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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Walking Dead - Season 1

If you’re alive and watching TV, you’ve heard of The Walking Dead, the supposed best new show of the fall season. First of all, this says very little because only a few of the new shows were worth even giving a chance. We’ve now (belatedly) watched all six episodes of season one. Here’s what you need to know:

1) It’s overrated. It’s not as good as everyone says it is. We’ve heard the comic is superior. It’s hard to live up to that kind of hype in six episodes though.

2) It’s still pretty darn good. Completely worth watching.

3) The characters are decent, but some of the acting isn’t.

4) The guy Keira Knightley kissed in Love Actually plays the main character.

5) It’s absolutely disgusting. The gore is at a level rarely seen, even in most zombie movies. Some people like that.

6) The show did a LOT in six episodes. It established its characters and had some exciting moments.

We will be checking back in next year to see season two, no doubt. We can’t wait to see what The Walking Dead does with a full season. It could turn into another obsession for us; it's definitely got the potential. This further establishes AMC as an essential player in TV right now, with Breaking Bad and Mad Men already major hauls for the network. We’re impressed. If you missed it and can’t find it online, the show encores Tuesday, January 18 and Wednesday, January 19 at 8:00 on AMC. If you can take the gore and have any interest at all, you should catch up before the new season (which should take a while to come out).

Season grade: B+

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Movies That Were Messed Up, But You Became a Little Obsessed with Them Anyway

Sometimes you see a movie, and there was something pretty weird or disturbing in it, but you liked it anyway. These movies stay with you, because they get you on a visceral, almost fetish-y level. One of our sisters called a blogger and said, “I just watched this movie called The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo. I really liked it, but it was weird at the same time. Can you think of another movie that will freak me out? I like those.” After contacting the other blogger, we have come up with our list of movies that are not for everyone but that we will never forget.

First, we agree with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - One of us thinks those books are dry, poorly written, and about as boring as a textbook, but no one can deny that the main female character is worth getting to know. The movies bring her dark side, past, and undesirable experiences forth in a way that sticks with you, even though you’re not gonna like it. Plus there’s a rape scene. Yikes.

American History X - That’s at the top of Leeard’s list, in particular. It's about a skinhead who finds redemption.

Quills - This is the first movie that came to mind after the phone call. It takes place in an insane asylum (always a good place to start for this sort of thing), and it is, largely, about sexual desire and expression. It has Kate Winslet, Geoffrey Rush, and Joaquin Phoenix in it, so you know that acting is right on. This one lingered in the brain pan for about a week after we saw it. Hard to watch, and disgusting, but interesting.

The Last King of Scotland - When the Scottish guy goes looking for the young wife after her abortion, close your eyes as he descends some stairs into the basement, or you are going to see the most disturbing image in the history of Ern’s movie viewing. The rest of the movie is no walk in the park either, but this mostly true story is worth looking into.

The Lives of Others - This one isn’t disturbing, but it’s stirring. Maybe it doesn’t go with the rest of the list, but it’s very good, and it stays with you. It’s not necessarily happy.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days - This is a true story about a college-aged girl who opposed the Nazis, distributed anti-Nazi literature, and totally got caught. But in an age where everyone is trying to be cool and master “the science of cool,” this is a move that will show you what cool really looks like. While you are bawling your eyes out.

United 93 - Ern doesn't do a lot of crying, but she bawled for about three hours after this movie. It's well-done, but do you really want to watch it? For the record, Leeard refuses to watch this movie, for a multitude of reasons.

The Passion of the Christ - We defend this movie because it's good. It's a good movie, for what it was. What were people expecting? It was a movie about a man who died slowly and left a mark on the world that changed history, whether you believe he was God or not. Definitely a memorable, powerful, yet bloody and disturbing experience.

Nothing is Private/Towelhead - Yeah, this one aimed to shock, and so many people are going to hate it. But we loved the way this girl had one neighbor who didn’t stick her head in the sand. If, as a child, you have one capable adult on your side, that’s a powerful thing. Ballsy movie with a mix of good and terrible people.

