movie reviews

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

larsrealgirl

A weird young man has a sex doll for a girlfriend –  at a glance it seems like a crazy gross-out comedy, but it’s not.

Lars( Ryan Gosling) is an award introvert living in a a  small town. He stays alone in a cottage on the property where his brother and sister-in-law ( Emily Mortimer) reside.  After several several inquiries about his romantic life from townspeople, he orders a realistic looking sex doll online and introduces her to his family as Bianca, his girlfriend.Concerned they take him to a doctor/psychologist, Dagmar  (Patricia Clarkson), who recommends that they all go along with his delusion, until he is able to work things out for himself. The whole town plays along and accepts Bianca as his girlfriend.and as part of their town.

Lars and the Real Girl is a beautiful and quirky portrait of love, family, friendship and community. This movie is so well crafted and is brilliantly scripted. It is boasts an amazing cast, with  stellar performances from Gosling and Mortimer.
 
Rnning time: 106 min
Rated: PG-13
Writer: Nancy Oliver
Director; Craig Gillespie 
©lowercase v 2017
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book reviews

Silver Linings Playbook – Book Review

Silver Linings Playbook is a novel by Matthew Quick which has spawned a 2012 film adaption staring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. I have seen the movie a few years ago and have only read the novel recently.

Silver Linings Playbook is a first person account of Pat Peoples a man who has moved back into his parents house after being released from a mental health facility.  He is obsessed with getting his life on track and improving his physical fitness with the hopes of reconciling with his estranged ex wife, Nikki. It becomes clearly that he was hospitalised for longer than he realised and a large chunk of his memory is missing. He attends a lot of football matches with his hometown friends and family and tries to connect with his emotionally cold father. He also goes to therapy. He meets an attractive, but troubled young widow called Tiffany who immediately takes an interest in him.

The books gets you into the mind-set of Pat much more than, I feel, the movie does. You are plunged into Pat’s thinking patterns and obsessive thoughts. I found that I could relate to Pat. Although he is pretty one-track minded, I found the character to be complex.  The narrative is easy to read and follow.  In the book he gives his thoughts on several literary classic he had read, which are probably spoilers but even if you haven’t read these books you probably have an idea of there plots already anyway. This is a story of mental illness, but it is also a story of hope, recovery, relationships and love.

I would greatly recommend this book.
©lowercase v 2017

movie reviews

Wonder Woman (2017)

wonderwoman
Based on the DC Comic book,  Wonder Woman, created by William Moulton Marston. Diana (Gal Gadot),  daughter of Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen,  lives among the Amazons (a special race created by Zeus to protect mankind from the god of war, Aries)  in a world populated only by women.

One day Diana rescues Steve (Chris Pine), an American soldier, from the ocean after his plane was shot down by Germans.  After learning about the terrible world war Diana decides to leave her home to put a stop to the destruction. Steve needs to stop the evil German commander Ludendorff (Danny Huston)  from destroying the the world.  With Steve  and their band of misfits by her side, she finds herself drawn into a the war and assumes her identity as warrior princess, Wonder Women.

The movie is packed with action, special effects, epic battle scenes and a bit of romance. I’ve never read any of the Wonder Women comic books I really enjoyed watching the movie.  Gal Gadot did an amazing job as Wonder Woman and the chemistry between her and Chris Pine is pretty good.

See it if you like action movies, comic book adaptations or seeing women kick butt. I’d recommend seeing this film on the big screen.

Cast also includes:   Connie Nielson, Robin Wright, Ewan Bremmer, Elena Anaya, Saïd Taghmaoui, David Thewlis,  etc

Director:  Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg

Story:  Zack Snyder,  Allan Heinberg,  Jason Fuchs

Running time: 141 mins
Rated: PG-13

©lowercase v  2017

movie reviews

The Wrestler (2008)

wrestler

Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is an aging professional wrestler. He struggles to make rent and has to pick up extra shifts at his day job.  The years of beatings to his body, steroid abuse and hair bleaching is taking its toll.  He seems to be pretty lonely.  He has regularly visits a stripper, Cassidy (Marissa Tomei), whom he develops an interest in.  His doctor recommends that he quits wrestling and Randy makes an effort to adjust to “normal” life. He tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), but she’s not too keen.  As things go awry, Randy finds himself being drawn back into wrestling.

The Wrestler was a big comeback for Mickey Rourke (actually his comeback was in 2005’s Sin City, but The Wrestler is a bigger role) who was quite popular in the 1980s (see 9½ Weeks and Angel Heart).  Rourke won best actor Golden Globe, BAFTA , Screen Actors Guild Award, etc and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Randy.  The lovely Marissa Tomei was nominated for and/or won several awards for her performance as Cassidy.

