Month: March 2008

Coen to the Midwest: Review for "Fargo"

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The film Fargois supposedly based on a true story. The events that are featured in the film took place in 1987. But those who have seen the Coen’s work of art and believe this were fooled! Joel and Ethan Coen were inspired by true events that did not take place in Minnesota or North Dakota.

Poor Mr. Lundergard (a brilliant William H. Macy) is down on his luck and need money. How much? $750,000 to clear his debts. So he asks a couple of hit men (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife for a ransom of $1 million. He hopes that his wife’s father will give the money to them, because he’s rich. But what follows are a string of accidental and intentional deaths. Margery Gunderson (a hilarious and Oscar winning Frances McDormand) is on the case, while she is pregnant, and tries to track down these ruthless killers. The film is very dark, but has some light comedy. It’s a dark sort of comedy, but funny nevertheless. The violence is brutal (wood chippers, anyone?), the comedy light hearted and the originality unmistakable. Frances McDormand is great, with her sing songy accent and her smile. One of the greatest films of all time. I preferred this one to the Coen’s other film No Country for Old Men. Is Fargo a good movie? Yeah, you betcha!

Grade: A

West Side Gory: Review for "No Country for Old Men"

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Out in the desolate west is where many great films have taken place. The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, (winner of Best Director) are among the great American filmmakers. Their snarky noir to their screwball comedy have earned them prestige and respect and also a few Oscars. I’ve never cared for films that take place in the barren desert. They tend to be too formulaic. That’s where you have the Coens take an overused setting and make it new and interesting. Their 2008 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, No Country for Old Menis a refreshing look out west. Josh Brolin (Grindhouse) plays a man who finds dead bodies in the desert, with a briefcase of two million dollars and a truck filled with heroin. He tries to escape with the money, but on his trail is a hitman with the world’s worst haircut (Best Supporting Actor winner Javier Bardem). The Coens definitely produce, write, and direct the Thinking Man’s film, due to he fact it’s a bad idea to doze off through one of their films, otherwise, you might miss something very important. Many critics have said this films is a western horror movie, and in a way, they’re right. You have your maniac, your refugee, your hero, and your ultra-violence. The violence seems brutal, from explosions to shots…in the head. Javier’s hitmanis one of the most original portrayals in film history. He’s quick, slick, and keeps his cool, all with a very unfortunate hairstyle. Tommy Lee Jones (Academy Award nominee for In the Valley of Elah) is the good guy, trying to track down the killer and find who stole the money. The pursuit is heart racing, the emotionless face of the causes fear hitman as he walks closer to the door with his silenced gun. He’s very eerie, and his raspy voice intensifies it. He is one of the most evil characters ever to appear on screen. He runs shivers up your spine. You may find that “Call it, friend-o.” may be the most popular line of 2007. There’s a little of he Coen’s familiar humor hidden in the film, one liners and awkward moments. Joel and Ethan adapted the script from the novel by Cormac McCarthy. The great script and the wonderful storytelling is clear as day in this western thriller. The desolate wasteland where film takes place is haunting, as if you are alone and no one can help you. If you are trapped, laying in the sand covered in blood, and a man with a weird haircut calls you friend-o, you’re dead meat. Joel and Ethan tell this story in a flawless style (and won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), and it is done it gorgeous detail. The ending has been causing controversy. Audiences have felt cheated. You are left with a cliff hanger, not as if it were to be made into a sequel, but just left on the edge of your seat, wanting more, but the film leaves you hanging. I did not care for the ending. I can not appreciate it. Other than that, No Country is a masterwork. A brutal, yet glorious film.

Grade: A

Kid Rivalry: Nickelodeon Vs. Disney Channel

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There are rivalries between Batman and the Joker, James Bond and Blofeld, and countless others. One notable rivalry is between networks the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, the networks responsible for some of the famous shows your tweens are crazy about. I have a review of each network and some of their shhows.

Disney Channel

The Suite Life of Zack & Cody
The show, which is about twins who live in a hotel, is funny enough, using slapstick as a key formula in the series. Dylan and Cole Sprouse (Cole played Ross’s son on Friends) play Zack and Cody, respectively, who get into all sorts of shenanigans. Dylan is very swift and quick as a prankster who often falls by the wayside. It seems to come naturally, while Cole’s geek Cody seems to be a tired formula. He tries way too hard to be nerdy. The real stars are the self absorbed rich London (Brenda Song) and Maddie (Ashley Tisdale). The two battle it out in every episode which earns the show’s most laughs. Though, the self referential jokes are tiring, mentioning Disney’s sleeper success High School Musicaland pretending that Maddie looks nothing like Ashley Tisdale, who co-starred in High School Musical

Grade: B+

Hannah Montana
The show Hannah Montana chronicles the life of a pop superstar living each day as an ordinary tween and each night partying away at concerts. I’ve heard it all before. It’s much like superheroeslike Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman, all of whom lead separate, normal lives in the real world. Miley Cyrus is peachy as Miley Stewart, and Cyrus’s real father, Billy Ray, plays her on-screen father. The family colloquials get tiring after 5 times in one episode. The “Sweet Niblets!” are really annoying after a while. It is a question whether Ms. Cyrus has a good voice? Some may concur, while others may say she has an effect that most won’t remember in coming years. I don’t think it’s all that.
Grade: B-