The Reader - Well, anything where Kate Winslet is a Nazi who sleeps with a teenage boy and then ages badly is going to be on this list. This is a given. This is like putting Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List in this entry. It’s like….duh.

Audition - Japanese horror movie. Watch it. Seriously.

The Last House on the Left - It’s debatable whether this movie is GOOD, but, due to its content, it belongs on this list completely. Leeard liked the recent remake, too.

Se7en - A man kills people for committing the seven deadly sins in a manner that points out their deadly sin, and Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are the detectives after him. The ending will leave you with your mouth hanging open.

Trainspotting - This one is disturbing and fun at the same time. Yeah, that’s a combo. But it’s a really good anti-drug PSA that doesn’t leave you feeling completely pummeled like….

…..Requiem for a Dream - Another Leeard pick for this list. Leeard and Ern have a mutual friend who names this as her all-time favorite movie. (It IS good.) This friend made one of us watch it for the first time, and we looked back at her once the (ominous) credit music pounded down on our heads, and we were like, “Dude, what’s wrong with you.” We are eternally depressed by this movie. But it was good.

Rachel Getting Married - Moving family drama, but there’s at least one heartbreaking scene.

Little Children - Anything with a child molester in it is creepy. This is one you actually feel compassion for.

The Green Mile - Stephen King and Frank Darabont returned to the old prison setting (after The Shawshank Redemption, a movie almost everyone likes), and this time, they brought a little of the supernatural with them. Plus some gross executions. Fun for the whole family! (It's not, but we love this movie.)

Hard Candy - A young girl creeped on via the internet takes revenge on a sexual predator. It’s Dateline NBC on crack. She’s got her issues too, and this is the strongest role for Ellen Page, who everyone loves now.

Black Swan might be a contender for this list for a lot of people.

Dogtooth- This is an odd one, but it's really interesting.

Fish Tank- Lots of good acting, but you will be depressed by the messed-up dynamics at work here.

So there you are, sister. A list to unsettle, challenge, and creep you out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Black Swan

Some people don’t trust movie critics. We’ve heard movie critics called too liberal, elitist, too existentialist, snobby, artsy, and boring. But you have to give them one thing: most of them have seen a lot of movies. Sure, sometimes we think they are wrong, but most critics’ tastes have been refined through lots of exposure. We don’t know that we are as good in that area. One of us only has 1,578 movies rated on Netflix. But we love movies, so we’ll give some commentary a try.

Last night we saw Black Swan, a movie lauded by most professional critics everywhere. Well, they are right this time. If the type of movie is your cup of tea, it’s really good, and all our friends thought so too (if that means anything to you). One of us was always unsure about Natalie Portman’s natural abilities as an actress, but she won us both over in this. She needs to win something for Black Swan. She did most of the dancing, according to cast, crew, and director. We don’t see how that role could have been embodied better. Also, we like that Natalie is smart (she went to Harvard) and secure. She picked her friend Mila Kunis to be in the movie with her. Natalie is gorgeous, but Mila’s face is a little less harsh, so Mila turns out prettier. We like that this didn’t bother Natalie enough to exclude her friend.

If you like horror films in general but feel that most of them are poor quality, this is the movie for you. We wouldn’t call it scary, just intense and creepy. One of us had a bad reaction to Shutter Island (even though we both thought it was pretty good). If sort of left you in a foul mood. We were afraid this would be the case with Black Swan, but we walked out happy and laughing. We don’t like the demonic feel of horror movies to leave the theatre with us, we just want to walk out having enjoyed it and remember feeling scared.

And talk about enjoying it. The movie was long, but it didn’t feel long. It was entertaining and dramatic the whole way through. Darren Aronofsky is one of those directors who likes to make a weird movie, a movie you’ve never seen before (like The Fountain), and that’s what he did here. Remember his Requiem for a Dream? This is comparable to that in tone, only more fast-paced, and it doesn't make you want to blow your head off when it's over like RfaD. The music serves to get you inside the main character’s head and force you to feel some of the tension she was feeling. We think that’s a strong point, because the music was consuming enough to make you feel like you were connected with the movie, rather than detached and laughing at the craziness (Splice, anyone?).