I’m not really into wrestling, but I thought the movie is quite brilliant. Like other films from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), The Wrestler is a portrait of human obsession and habit. It’s not a feel-good movie.  Randy’s world is pretty bleak. It is gritty and feels very real.

I would recommend this movie if you’re into serious human drama.


Written by: Robert Siegel
Directed by: Darren Aronofski
Release: 2008
Rating: R
Running time: 1h 49min.

©lowercase v  2017 

book reviews

The Book Thief

book thief

The Book Thief is set in Nazi Germany and is narrated by Death.  The main character is a little German girl named Liesel Meminger, who goes to live with foster parents. Her mother is gone and her brother is dead.

She steals her first book off a corpse and the rescues/ steals some subsequent books.  Her foster father, Hans, teaches her to read and she becomes an avid reader. She is a smart, tough little girl who likes to play football with the boys.  She befriends a boy called Rudy, who is her neighbour, and they become inseparable.  She and her foster family do not share the Nazi ideals. They hide a Jewish man, Max,  in their basement who becomes a very good friend to both Liesel and her family.  Though, hiding Max does put them in a very precarious situation.

The novel is perhaps a little heavy for vacation reading, but it has many light moments and is really well written.  A very intriguing and mesmerizing read.  The book includes German phrases, but they are also explained in English.  It is a beautiful story about humanity, love and friendship.

You would probably like this if you like The Boy in Striped Pajamas.  I would recommend this book.   There has been a movie made about this book, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I would highly recommend this book.

©lowercase v    2017 

book reviews

A Man Called Ove

ove.JPGA grumpy old widower who has lost his job, just wants to kill himself and die in peace, but his neighbours keep interfering.

The book is somewhat episodic, though it does follow a solid narrative.  It is well-written and the characters are well drawn.

This is a funny and touching story about being human. I enjoyed reading it and found that I could greatly relate to Ove.

I would recommend this book.

 

 

©lowercase v   2017 

board games

Carcassonne Review

I love playing board games. I wouldn’t really call myself an avid or regular player, but I will say almost never say no thanks to playing a game. I haven’t tried all the games the cool kids are playing, but I’m always happy to try a new game and their a lot of games that I still want to try.

This is a unsolicited/ unpaid  user review of a game I own. (I mean I own a copy of the game, not the rights to the game).

carcassonne

Age: 13 and up.
Players: 2-5 players.
Average playing time: ± 40 minutes

Carcassonne is a tile building game. The box contains  72 normal playing tiles ( including the a start tile),  12  river tiles (expansion), 5 sets of followers (player tokens), a score board and the game rules.


Each player has 8 “followers”. One follower is used to keep track on the score board and the rest is used to claim the player’s builds.

The start tile is place on the table and other tiles are shuffled and placed on in stacks on the table. Players can arbitrarily decide who will start the game or they can just let youngest player will start. Order of play proceeds clockwise.  The first player draws a tile from any pile of cards and places it on any side of the start tile, provided that the picture will build correctly.  The tile a player places has to line side by side to an existing game tile (you cannot  simply touch the corner of an existing tile with nothing touching the sides of the new tile).

In a basic game, players will build roads, cities and monasteries.  The player who has placed a tile can then place a follower on the newly placed tile, on the piece of road (the follower is called a “thief”) , city (“knight”) or monastery (“monk”), depending on what she is trying to build.  Once a build is completed, the player removes her follower from the board and returns the follower to her pile of game tokens. She scores her points and moves her scorer the appropriate number of points on the score board.  A road is complete when there is a crossroad, intersection on building at either end of a stretch. A monastery is complete when the tile is surrounded by 8 other tiles. A city is complete when the wall are closed around.

Each tile of road counts 1 point,  completed monasteries count 9 points  (1 point for each tile). City tiles count 2 points each plus an extra 2 points for each banner (at the end of the game,  uncompleted cities only score 1 point per tile or banner). Once a player laps on the score board, she turn her follower on its side to indicate that it has already gone around the board.

You cannot play a follower on a city or road already allocated to another player (for example if you have a city tile and can only add it to someone else’s city). If players build separate cities or roads and these roads or cities become one as they expand, the players who have followers will share the points if they have an equal number of followers on the build. If one plays has more tokens than the other co-builders, she will get all the points. (i.e  Blue has started 2 separate cities and Red has also started a city. During the course of the game these 3 cities become one large city. Blue will score all the points when the cities is completed. Red will score nothing.)

Play continues until all the tiles have been placed. Each player then count their points for uncompleted builds. Uncompleted builds score 1 point per tile. The player with the most points on the score board wins the game.

IMG_3255

As an extension, players can build farms as well,  though this should be decided before play starts.  Farms are claimed by placing a follower (“farmer”) on the green/ field part of a tile.  The farms extension can be a bit complicated as it isn’t always clear where borders are. I have only played this once. The game is much less complicated without this extension.

