Thursday, October 31, 2013

When I Walk

[Jason DaSilva, filmmaker and subject, of When I Walk at the Taj Mahal]
I had never heard of this movie until the morning of the day I saw it. I read a few reviews, mostly glowing (the words "moving" was used a lot) and it seemed like it would be an interesting documentary since the subject (Jason DaSilva) was also the filmmaker. But I think that's where he went wrong.

Quick synopsis: Jason is a 25-year-old filmmaker living in NYC who is diagnosed with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis. He decides, as a filmmaker, that he might as well make a movie about this.

But what "this" is, I'm not sure. And I don't think Jason does either. Throughout the film he touches on a few key ideas - the possibility of not finding love post-diagnosis, how his family will deal with his having MS, not being able to continue making art, NYC not being very handicap accessible, or a very contrived scene in India where he shuffles past a line of staring men with his walker, but he doesn't really expand on any those ideas beyond those scenes, emotionally or story wise, he just...mentions them. At times I felt more connected to his wife (spoiler alert?) and mother because they were not concerned about this film but about real life, about Jason.

He travels the world, searching for "out of the box" type of treatments. From yoga, meditation and more in India to a trip to Lourdes, courtesy of his religious grandmother, for a miracle, to visiting his 88-year-old grandfather, hoping maybe he could at least get some answers from his family's history. But he only spends a small amount of time on each of these experiences and never really tells the audience how these have effected them except for that these events did not help his MS.

Later in the film, he does mention an app he created that shows a map of handicap accessible establishments in NYC, but only spends about a minute or two talking about it, I don't even remember him mentioning the name of the app. Did it ever launch? Was it not successful? Who are these people working on his team? How long did it take to create? The audience will never know because he doesn't tell us.

Jason, the filmmaker, gets in the way of Jason, the subject. He seems more concerned about getting the perfect shot than telling his story. Which is a bummer, because there seemed to be about a dozen or more great films that could have been made from this one ok film. But hey, this guy completed a feature length documentary while living with MS and I can barely get myself to make content for this blog.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I can't stop watching this

So it hasn't even been 24 hours since Saturday Night Live showed this faux trailer and I've watched it probably 10 times. It's so spot on (communiqué, anyone?) and the attention to detail rivals actual Wes Anderson movies. Except the off center letter from the murderers, that bothers me.
I love the panic room.
I love the two precocious kids and their weapon list.
I say this becomes a full length feature film, but only if Edward Norton/SNL cast members play the actors playing the characters.

Friday, August 30, 2013

What I've seen lately...

You're Next
It's a fun slasher/home invasion movie. You grow a love/hate relationship with the family that is being terrorized that you start to wonder who you're rooting for, but that's part of the fun. Bonus: there's finally a badass female character. Downside: she's has a back story for her badassery, instead of just being a good ol' badass.

I tried not to see Ashton Kutcher while he portrayed Steve Jobs, I really did. You could tell he put effort into learning Jobs's idiosyncrasies and speech, but it just wasn't enough. I left wondering whether or not I was supposed to like Jobs or not. They didn't sugarcoat his demanding personality, but even in his selfish moments they seemed to portray him as a victim. Seems it couldn't find a balance between an emotional drama and factual biopic.

The moment it ended I thought, "you can tell dudes made this movie." Of course a lot of the film concentrates on her time in the porn industry, which was very brief in reality, and shortly touched on her life after porn.  When she does leave her abusive husband, she isn't shown as a strong woman who saved herself; no, no, it is the men that come to save her *massive eye roll*

Elysium [contains spoilers]
The story and writing was predictable and not the best. As much as I love Jodie Foster, her character was simply a plot device that I'm sure the writer had no idea what to do with her but kill her off once she had done her duties in the film. Nonetheless, it was entertaining and solid. The standout to me was Wagner Moura who plays the role of Spider. I'm excited to check out more from him.

In a World...
With a cast that includes the writer/director herself, Lake Bell, along with Nick Offerman, Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry, Ken Marino, Tig Notaro, Demetri Martin, and more, I was expecting it to be a lot funnier. Don't get me wrong, it had some good chuckles in there but with so many "dry" comedians, I had high expectations. Not sure if it's a direction or editing thing, but some scenes were cut short, including one of the few "romantic" scenes (the karaoke bar if you see it), that I felt short changed. Maybe in the DVD extras we'll get the extended version of that scene and maybe some cut improv between the great cast.

I'm So Excited [contains spoilers]
I've only seen a handful of Pedro Almodovar's movies, and of course the movies in that handful are of the American critically acclaimed variety. I've read I'm So Excited is similar to his older, campier movies, but this was just not that fun for me, including a scene that had the theater I was in laughing their heads off when the character was clearly raping another passenger. But hey, I guess she was a virgin who wanted to get laid, so it's ok???