Warning to some: This movie is dark, and it features some girl-on-girl oral sex. Mila Kunis had her dad leave for that scene. Also, the camera work is distracting in the beginning and sort of makes you dizzy. Don’t let that worry you though; it calms down as the movie goes on. Overall, Black Swan is a well-made thriller and a good time at the theatre.

Movie Grade: A

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear Rappers: Show, Don't Tell

As we drift into writing a little about movies, books, and music along with TV, one of us must confess an extreme genre bias against rap music. This blogger doesn’t know a lot about it, but why would you want to find out more with the big bunch of shallow babies making it these days? First of all, most of it these days it autotuned and not at all poetic. It’s one thing to like a little Tupac, Eminem, Mr. J. Medeiros, or Kanye. At least those have some honesty, even if two of them are flocking toward self-flagellation lately to show that they are raw. Good rappers are good poets, period.

We’re probably not the first to notice this, because it’s obvious: Most of the time, rappers just rap about how great they are. This isn’t as disgusting to us as you would think, because false humility is pretty gross. But lately every song has these ingredients: 1) I’m awesome, because I have lots of sex with hot people. 2) I can dance/I have some sort of physical prowess. 3) I have lots of money and a cool car. 4) I’m gangster in some way, because I grew up in a neighborhood of unintelligent, violent people. 5) My rapping is really good and no one had better mess with me.

The most recent offender is Nicki Minaj. These bloggers like Nicki Minaj’s rapping style, because it goes from sweet to harsh in about five seconds, it’s interesting, and it’s catchy. But her cd, Pink Friday, is mostly about how much better she is than her competitors. Who? Lil' Kim, according to the news. But Lil' Kim hasn’t been making music lately. Why is Lil' Kim competition? While feuds might be good for the rap industry, because they get attention, this feud seems pretty insignificant. First of all, what are they going to do? Talk nasty. That’s it. Second of all, Lil' Kim has more “street cred” than Nicki anyway, and that should be no question. She was one of Notorious B.I.G.’s people, her raps are more disgusting (that’s a good thing in this genre), and her rap is actually hip/hop. We like Nicki, but she is more pop with a little rap. Like Ke$ha.

As inconsequential as this “competition” for glory is, since only one of them is making music, Nicki Minaj spends almost her entire album talking trash about her peers and maintaining that she is the best. (Other blogger's note: Lil' Kim started this feud, probably because she's become pretty irrelevant these days. Yes, this blogger likes Nicki Minaj)

The first track is called “I’m the Best,” and the chorus goes: “I hope they comin' for me because the top is lonely. What the **** they gon' say. I'm the best bitch doin' it, doin'. I'm the best, best, best, best. I'm the best.”

Ok, maybe so. We can’t really think of a better female M.C. right now. Point taken. But THEN she talks about it again in her song with Eminem ("Roman’s Revenge" - Seriously though,this song is awesome). Then there is a song about how she pooped on the competition ("Did It On ‘Em"). If you listen to the whole deluxe version album, there are only a few songs that don’t completely focus on Nicki Minaj and literally trying to convince us that she’s a good M.C. by talking about how much better she is than the other saddos making this “music.” You’re no Beethoven, sweetheart. And you’re no gangster, unless we are seriously misinformed about your past in The Matrix or something.

Where Nicki shines is where she puts off the posturing. "Dear Old Nicki" talks about the person she was before the fame, "Super Bass" is a funny little song about a crush, and "Last Chance" is cute and positive. Those are our favorite songs. "Roman’s Revenge" would have been good by itself, but in the context of the entire album, the theme just got old, so it killed that song (other blogger's note: no it didn't. That song is awesome).

Nicki, if you were really that great, you would make raps about life, rather than having to tell us how great you are. Spending your entire album trashing competition just makes us think that your competitors really are threats. The reason you are better as a guest star is that, although you sound good, when you make your own music, you have nothing to say.