Another extension is playing with the river cards, which expands the play area and extends the game by a few minutes. When the river is played, the normal starting tile is taken out of play and the river origin tile is placed first. All the river tiles are then place by the players, until then lake tile is placed. The next player then draws the next tile from the normal playing tiles and play continues in the normal order.

What I like about this game is that the basic game is very easy to learn. Play doesn’t take very long (unlike Risk or Monopoly for example, though I do like both those games). It takes some strategy, but it is not too complicated. It is very inclusive and suitable for family play. There are no general knowledge questions (though I love trivia questions, but some people don’t) and no roll of dice influencing one player’s monopoly of the game.  Players are allowed to advise each other on where to place tiles, but they don’t have to.  Even  people who are not generally very big on board games seem to enjoy this game.  This is a fun game for family or friends and one you will probably play often.


©lowercase v  2017

movie reviews

School of Rock (2003)

Running Time: 108 min    Rated: PG-13

school of rock

Director: Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise,  Waking Life, Fast Food Nation,  Boyhood)
Writer: Mike White (Orange County, Nacho Libre.  Episodes of: Dawson’s Creek, Freaks and Geeks)

 

“Dude, I service society by rocking, OK? I’m out there on the front lines liberating people with my music!” – Dewey Finn

Dewey Finn (Jack Black)  is a unemployed wannabe rock star.  His best friend,  Ned’s (Mike White)  girlfriend, Patti (Sarah Silverman), wants to kick him out of their shared apartment, unless he can pay his part of the rent. His band mates has replaced him with another guitarist and kicked him out of the band.  Things look pretty grim.  Ms Mullins (Joan Cusack), the principal of a fancy prep school, calls regarding a substitute teacher job for Ned. When Dewey hears what the job pays, he decides to take “the gig”. At first Dewey sees his new job as paid nap time and has little interest in the bunch of 4th graders. After hearing the kids play in orchestra class, Dewey has a brilliant idea. He announces a new class project called “Project Rock Band”,  with the plan of entering them in the “Battle of the Bands”.   Of course, this has to be a “secret class project”. The kids are very excited about their new project and everyone is assigned a special role.  As he spend more time with the kids he forms a special bond with them.


School of Rock
 is a hilarious, feel-good movie (unless you end up feeling old and untalented).  It is well directed, shot and edited.  This is probably director Richard Linklater’s  most mainstream film.

Jack Black plays yet another wacky  goofball. If you enjoy his other movies you will enjoy this one. Jack Black and Mike White often act together in movies written by White.  This is probably my favourite Jack Black movie (I loved Orange County a lot, though he plays a minor role in it).

The child actors in this movie are both adorable and very talented. The young cast include (among many other talented performers): Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly, Dispicable Me),  Aleisha Allen (Are We There Yet?,  Are We Done Yet?), Cole Hawkins (Bid Daddy, Changing Lanes, Meet the Parents),  Angelo Massagli (Cosby, The Sopranos, Stuart Little 2)  and Zachary Infante (acted  in and produced a short film called The Black Experience) . 

The soundtrack features several classic rock anthem. Some of the artist featured on the soundtrack include: AC/DC,  Led Zeplin,  The Who, Cream, T.Rex, The Doors, etc.

The Special Collector’s Edition DVD includes commentary by Richard Linklater & Jack Black,  kid’s commentary, a music video, the theatrical trailer and several other bonus materials.

 

©lowercase v   2017

 

analysis

Excess Baggage vs A Life Less Ordinary

 

Both films were released in 1997.  Both are about a spoiled rich girl, trying to get her father’s attention, who is accidentally kidnapped by a troubled young man. In both cases they fall in love. I wouldn’t really call either films an example of Stockholm Syndrome, even though in both cases the kidnapping “victim”  identifies with the kidnapper, because the kidnappings are  accidental.
It often happens that movies with similar plots are released by different studios in the same year.  What makes a difference is the screenplay, director and cast.

spoilers

A Life Less Ordinary (ALLO for sake of comparison):
Running time: 103 min      Rated: R
Tagline: “A comedy for anyone who’s ever been in danger…of falling in love.”

Robert (Ewan McGregor) loses his job and confronts the company president.  He impulsively takes the boss’s daughter, Celine (Cameron Diaz),  as a hostage. He now finds himself as a kidnapper on the run with Celine.  In the meanwhile, Jackson (Delroy Lindo) and O’Reilly (Holly Hunter),  are two angels on a mission from God to reestablish romance between modern man and woman.

Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: John Hodge
Cast includes: Dan Hedaya, Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Ian Holm and Timothy Olyphant.

