Safety Not Guaranteed

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Safety Not Guaranteed  (B+).  I really enjoyed this little independent movie.  Comic actress Aubrey Plaza (TV’s Parks and Recreation) really carries the film as a young woman named Darius.  She’s an unpaid and seemingly unhappy intern at a Seattle magazine, and she gets roped into helping one of the professional writers investigate a possible story about a mysterious guy who ran a classified ad looking for a partner to travel back in time with him.  They track the guy down easily enough, and Darius wins his confidence and starts training for the time-travel mission.  The guy (played by Mark Duplass, Your Sister’s Sister) is obviously crazy, right?  Well, darned if enough odd things don’t start happening to make Darius think it is just barely possible he is telling the truth.  Plaza is strangely charming–she’s cute, but she has such a direct gaze and such a deadpan delivery that she seems to be rolling her eyes at everyone and everything around her all the time.  But somehow it works.  Duplass is much more likeable here than he was in Your Sister’s Sister.  And although the movie is only 86 minutes long, there’s even a nice subplot in which the sleazy writer who’s ostensibly supervising the investigation goes off and tries to reconnect with a long-ago ex-girlfriend.  I liked it.  And no, I won’t tell you how it ends.

Bernie

New review from Mom Under Cover

Bernie – A

If you have not seen Bernie, run, don’t walk, to a theater as soon as possible and be sure to stay for the extended interviews during the credits.  Confirmed bachelor (closet homosexual?) Bernie Tiede (played by a restrained Jack Black–Nacho Libre) moves to Carthage, Texas fresh out of mortuary school where he befriends a wealthy widow forty years his senior, Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine).  Nugent is a sourpuss; Bernie teaches her how to enjoy life. Marjorie blooms under Bernie’s attention; Marjorie funds Bernie’s shopping habit. Marjorie becomes demanding; Bernie snaps. Because of strained relationships with her family, Bernie ultimately stands to inherit Marjorie’s millions.

Richard Linklater’s (Slacker, Dazed and Confused) offering of the late ’80 events in Panola County surrounding the death of Marjorie Nugent is spot on.  Linklater co-wrote the screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth (who penned  a 1998 Texas Monthly article detailing the story) and hired only actors from Texas or Louisiana so the accents would ring true.  Matthew McConaughey plays district attorney Danny Buck opposite Scrappy Holmes played by Brady Coleman.  McConaughey’s mother has a small role as one of the local gossips.  The Greek chorus of gossips (composed of actors and locals) pops in to move the story along and is by far the star of the show.   Having grown up in a small, Texas town, I can attest that the locals are the real deal–even Linklater cannot write dialog that authentic. (Watch the post credit interviews to find out if you guessed correctly which were actors and which were locals.) Both MacLaine and Black’s characters were somewhat caricature though Black was respectful in his portrayal of Tiede.  This black comedy will keep you laughing all the way home!

Moonrise Kingdom

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Moonrise Kingdom  (B).  Quirky director Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox) returns with a quirky tale of young love between a couple of 12-year-old misfits, Sam and Suzy.  Suzy lives on a smallish island with her dysfunctional family, and Sam is an orphan in foster care.  Via flashback, we learn that they met cute a year earlier, became penpals, and hatched a scheme to run away together when Sam’s scout troop is on the island for a camping trip.  Once their disappearance is discovered, search parties are formed by the various semi-competent adults who are available–the earnest scoutmaster (Edward Norton, The Painted Veil), Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray, Ghostbusters; Frances McDormand, Fargo), the island’s policeman (Bruce Willis, Surrogates)–and quirky adventures ensue.  The relationship between Sam and Suzy is easily the movie’s strongest point, and Anderson makes it touching while keeping it believable.  Sam and Suzy’s affection is genuine, but it doesn’t keep them from hurting each other’s feelings once in a while.  The supporting elements are not as strong.  Stuff is odd without actually being funny, Murray’s character in particular is way underdeveloped, and using a hurricane as a plot element seems like overkill.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie as a whole.  It made me wonder what happened to that one particular girl who transferred into my elementary school at the beginning of 5th grade, didn’t come back for 6th grade, and in between made me get the worst grades in conduct I ever got….

