Monday, September 26, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Opera ...

... I went Back to the Furture in the DeLorean.

Seriously though ... I was in St. Paul on my way to opening night of the MN Opera (Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte) and this DeLorean (complete with clock and flux capacator) was parked across the street. Awesome!



Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Movie Reivew: Drive

"This is no antic-frantic affair; instead, it's a cerebral game of stop-and-go, hide-and-seek, as the director behind the camera handles things exactly like the guy behind the wheel - with a stylish mixture of cold calculation and cool aplomb." - Rick Groen, Globe and Mail (from

I think the above review accurately describes the film.  Drive is a movie unlike anything you have seen recently. It is not a typical action-car-chase movie, though it is based on essentially that premise. No, this is an artsy movie. An art house film. It moves slowly, it focuses on the details, it has entire scenes of just Gosling driving the streets, it focuses on the actors skill at actually acting rather than their ability to deliver a line. It is a different film. But it is a good film. My fear is that action-loving movie goers will see Drive and not appreciate it for what it is. Mainstream may not like the pace or lack of dialogue, but I hope people give it a chance to just be.

Basic Premise:
Ryan Gosling is a wheel man. A very quiet wheel man. He leads a solitary life and does his job - mechanic and occasional driver-stunt-man by day, wheel-man for random jobs by night. He meets his neighbor Irene and her son Benecio and befriends them, spending time together. Irene's husband soon comes home from jail and he owes some bad men a lot of money, but doesn't want to do the job they want him to do. So Gosling steps in and says he will help with the job but when it's over, they leave Irene's family alone. But things don't go exactly as planned ... and some very graphic scenes of violence ensue.

Gosling is incredible in the film, as are all the other actors here. Wonderful. A film where we aren't focused on the flashy clothes or the cliche lines they deliver. This film is about their actions, facial expressions, movements, etc. Honestly, I have never paid so much attention to the sound a leather-clad hand makes when pulled into a fist. Or the way someones breathing changes when nervous and the rise and fall of their chest. Or the power of eye contact and body movement. He is so quiet and shy when he is with Irene and her son, and so protective of them. But when threatened, he just lets loose. He is like a spring that you just keep winding and winding and winding (silently), but at some point, it is just too much and the spring explodes. He is this cool and calculating guy who has serious hidden depth. And Carey Mulligan as Irene. She has this wonderful innocence that is endearing and well balanced with Gosling's own quiet nature. Without saying too much to one another (and without having sex ... shocking), they establish a connection that runs deep. There is a scene with them driving in the LA flood channel that has the below song from College playing - sooooooo perfect!

Then there is the direction. Wow. I had never seen anything by Refn before (but I don't think he has done too much main stream anyway). He had a vision, and he executed it with true style. That is about all that I can say. Seriously ... I have written about 15 different sentences to follow the previous one, and deleted every single past one of them. I can't really describe it. Just a beautiful assemblage of sights and sounds throughout. With the lack of dialogue, you focus on everything else and you get carried away by it.

So, since I am doing a really poor job of using full sentence to describe this film, single words may work better:
  • Quiet 
  • Cool
  • Fragile
  • Subtle
  • Dark
  • Details
  • Emotional
  • Juxtaposition
  • Innocent
  • Violent
  • Music
  • Spring-loaded 
  • Artsy
  • Paced
  • Graphic
Oh ... and the music is INCREDIBLE!!! Check out the song by College at the bottom.

So I like the film ... but I will also be the first to admit that it is NOT for everyone! Have patience, give the film a chance, and be open minded. Drive feels a bit like the Black Swan of this year - it isn't something you have seen before and it won't be liked by all, but it delivers if you allow it to.

Incredible song from the film. College featuring Electric Youth - A Real Hero.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sneak Peak Movie Review: Real Steel

My 11th free movie preview since July. Very nice ... that is over a $100 saved on movie tickets.

Anyway, today's venture was to Real Steel. Now, I though the previews had looked pretty good and was ready to see it, thinking this was an actiony type movie with a bad-ass Hugh Jackman and fighting, etc. What I did NOT expect however was the experience I actually got - it was much more of a family type movie with heart and an emphasis on relationships and such. I don't even think there were any swear words! Shocker!

A note to the Dreamworks Marketing department: total miss on this one! Here you have a movie with an opportunity to really appeal to families, and you totally missed it! Totally! Honestly, watch the preview I have posted at the bottom. They have based their entire marketing strategy on Hugh Jackman and having a big name who can hold the movie on his shoulders. NOT once in the trailer do they show the little boy - Dakota Goyo - who, for me, made the movie!!!! Honestly ... real miss for Dreamworks. They had a real opportunity with this film to speak to families and make this a movie that dad, mom and the kids would want to see, and they really messed it up. The theaters are going to be full of typical guys and people looking for a Transformers-like movie. When instead they could be getting a wider audience with families as well. The trailer is a perfect example - it makes the movie seem really hard core. And while yes, it DOES have its share of action scenes, it is not really about that. Even the poster. It looks all dark and angry, but it really doesn't. And in the film, the robot - Atom - comes off in this almost cute way rather than the meany you see in the posters. Sigh. Well. I hope people still go see it!