Excess Baggage (EB for sake of comparison):
 Running time: 101 min      Rated: PG-13
Tagline: “You would NOT believe what a girl’s got to do, just to get a little attention”
A spoiled teenager, Emily (Alicia Silverstone), fakes her own kidnapping.  While she is in the trunk of her car, Vincent (Bencio Del Toro), a car thief steals her car and inadvertently becomes a kidnapper. There are sparks between them and they form a special bond. In the meanwhile her father has sent his associate, ” Uncle Ray” (Christopher Walken) to retrieve Emily.

Director: Marco Brambilla
Writer:  Max. D Adams (story & screenplay), Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais.
Cast includes: Harry Connick Jr., Jack Thompson and Nicholas Turturro.

Comparison:

  • EB is more realistic than ALLO, which has the fantasy element of two angels on a mission.
  • ALLO employs Deux ex machina. 
  • ALLO overall has the better cast and acting performances.
  • EB: Alicia  Silverstone  was nominated for a worst actress Razzie. Good performances from Walken and Del Toro.
  • ALLO has a more famous writer and director.
  • ALLO has better overall cinematogrpahy and editing.
  • Both have cool soundtracks.
  • EB is more main stream and did better at the box office.
  • EB was made for a budget of ± $20,000,000  and ALLO for  ± $12,000,000 (source: imdb)
  • ALLO has funnier dialogue.
  • The romantic relationship in ALLO is more volatile.
  • Emily (EB) fakes her own kidnapping to get attention and then gets kidnapped for real… Celine (ALLO) gets kidnapped by mistakes but then decides to exploit the situation (and test how much her father loves her), by making Robert demand a ransom.
  • Both female leads are willful and opinionated and will speak their minds, but Celine (ALLO) is more independent and a stronger character.
  • Both women are American.
  • Robert( ALLO) is just   sweet, but frustrated guy, a bit of a loser,  who is at the wrong time and the wrong place and haplessly becomes a criminal.  Vincent (EB) is a career criminal (who wants out), who is also at the wrong place at the wrong time and gets sucked into s sticky situation.
  • Both male characters are of foreign origin. Vincent is Latino and Robert is British.

I enjoyed both movies, but I slightly favour A Lifeless Ordinary, as it is quirkier and a lot more absurd, albeit a little over the top.  It also briefly features two beautiful Dobermans.

 

Memorable Dialogue:

——————————————————————————————————————————
Emily vs. Celine:

===Excess Baggage===

EMILY:
What… you’re done? You don’t wanna play anymore?

**
EMILY:
Oh, hi Dad, I’m okay but um… Daddy he made me touch his penis.

VINCENT:
[Vincent hangs up the phone] Touch what?

EMILY: Oops.
===A Life Less Ordinary===

CELINE:
“Kidnap For Beginners”, Chapter One. Have you even asked for a ransom yet?
**

CELINE:
If word got around that I had been liberated for half a million dollars, I could never show my face in polite society again. Diamonds have no value except that which is placed upon them.
—————————————————————————————————————————–

Vincent vs. Robert

===Excess Baggage===

VINCENT:
I once stole a Ferrari with a Chihuahua in the back. He made less noise than you do.

**
VINCENT:
I’ve known this girl for two days, are you tellin’ me I care more about her than you? You son of a bitch! You should’ve sold her when she was born for cash value Mr. Business Man!


===A Life Less Ordinary===

ROBERT:
Right you asshole, I’ve got your daughter here, and I’m gonna send her back in pieces if… OH! I’m sorry, madam. No, I haven’t got your daughter here, I’ve got someone else’s. No, we’re not married. Yes, I’ve read the same thing, it’s very hard to find suitable young men these days. Well, I’m sure your daughter’s very nice, in principle I’ve got no objection to meeting her…
[Celine hangs up the phone]

——————————————————————————————————————————

Relationships: 

===Excess Baggage:===

VINCENT:
How stupid do you think I am, huh?

EMILY:
How stupid is there?
**

VINCENT:
I got a Twinkie in the car. It’s all yours, if you want it. Just make this call for me.
**
VINCENT:
Let’s see… we’ve got rum, tequila and rum… Rum and tequila. What would you like?

EMILY:
You don’t have to be drunk to kiss me.

VINCENT:
Well… I’m not drunk.
===A Life Less Ordinary===

ROBERT:
Why are you such a pain to be with?

CELINE:
Because you tied me to a chair all night.
**

CELINE
Despite your crummy poem, I came to see you and all you could do was humiliate me and turn me away. I thought you were decent, but it turns out you’re just a lying, cheating bastard like all the rest.
**
CELINE:
What’s wrong?

ROBERT:
What’s wrong, you crazy bitch, is I thought you were gonna shoot me! THAT’S what’s wrong!

—————————————————————————————————————————

©lowercase v  2017