Prometheus

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Prometheus  (B+).  I barely managed to see this new sci-fi/horror flick before it leaves the theaters, and I’m glad I made the effort.  Director Ridley Scott returns to the universe of his 1979 classic Alien for the tale of a space expedition to a remote world that may hold the secret to the origins of life on Earth.  Once the astronauts arrive, they discover huge alien structures full of dead humanoid aliens, not to mention weirder and slimier artifacts of disturbing import.  I found plenty to like about the movie–the acting was good, and Scott had no trouble ratcheting up the suspense and dread.  There is plenty of gruesome stuff, which will surprise no one who saw Alien or its sequel Aliens.  On the down side, it seemed like an awful lot of stuff was left unexplained, and some of the characters did some things that made very little sense, or that seemed physically impossible.  And I thought Charlize Theron (Young Adult) was sadly underused as the icy corporate representative on the mission.  But in the end, I enjoyed the movie and left the theater hoping there will be a sequel.  If you’re one of the few folks who hasn’t seen the original Alien, I do think you will enjoy Prometheus more if you take the trouble to screen a DVD of Alien first.

Katy Perry: Part of Me

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Katy Perry: Part of Me  (B).  This is what happens when you have a 13-year-old goddaughter.  But I can’t complain too much; as evidenced by my grade, I thought this was a pretty interesting little documentary about one of the moment’s biggest pop stars.  The temporal focus of the film is 2011, when Perry dominated the airwaves with her songs, the arenas with her concerts, and the tabloids with short-lived marriage to Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek).  But the movie also lets us see how Perry got where she is.  We learn about her strict Pentecostal Christian upbringing, her eventual discovery of secular music (with a specific tip of the hat to Alanis Morissette), and her several painful years of gutting it out in the music biz until she finally got her big break.  There’s lots of 2011 concert footage, too.  Personally, I find some of her songs to be pretty catchy, but some are so vulgar and tawdry that it’s appalling to see so many young girls (and some boys) at her concerts.  And I’m no music critic, but her voice seems pretty unexceptional to me.  Still and all, she seems like a nice enough person, and you feel a little sorry for her when tour fatigue and her failing marriage threaten to really tear her up.  Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that her grandmother is a scene-stealing hoot.

The Paris Wife (book review)

A book review from Mom Under Cover.

The Paris Wife  A-

While Paula McLain tells the story of the romance and first marriage of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway, the reader takes a romp through Paris in the early 1920’s–salons, larger-than-life characters and the like.  (Think Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris).  As the author puts it, this is when Ernest was Ernest and not HEMINGWAY.   Though written from the first Mrs. Hemingway’s perspective (there were ultimately four), Hadley’s character is somewhat one-dimensional and underdeveloped.  Perhaps this is McLain’s way of demonstrating the chasm between Hadley’s midwestern, demure personality and the intensity of Ernest’s.  Ms. McLain had access to Hemingway’s letters but not permission to quote them, which may explain some of the clumsiness. No doubt Hemingway was a cad and this novel does not attempt to sidestep his shortcomings.  It does, however, take the reader along the journey as he discovers bullfighting, motorcycle racing and struggles to become a writer rather than a journalist.  And, it is a journey worth taking.

Finally, for an interesting postscript, pick up A Moveable Feast – Restored Edition edited by Patrick Hemingway.  This memoir is Hemingway’s version of the same Paris years written near the end of his life and published posthumously in 1964.  The restored edition strips away Mary Hemingway’s (the fourth wife) filter in attempt to be true to the original manuscript.  Whether on account of the passage of time, the shock treatments, or the ever present depression, Hemingway writes of Hadley, … “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.”

 

Game of Thrones: Season One

The Bleacher Bum proffers a second opinion.

Game of Thrones, Season 1.  Game of Thrones is based on a series of fantasy/medieval novels by George R.R. Martin.  It is my understanding that Season 1 covers only the first book. I cannot confirm because I have not read the books. (I ordered the first book today.) I think it is important to note that I am a huge fan of this genre, and I have since learned to my dismay, some people are very much not.  With that said, I think everyone would be a fan of this show because it is entertainment personified.  It is about the battles, politics, bribery, murders, curses, marriages, relationships, betrayals, bloodlines, histories, and scheming of seven families in ancient times.  They are all trying to seize control of The Seven Kingdoms aka The Realm. The cast is massive. The performances are phenomenal. The writing and direction are exceptional. The sets and scenery are majestic.  The deaths are breathtaking.  Everything is bigger and better on this show. This show is HBO.  And as an HBO show, this show is not for children under the age of 16. But this show is for people that like to be pulled in about 1,000 different directions.  Grade: A.