Real Steal comes out October 7.

Basic Premise:
It is the year 2020 (or something like that) and while pretty much everything is the same, boxing as we know it has disappeared and been replaced by robot boxing. Fancy robots are built to look cool and do neat stuff and they all have handlers who basically play them like giant, real videogames. In comes Charlie, down on his luck robot boxer who owes a lot of people a lot of money and used to be good, but now cannot seem to catch a break. Throw into the mix the 11-year-old son - Max - he has always ignored who know has to live with him because his mother has died. Max knows his stuff though, and after a bit of a rough start father and son resurrect an old robot - Atom. Charlie doesn't think this antique stands any chance, but Max is full of heart and the optimism that only comes with being that young, and he knows they can do it. So this old robot that makes funny little whirring noises and looks at you as though he can actually see and understand you helps father and son reconcile ... and maybe win some money along the way. 

So ... I really liked the movie and recommend it. True, it does have action. True, it does have fighting. But it has way way way more than that ... it has heart, and it has optimism and it has a robot under-dog that you cannot help but love! For goodness sake, he looks as though he is smiling the whole time! Jackman is good and carries off the character of asshole dad pretty well, but it is really the little boy - Dakota Goyo - who made the movie. He carries it. He is central to the plot, central to the success, and central to the movie. So again, I am VERY disappointed in Dreamworks for not allowing that to come through in marketing efforts and trailers. Max steals every scene he is in, and when he, Charlie and Atom are together, they work perfectly on screen.

So that's it. Go to see the movie based on the preview if that is enough for you, but just know that you will come out of there smiling and feeling happy and with a little bit of a glow when you leave. Because this really is a feel-good movie at heart. Or ... go based on what you hear from people like me who will tell you that is it about more than what the marketing will tell you. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Winter Wonderland in Bavaria

So ... this last weekend I watched and fell in love with the cute little British ro-com Chalet Girl (check out my travel movie blog for a short description here). Don't judge ... I love this kind of stuff! Can't help it ... it makes me happy. And you know what, I really don't care if you laugh at it. I am a dork, and I admit it.

Anyway, so this movie takes place in the winter months in a lovely little winter Alps resort in Austria. Hello fabulous. Broke British tom-boy Kim goes out there to work as a chalet girl for this rich family who of course has a hot young song (hello GG Ed Westwick, and of course she learns to snowboard. Story is cute ... but part of what draws me to movies like this is the scenery. Cute little chalet in the Alps with incredible mounters and white winter wonderland all around. Sigh. I love winter in the Alps - honestly. I know most people would go somewhere cold, but give me a fresh snowfall in Switzerland and my boots and mittens, and I am happy. Snow belongs in the mountains ... and I am more than happy to enjoy it there (not on the highways of Minneapolis).

So the movie made me think of the last time I was in the Alps with snow. Sigh. It was so beautiful. A few lovely days in Bavaria, driving around between cute villages, zooming down the autobahn at ridiculous speeds, zipping on country roads, and enjoying every single moment. We stopped at all sorts of great places that I love including Neuschwanstein Castle, G-PK, etc. And even discovered a few more little hidden valleys and roads. It was one of the best trips ever. Great company, great scenery, great music ... great life!

We would drive on and on down these deserted country roads with no other cars in sight, just listening to music and stopping to take photos. Everything everywhere was covered in snow, the trees just weighed down by the sheer weight of it. It was incredible to see. And on you would go. Since it was overcast we didn't get to see any towering Alpine peaks, but all of a sudden you would turn a corner and a beautiful untouched white valley would be spread out before you. And then another turn and you were on an uphill mountain road (complete with sign mandating snow tires or snow chains for tires ... neither of which we had) that we just had to try out for a little bit before turning back around. Endless pure white ... pure beauty.

I don't really like winter ... but the occasional winter trip to the Alps ... yes, please!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A movie that if you haven't seen ... you should see ...

After seeing I Don't Know How She Does It, I started thinking about Pierce Brosnan and that I haven't seen him in too many movies lately. And that led me to the last movie I remember him being in, which was The Ghostwriter. I don't think it was in theaters for long, I only saw it on DVD actually. But it is a REALLY good movie. Smart. Very smart. I highly recommend.

Sneak Peak Movie Review: I Don't Know How She Does It

Preview tonight for I Don't Know How She Does It - the new Sarah Jessica Parker chick-flick out this weekend.

Let me preface all this by saying that I really liked SJP - have ever since the SATC days. She will always be Carrie to me, hard to picture her any other way. Even in the other roles she has done since then, she still has always had the certain Carrie-ness about her. I think that is just who she really is. It is in the way she walks, talk, pushes her hair back, gesticulates, etc. She just is Carrie ... or better said, Carrie is SJP. Either way, when you get an actress like that who has made a character so famous, she is often hard to cast as anyone else, and the audience has a hard time seeing her as anyone else. It doesn't help that SJP picked not-so-great films after SATC ended. She (and her agent) needed to realize that she had grown up and she couldn't keep playing that single girl out out on the town anymore. She was just too old to pull it off. She needed more mature roles. So as much as I loved SATC I and even II (no matter how bad, you can never have enough Carrie and Big), time to move on. Family Stone was ok ... Did You Hear About the Morgans was horrible. And now, with I Don't Know How She Does It, SJP may have just figured it out.

