Review-a-Palooza: Movies

Due to the rain,* I spent a lot of QCT (quality couch time) this weekend, which means I have a bunch of stuff to review.  I literally gorged myself on an entertainment buffet– movies, TV shows, music, magazines, a book.  I can’t promise I’ll review it all, but  for your first course, let me present:  Movies!

The best movie I saw this weekend was Adaptation, hands down.

As you may recall, I’m a bit obsessed with the storyboard blog over at Wired magazine.  Since the piece is about Charlie Kaufman and Adaptation has been sitting in my Netflix queue for way too long, I decided that I needed to do some background research.

Nicolas Cage stars as a screenwriter (named Charlie Kaufman!) who is adapting a book called The Orchid Thief (yes, it’s a real book) into a movie.   He’s introspective and artistic and is trying to make a movie “about flowers” even though the studio wants him to add romance, drama, and car chases.  Meanwhile, his douche bag brother Don (also played by Nick Cage) is writing a paint-by-numbers thriller script with the help of a screenwriting workshop.

Throughout the course of the movie, we get glimpses into how Kaufman would write The Orchid Thief. Meryl Streep plays Susan Orlean– the author of the book, who is interviewing John Laroche, played by Chris Cooper.   These real-life characters become fictionalized in the book and then re-fictionalized (?) within the context of Kaufman’s movie.

By observing his creative process and struggling to come up with a compelling hook for a film book “about flowers” the fictional Kaufman writes himself into the movie, much like the real-life Kaufman has done by naming the main character after himself.    Although the movie-within-the-movie-based-on-a-real-life-book-based-on-a-true-story plot line may seem a little far-fetched, it works beautifully on the screen. It becomes not only a compelling story, but also an in-depth critique of movie making, Hollywood, “human nature,” and the creative process.

The title itself takes on a double meaning as well. Adaptation is-on one level-about the process of adapting a book for the screen, but it’s also about the evolutionary/Darwinian concept of evolution– how orchids (and people) adapt and change to survive within their environments. It’s really profound and deep and a bid mind-blowing, in a “WTF just happened?” sort of way.

This movie absolutely blew me away.  It’s one of those films that you keep thinking about long after it’s over.  I’ll definitely re-watch this one and it has earned a permanent place on my “favorite movies” list.  If you haven’t seen it, rent it now.  If you have, I’d love to discuss it with you.  It rocked my world.

I Also Watched . . .

Sweeney Todd

Full disclosure: I went into this movie with a bunch of pre-conceived notions.  On one hand, there’s the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp pairing, which I usually love.  On the other hand, it’s violent and a musical which I don’t tend to like at all.  On the other-other hand, I have a friend who has been singing the praises of Sweeney Todd since, well, since I met him.  So I had to decide for myself.

The best thing I can say about the movie is its exactly what I expected.  Johnny Depp was perfect in a role that’s part Edward Scissorhands, part Captain Jack Sparrow, part that guy from The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Helena Bonham Carter was ideal as Mrs. Lovett, yet she looked exactly like her character in Big Fish and the little boy (who was also in Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp) was wonderful.  The sets and cinematography were pure Tim Burton-dark, gloomy, creepy, and gorgeous.

The violence and singing didn’t bother me as much as I thought they would, with one small exception. I couldn’t hear/understand the words as they were being sung.  I even turned on my closed captioning at one point.  For a movie where so much of the drama occurs through lyrics, it was crucial that I could hear the characters singing, which I couldn’t.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and entertaining movie, but it probably won’t go down as one of my favorites.

Batman Begins

I originally rented this movie to watch during my Staycation thinking I’d watch it and then go see The Dark Knight.  I fell asleep the first time I tried to watch it and never made it to The Dark Knight, so I decided to give it another chance this weekend.

It was good, but not knock-my-socks-off good.  I’m not a huge fan of the Batman franchise. I remember being super excited about the first movie with Jack Nicholson as the Joker (back in 1989–man, I’m old), but I all I remember about the other movies is that they were made into Happy Meal toys and rides at Six Flags.

So, in that respect, I was glad to see a darker, more introspective Batman movie and it was good to get the “creation story.”  I thought Katie Holmes did a really good job and I now have a crush on both Christian Bale AND Michael Caine (weird!).  As far as superhero movies go, it was one of the best… but I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies.  I’m anxious to see  how The Dark Knight continues this story and whether or not it lives up to the hype.

Wait ‘Til Next Year: The Saga of the Chicago Cubs

Interesting documentary on the Cubs’ famous losing streak including the 1984 season (which I don’t remember) and the 2003 season (which I distinctly do). It’s playing on HBO On Demand now and is good viewing for any Cubs fan, but doesn’t present anything we don’t already know.

(I also watched part of the game on Sunday where Zambrano threw that no-hitter, which was WAY more exciting!)

No Reservations

Another movie in the “exactly what I expected” category, except in this case my expectations were admittedly lower.  The story centers around Kate (Catherine Zeta Jones), who is an executive chef at a fancy New York restaurant.  Her sister dies leaving her to take care of her niece, played by Abigail Breslin of Little Miss Sunshine fame.   Kate is famously stand-offish when it comes to relationships and is infuriated when her boss hires a new know-it-all sous-chef, played by Aaron Eckhart. 

[Spoiler Alert!] They begrudgingly fall in love until there’s some sort of fall-out about the restaurant.  A mini-crisis with the kid reunites them and they live a culinary happily-ever-after. It’s a perfect “waste away the afternoon while you have nothing else to do kind of movie,” but it’s not exactly original.


*And while we’re on the subject of rain… I know it sucks, but let’s think about the people in Texas, who have it a lot worse than we do.  Like my friend Hannah, who is in Houston and has been blogging from her phone to keep everyone updated on her safety.  Let’s send the good people of Texas some happy thoughts. They need it!


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