as stated, I was anxiously awaiting the last one.  I read it 3 days!  I could not put it down. 

Del Toro and Hogan spin a very convincing tale.  I loved the unexpected developments.  After the surprising cliffhanger of The Fall, I was not sure what the world would be like.  The story picks up three years after and I was impressed with new world order that they created.  A world full of blood camps and rebel cells.  Very clever! 

Another strong development is the change of “hero” status of our protagonist.  Eph Goodweather is falling apart and is more of a hinderance than a help.  He gives a new meaning to anti-hero.  It leaves most of the good to be done by Vasiliy Fet, Nora Martinez and Mr.Quinlan (the awesome half-breed who is a major badass).  Former gang member Gus Elizalde, continues to be a badass and has some great moments in this book.  There are many awesome new character turns.

We also get the entire back story on the Master and that is where some “out of the blue” religious origins are explained.  It is a bit odd and mystical, but it is not enough to ruin the story.  I love the relationship that develops between the Master and Zach (Eph’s son)–it is one built on lies and manipulation and it is brilliantly constructed. 

So, if you want to get lost in a cleverly told story that is way more than just a vampire fantasy–settle in with this trilogy–it will be a captivating read!

Contraband is a lazy, predictable, cliche mess!

Hey, audience–are you confused or not sure what is happening? No worries–we will tell you what is going to happen, drop hints all throughout and spoon feed you all the plot points.  And you will love it!  Wink…Wink!  Contraband is that in a nutshell.  This a movie that spells it out.  Walks you through each scene and leaves nothing to your imagination.  It is full of stereotypes and clichés.  And it is a shame really–a waste of some serious talent.

Mark Wahlberg is on autopilot for this one and although he is surrounded by strong actors–Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster (one of my favorites), J.K. Simmons–they all come across flat. 

One the surface you can say it is a simple, effective heist thriller, but for me it was a bland and predictable.  If you’re really interested, you can go see for yourself–who knows? You may disagree with me. 

The Hunger Games Trilogy lived up to the hype! Sweet!

All The Hunger Games hoop-la is real!  Suzanne Collins has created a fast paced, well crafted, addictive narrative.  Her universe is complete and fascinating.  I love it when it is hard to put down the book–you just have to know what is going to happen! Awesome!  The best part are the characters, which are some of the most realistic I’ve read in a young adult novel. 

I am not opposed to young adult literature–Harry Potter, Pendragon series, and House of Night–are a few of the stand outs, but sometimes the angst can be too much and so I tend to be cautious when approaching a new series.  I also am weary of the mainstream “popular” books because 80% of the time–I am NOT mainstream. 🙂  After seeing the new trailer for the upcoming film adaptation I became more interested and thought why not? I will check it out–and I am so glad I did!

The setting is sometime in a possible future of what could be earth (never really stated) and after several rebellions and revolutions the control fell to “The Capital” and the country Panem, which was divided into 12 Districts, now lives under their dictatorship.  As a reminder of their control and as a deterrent for future rebellions they hold an annual “Hunger Game” where 2 tributes (male and female) from each district must compete in a televised death match, that is mandatory viewing for all citizens of Panem.  This premise has been done before–Running Man, etc–but what sets this apart are the characters.

The two tributes (& main characters) from District 12 are: Katniss Everdeen, a strong-willed, determined young woman, who realistically has some intimacy issues and struggles with emotions.  Her driving motivation is survival.  Period.  And Peeta Mallark, who is sensitive and quietly intelligent. He is the opposite of Katniss and relies on his emotions to function.  The entire supporting character list is perfect (Haymitch–Cinna–Gale).  Each contributes to the story in vital ways–there are no fluffy, throw away people–everyone has a purpose. 

I appreciate the politics and moral questions that Collins addresses.  This is a world full of suffering and pain and she does not shrink away from being brutally honest about the reality of that.  I am glad young adults are reading this–I hope it starts some conversations about making a stand and a difference in our world.    

You know me–I will not give away plot points or summarize the story for you.  I want you to read it!!  Lose yourself in the intricate universe Collins has created.  You will not regret it! 

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Charlize Theron plays a sad, delusional bitch perfectly, in Young Adult!

Young Adult is all about Charlize Theron…she is awesome! Wow!  Who knew she could be a disgusting, nasty bitch?  Obviously Jason Reitman did!  Young Adult works as a dark comedy and yet, again with a Reitman film (Up in the Air), I felt unfulfilled.  Theron’s Mavis never “goes” anywhere–which could be called original or different, but I call a little lazy.

Diablo Cody wrote the screenplay and again she proves she has a sharp tongue.  I loved all the throw away lines!  Pretty funny.  It helps that Charlize had Patton Oswalt as a counterpart because he is one, of the many, undervalued comedians we have out there.  His delivery is pitch perfect! 

Reitman does a solid job directing.  But this is pretty much point and shot.  I have liked his films, but have yet to fall in love with him. [My favorite of his films was Thank You for Smoking–not Juno (I enjoyed it–but thought it was over-hyped)] I am still waiting to be blown away.

The story is dark.  This is not a feel good tale.  This is a sad look at a woman who has some serious issues.  I did like the play on high school politics and antics–what would the world be like if those systems overlapped into adulthood?  Lord, help us! 

So, go at your risk–if you do not appreciate the dark side–stay in the light and avoid this film.  If you embrace it or just like to flirt with the darkness–then you will enjoy it!