Friday, August 9, 2013

Your job is waiting for you in that basement, as per the coin

This Sunday is the beginning of the end for Breaking Bad. But instead of being sad about it, we should celebrate it.

1. Refresh your memory with this middle school musical adaptation
2. Keep yourself busy during commercials with the Breaking Bad coloring book.
3. Make your own Blue Sky to enjoy during the show
4. Get your drink on to drown the sad feelings that the show is ending
5. Just for fun: Some of the leads' audition tapes

I think Tom Crabtree said it best last year:

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin

I was lucky enough to get great seats at a great price for the off Broadway play, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin. I had never heard of the play before but once I saw the cast list I was very excited. It's a small ensemble, five roles, and two of those roles were played by Harry Crane - nay, Rich Sommer and David Morse. It is being performed at the Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre, which is a little on the smaller side, but then again, I've never gone to a play (only a few musicals) in New York, let alone an off Broadway play, so maybe it's not that small compared to other venues. But anywho, the story is about Tom (David Morse) who has just returned from spending five years in prison and he is trying to reconnect with his family, most of whom want nothing to do with him. You don't find out until later in the play what exactly he did, but it makes sense why his family refuses to acknowledge him, especially because of his actions throughout. His son, James, played by Christopher Denham, gives in and lets his father stay in his one bedroom house for a month but won't allow anyone to know. Christopher had to drop out of Yale for his father's crimes and now works at a medical supply company selling stethoscopes, or catheters, or X-ray machines, his family doesn't really remember what, but he insists it's stethoscopes, and he is currently taking a beginner's english writing class with the flighty Katie, and the two begin a relationship.

I don't know if I just set my expectations too high for David Morse since he's been acting since before I was even born, but I just couldn't buy it. It wasn't entirely his fault that his character was unlikeable for the wrong reasons. The audience understands that he is there to make amends, but it isn't really quite clear how he wants to. He goes from apologizing for the things he's done but doesn't seem to show any remorse and reacts offensively when his family members confront him with how they were affected by his going to prison. Morse himself goes from talking calmly, almost in a condescending way, then jumps into barking his lines with a raging red face, but still holds back physically. He throws a pillow in anger as if he just went through blocking the scene. You wonder if the writer and director even wants the audience to empathize with Tom because it's hard to. Tom doesn't gloss over his past yet he gets raging mad when his family mentions his absence. If he had wanted to pretend his imprisonment never happened and wanted to start over, it would have been a bit more believable but instead we watch him begrudingly act like he's paid his dues while also expecting those around him to make up for his mistakes.

Rich Sommer reminded me of his character, Harry Crane in Mad Men, but in the first season, when he was still nervous and just wanted to do good. He plays Tom's son-in-law who also used to work at the same law firm as Tom. You can tell he's a good guy who wants everyone to like him, so in this kind of situation, where his wife doesn't want to see her father, he is stuck in the middle and it gets to him. There is a scene where the nervous Chris finally does stand up to Tom's barking and he delivers the scene in such a smooth progression (does that make sense?) that you kind of want to nudge David Morse and say, "Hey, dude, take some notes." I'm being too hard on Mr. Morse, but I just had such high expectations.

The person who stole the show for me was Sarah Goldberg who plays Katie. Her character emodies that manic pixie dream girl who we all know and love (just kidding guys!); Sarah not only delivers her lines in the bubbly and awkward way they were written, she also gives them a sort of sadness and wanting that you wish the story was more about her and you feel bad that her character was given a backstory of "my fiance left me for a stripper who wasn't even hot." I don't know much about Lisa, but I hope to see her in more things, hopefully more on screen, as that's more affordable for my bank account.

Side note: I loved the music. There wasn't much, it was only played in the beginning and in between scene, but it reminded me very much of Thomas Newman's score for American Beauty

and if you know me at all (which you don't), I absolutely love that score. In this case, I don't think it worked well as a connector between scenes, but it was a good listen. (Obadiah Eaves is credited)

Now here's the fun part, STAGE DOOR! I've never really gone to the stage door after a play or musical before, so I wasn't sure if there was a back entrance to the theatre that they would leave from or what, but all of a sudden I saw Rich Sommer walk out the front doors and debated if I wanted to stop him and fawn over him and Mad Men, even though that probably happens to him all the time and I'd just be a nuisance, but no one else stopped him to chat or take a picture so I thought "is this not cool anymore? should i just go?" I didn't. And he continued walking and whispered under my breath, "...Harry." Then Sarah Goldberg walked out and I had to tell her how much I enjoyed her performance. Our conversation was just a tad awkward that you'd think I had taken over her role she had just performed and was continuing out in the entrance area. I had told her I had never heard of her before tonight but hope to see her in more things (and yeah, she's been in things, A LOT of things. but I'm more a film girl! that's my excuse). Then out comes David Morse. I know he's a tall man, but he's also a very serious looking man. I'm a tall girl, but my 5'10" is no match for his 6'4" and stone face. I basically gushed over growing up watching him, from reruns of St. Elsewhere to The Green Mile to Dancer In The Dark (damn his character!) to World War Z I had just seen the night before. He made a comment along the lines of the two characters being similar and I joked "but in this role you had teeth!" Good one, Danielle. Next time make sure you jab him in the side with your elbow for emphasis. There was a picture taken, but I'm that girl who thinks she looks fat and shiny. Plus my wrap dress number seemed to keep unwrapping and I'm afraid Mr. Morse got the wrong impression of me.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Films and Brews