Nickelodeon
Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob Squarepants is a cute, peppy little guy who goes to work at the Krusty Krab, home of the Krabby Patty, run by the greediest man since…well you think about that for a little bit. Even though parents may find the potty humor immature, it’s probably the funniest, most well written, and smartest kid show in a long time. With many a laugh for the ones who get the humor, and a few giggles for the youg’ens, Spongebob is the show to go to when all else on television is impure and scadalous.
Grade: A

Drake & Josh
It’s definitely not the smartest show on TV, but it’s okay. I’m talkin about Drake & Josh, the show about a slacker and a nerd who become brothers. Haven’t we heard this before. The show is aimed at teens. It’s repetitive with bad sets and odd jokes.
Grade: C+

So you’ve just had a small taste of the networks. Who’s better: Nick. Even though some shows are totally brainless, the little yellow sponge takes it home for the team.

Nick: B+
Disney: B

The Road to Gold: The Oscars!

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The Oscars are famous for being prestigious, glamorous, and star studded. However, they’re notorious for being long, boring, and dull. You can’t really blame’ em, it’s an awards show, and awards shows all have those tenancies. This year, Jon Stewart hosted, what would normally be a predictable year, and brought spice, wit, and humor to the Oscars. His jokes are hilarious (After the montage on the voting process, Stewart beams and says, “And I thought it was up to the super-delegates!”). The show was much more engrossing than last year. Though, this year’s show had the lowest rating in history: only 32 million viewers. The last time it was that low, it was the 2003 show and Chicago won Best Picture. This year’s winners were exceptionally predictable. Best Picture went to No Country for Old Men. Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor were very predictable and they went to Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) as a greedy oil miner in the west and Javier Bardem (No Country), as a hit man, respectively. Best Actress was a little surprising. French actress Marion Cotillard won Best Actress for her portrayal of French chanteus Edith Piaf and Tilda Swinton won for the court drama Michael Clayton. The Coen brothers won for No Country, and, unsurprisingly, Ratatouille won Best Animated Feature. “Falling Slowly” from Once won Best Original Song, trumping Enchanted‘s three nominated songs. The one surprise for me was that The Golden Compass won Best Visual Effects, and not Transformers. It was a pretty good show, other than it was 3 1/2 hours (which is actually an improvement from last year, it being 4 1/2 hours).

Grade: B+

Beatles "Revolution": Review for "Across the Universe" Soundtrack

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Across the Universe is a complicated film to recommend as is the soundtrack. The film’s entire soundtrack is comprised of of Beatles covers by the cast, with cameos by U2 members, Bono and the Edge, Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard, and Selma Hayek.
The first song of the film is “Girl” which is very haunting. Jim Sturgess, though a relative newcomer to film, was in a rock band, and his Jude sounds original and new, yet at the same time somewhat old school Liverpool/Beatles style. His “Something”, “Across the Universe”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “All My Loving” are much in the same way. But his version of “All You Need is Love” is the real showstopper for him. The new version retain the formula, but adds a new element and at first, lacks the annoying “dum-na-num-na-num” after each “all you need is love”. But once the pattern is added, in an electric guitar, it sounds much cooler than the original.
Evan Rachel Wood’s Lucy is as girly as one would be in the ’60s, but her voice gets stronger as her character gets more radical. Her version of “Hold Me Tight” is cute and almost bubblegum like, yet has a Beatles-esqe class to it. Her rendition of “If I Fell” is heartbreaking and very sad and beautiful. The new version of “It Won’t Be Long”is very peppy. Overall, she’s very good.

Joe Anderson plays Max, whose voice has a Beatles like tone. His covers of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and “I Want You” are very well done and his version of “Hey Jude” is fresh and new and has a sound that is somewhat like an homage to the original but still sounds new.

Dana Fuchs plays Sadie and her voice is very reminiscent of Janice Joplin (which is kind of a coincidence, due to her starring in a stage biography of the rocker called Love, Janice). Her “Why Don’t Do It the road?”, “Oh! Darling”, “Dear Prudence”, and “Helter Skelter” are really good, my favorite being “Oh! Darling”.

Martin Luther McCoy plays Jo Jo, and his rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is enough to make you weep. A smooth rock and roll sound with a mix of saucy R&B in it.

T.V. Carpio plays shy Prudence and she sings pretty well, if soft, version of “I Want to Hold Yor Hand”, which, in my opinion, is better than the original. I always thought it was a corny song anyways, but Prudence’s shyness in the song and the film make it a little melodramatic.

Guest singer Joe Cocker, famous for his rendition of a few Beatles songs, is back as he sings a raspy hard core version of “Come Together”. A bold new sound to an already brave song that broke the boundries of cool.

Eddie Izzard (TV’s The Riches) speaks the lyrics to “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”. Where they got the original lyrics…a circus poster. I never cared for the original and this version is even worse, it sounds as if he is add libbing the entire thing and sounds very odd and discombobulated.

Bono and the Edge leave their mark on “I Am the Walrus”, which is perfect for them, a nice mixed version of a radical classic. His “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is okay, but it doesn’t match the original. Almost none of these beat the originals. A few come close, but the Beatles made some of the greatest songs in history, and no one can beat someone who has already won the game… a long time ago.
Grade: A-