Sure, I don't live in Milwaukee anymore, but once August rolled around this year I got that same feeling as I did the previous seven odd years I lived on the East Side: movie season! See, starting in the first weekend of June through the end of July, Milwaukee has a different festival every weekend, sometimes a couple at a time (I count my favorite, Brew Fest. Oh, how I was sad to miss you this year), and once those are done, fall seems to sneak up on everyone then disappear just as quick. But the good thing about the end of the summer festivals is the beginning of many other activities, most of which involves two of my favorite things: movies and alcohol. And unlike those overcrowded festivals, these are very budget friendly. Below is a list of events in the next couple of months that can make any film and brew lover happy.

August 16th-17th

I have only had the pleasure of sort of attending Lebowski Fest once, and it was by having a Lebowski inspired brunch at Café Centraal, but fuck me if it wasn’t a delicious, perfectly inspired brunch. Lebowski Fest is for the fans, the uber fans, and people who just want to see what the fuss is about. The party starts on August 16th with live music and a White Russian liquid lunch at the Pabst Theater Pub then a (FREE!) screening of the film at Cathedral Square Park. AMF West Lanes continues the party on August 17th with bowling, trivia, costume contests and more. The bowling has booked up fast in the past, so make sure to get tickets ahead of time! Click here to see the full itinerary.

August 30th, September 6th, September 13th, opens 5pm, movie starts at dusk
I knew Friday fish fries were more a Wisconsin thing, but I didn't realize how almost non-existent fish fries were everywhere else. For out-of-towners who are not familiar: fish fries are just what they sound like, fried fish, but we add lots of beer and music to the mix and it is a weekly tradition at any restaurant, bar or event.

Towards the end of summer, Point Beer hosts a different movie for FREE along the lake at the steps of Discovery World while Bartolotta’s Restaurant Group provides the fish fry (not free) (lobster is also available, not free either) and if fish isn’t your thing, food trucks are lined up with other options. Even before the movie starts, there are still activities around the screening area such as bowling, ping pong, music and you can even venture in some parts of Discovery World.
This year’s series includes:
August 30th: The Avengers 
September 6th: Ted 
September 13th: Django Unchained

September 26th-October 10th
I may be a little biased when I say this, but this is such a kick ass film festival that I don’t even know where to start. How about the opening night party, where you get to hang out with and meet other film lovers while noshing on delicious food and drink? Or the pre-movie cocktail specials at Hotel Foster? Or the after movie discussions that include, you guessed it, booze? Or that one of the venues is the beautiful and booze filled Oriental Theatre? Or the live orchestra that plays with a classic film? Or that it is two weeks full of amazing, local and international, long and short movies, including but not limited to past films Waiting for Superman, Precious, Drunk History, Marcel the Shell et cetera, et cetera?! HOW HAVE YOU NOT BOUGHT TICKETS YET?! Side note: be sure to sign up for their newsletter for updates.

The best of the rest…

Turner Hall’s Beer and a Movie series hasn’t shown anything since March but during the colder months movie nights pop up every now and then. College IDs get you in free, otherwise it is $5 with an option to add unlimited taps and rails until the movie ends for $15 as well as movie appropriate snacks.

Love Handle Food and Drink: Dinner and a Movie has so far hosted on Wednesday nights: Midnight in Paris, Thrashin’ and the classic, Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.

Milwaukee County Parks host a more family friendly FREE outdoor movie series including Beetlejuice and Ghostbusters.

{all images used are via the event's facebook}

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello, Dick! (errr...Dolly)

Today marks the forty-first anniversary of the Watergate scandal. And sure, you can watch the four time Oscar winning film "All the President's Men" to commemorate the event, but you know you really want to watch some "Dick" while eating Holly Dollys.  If you haven't seen or heard of "Dick," go watch it now.

It is a coming of age story (no, really, it is) about two teenage girls (Arlene and Betsy) who inadvertently cause the Watergate scandal to be discovered. After befriending President Nixon by way of becoming Checker's official dog walkers, they accidentally listen to Nixon's tape recordings and become Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's informants aka Deep Throat. 

Some of you who haven't seen the film are probably still wondering, "Where do "Hello, Dollys" come in?" For one of their visits, Arlene and Betsy decide to make a batch for Nixon, and well, he and Leonid Brezhnev get high. 

It is a hilarious movie with great cameos (Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch make a great team as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein) and a creative take on who Deep Throat was (this was made before the real Deep Throat was revealed, obviously). 

If you are further interested in not just the Watergate scandal, but a sort of behind the scenes of All the President's Men, I would suggest you check out All the President's Men Revisited on Discovery Channel's website.

Recipe after the jump

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Help and a special kind of chocolate pie

Like most people, I have a habit of eating food while watching movies and most of the time I like that food to somehow correlate with the movie I am watching. Before I had even seen or read "The Help," all I heard about was that chocolate poop pie that gets served to one particularly bitchy character. When I happened upon this chocolate fudge pie via Chocolate-Covered Katie I knew I had to make the pie while taking in a viewing of the movie. Why might you ask? Well, if you did not click the link already, you will see that one of the main ingredients in the pie is tofu. Sure, it isn't poop, but it is definitely something you wouldn't expect in a chocolate pie.

Let me tell you, as someone who loves their chocolate, this pie is amazing and not as bad for you as other chocolate fudge pies. And there's no poop!

As for the movie, I did like it. I can definitely agree with the problems of the story (just Google "The Help problematic" and you will have plenty of articles to read through), but as a film, it was done in such a simple way, no over dramatic angles or montages and the actors were cast perfectly (with the exception of Emma Stone, who I normally love, but she was a bit forgettable for me). It was a nice movie to sit down and watch on a Sunday night with a big piece of chocolate pie.


I will say the one problem I had with making the pie was baking the crust. I tried three different recipes and each one ending disastrously, including, but not limited to, extreme shrinkage (go ahead and laugh, I am too at my choice of words), puffiness (even with the use of pie weights) and unevenness. I gave in and bought pre-made crust to bake. Not as good as from scratch, but it got the job done.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Deep, Deep Blue Sea

It seems whenever a book is made into a movie, particularly a well-received book, fans and critics get nervous and automatically assume the movie will be terrible. I will admit, I am one of those people. I try not to be. I do not even read that much (slowly, but surely trying to change that). But when you read a book, even if the author describes the characters looks, their homes, their idiosyncrasies, you can't help but imagine them in their own special way. You essentially become the director of the film version in your head, picking camera angles and the way the characters deliver their lines. That actually makes me nervous for any director who takes on an adaptation.

I have recently become enamored with Tom Hiddleston (I know, I know, I'm late to that bandwagon. But while he was fancying himself as Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris, I was distracted by Corey Stoll as Hemingway and while he was parading around as Loki in Thor, I was anticipating Jeremy Renner's tiny cameo), and decided I had to see everything he was in. NOW. RIGHT AWAY. One of those projects was The Deep Blue Sea, based on the play of the same name. Or it is a remake of the 1955 film which is an adaptation of the play. Depends what you read.

So I decided to set myself up for disappointment and read the play first. It's a quick read, but I loved it.

Here's the gist: Hester (get it? like The Scarlet Letter? so you already know she's an adulterer) attempts suicide, she is confronted by both her boyfriend and her husband, she wants the boyfriend, he doesn't want her, the husband wants her back, she doesn't want him, just when she is about to attempt suicide again, she bonds with the fake-but-not-really-fake doctor and she decides to live.

Once I was done with the play I went to Netflix instant (can I get paid for this?) and couldn't wait to see how Hiddleston and this movie was. I didn't like it. It seemed to get great reviews, but it was blah for me. The music was good though.

In the play we are not given too much background on the characters. Freddie (the boyfriend; Tom Hiddleston) is a former RAF pilot/WWII hero. Twice, I believe. Hester's husband, Bill, is a judge, about 10 or so years older than her. Hester is a painter who seemed to lost her natural skill early on. Her being a painter and the encouragement from the doctor (actually, the whole relationship she has with the doctor is almost non-existent in the film) to start over on her terms, is never even insinuated in the film, which is sad, it makes me relate to her less. She does have a conversation with her neighbor who is caring for her dying husband about true love. Hester's reaction to that conversation makes me assume that after the movie ends, Hester looks for another man, as if to validate her life, when really, like in the play, she should be concentrating on loving herself first.

I do wonder if I would feel this way if I had seen the movie first. Because I already had the ending of the play in my head, I had certain expectations and interpretations, and when the film didn't meet those, I just wrote it off. Maybe if I had seen it with an open mind I would have understand the director's choice to cut out the storyline/ending with the doctor. Next time I decide to see a movie based on a written piece of work, I have to ask myself if I'm willing to keep an open mind.