No one else could fill those Blahniks ... but with this film it feels like she grows up a bit.

Basic Premise:
Kate is run off her feet. Two kids, loving husband, full time job, bake sales, work travel, lice, special projects ... the list goes on and on. I don't know how she does it! The movie follows SJP and her little family as they go through a particularly rough three months where she takes on an incredible opportunity at work that requires her to put her family life on the back burner. Love, commitment, family and career all hang in a delicate balance that has the potential to crash at any moment.

Just like those early season one SATC episode, the film has some instances where they have a few funny characters talking directly to the camera saying very witty thing. The office asshole, the stay at home mom (who spends 5 hours at the gym everyday), the single-mother friend, etc. The best by far though - and one of the best characters in the whole film - are from Momo. SJPs machine assistant, Momo is hilarious and great! She doesn't understand SJP and her choices and isn't interested in marriage, kids, family, etc. Laughed so hard during her scenes!

All the characters are great actually, I think the actors did a great job in their roles. SJP and Greg Kinnear are great together and I have to say that I really love his character. A guy who is willing to let his wife do her thing and be her person, who is willing to take care of the kids and who doesn't feel the need to get angry or jealous, but who just takes it in stride. In fact ... it was refreshing to see a movie about a couple that is mostly happy together - not having an affair, or single people, or divorcing. It was nice to see a modern story with a modern couple who DO make it all work - career and kids and nannies and bake sales. Not entirely one way or another ... no extremes. Then there is good old Pierce Brosnon. He is perfect in his role as the slightly aloof business man who has a fun personality buried somewhere deep down (and who just needs a good woman to bring it up). Brosnon in a suit ... well ... you just can't go wrong.

So anyway ... the story is good. It is not a typical ro-com, so you gotta give it some credit off the bat. The characters are good and the actors work well together. And I like the story. I like how it tackles some subjects that I think are very true and says some things that need to be said about the way women and men are treated differently in the workplace.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Funny Fall Forecast

Hit 90 today. Again. Thank goodness we are going back down. I need crisp fall weather and I need it to last!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 more movies that make me want to buy a plane ticket: Part 3

Just in case you missed the previous two installments, make sure to check out the first 20 movies in Part I and Part 2.

And the list continues ... there are just so many great movies with great locations and incredible scenery that make me want to get on a plane! Honestly, I will pretty much watch any movie no matter how bad if it has the right location featured!

Chalet Girl
The Place: The Alps; filmed at Garmisch-Partenkircken and St Anton
The Story: She's a chalet girl, he's the rich chalet owner. She overcomes a painful history to become an awesome snowboarder, and kinda falls for the Westwick in the meantime.
Been There/Done That Moment: Oh yeah. Spent a fair amount of time in the Alps in my life, including particularly GP. Love the Alps in winter - it truly is a magical white winter wonderland.

Last Holiday
The Place: Austria and Karlovy Vary in Czech Republic
The Story: She just found out she's got a terminal disease and decides that life really is too short. She goes off to the Grand Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary to live out her remaining days in the lifestyle she has always dreamed of.
Been There/Done That Moment: Definitely. Spent a day wandering the quaint streets of Karlovy Vary and enjoyed the Grand Hotel Pupp (though, not the food).

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
The Place: Thailand, Bangkok and the Phuket 
The Story: Bridget's life is falling into place. But then, or course, it falls spectacularly apart. And somehow she ends up working with Hugh Grant again and they are off to Thailand. Where of course, she get's accused of trying to smuggle drugs out. Oh Bridget.
Been There/Done That Moment: Bangkok yes. Phuket and the beaches, not yet. But really really want to!

Love Actually
The Place: London
The Story: Lots of story lines and plots intersect as the movie winds through the lives of numerous characters along the streets of London.
Been There/Done That Moment: Definitely been to London. I love London. I would move to London tomorrow if I could.

Made of Honor
The Place: NYC and Scotland
The Story: He's her best friend and she is marrying a Scotish Prince. Of course she wants him standing right beside her on her big day. Problem is, he has just realized she is more than his friend.
Been There/Done That Moment: Yes, BTDT for NYC and the movie does a nice job of highlighting those places. But very sorry to say that I have not been to Scotland yet. After seeing the beautiful green scenery in this movie though, it is definitely on my to do list.

The Price & Me
The Place: Denmark
The Story: He is a wild Price from Denmark who decides to leave his royal persona behind and go to school in Wisconsin where he meets farm-girl Julia. But when she finds out who he really is, what will happen? She follows him to Denmark of course.
Been There/Done That Moment: Went to Denmark for Thanksgiving break while I was studying broad in Barcelona. Copenhagen is beautiful and we even took the train up to see Frederiksbork Slot (the exterior setting for his parent's castle). We pretty much had the entire castle to ourselves.

Mamma Mia!
The Place: Islands of Greece.
The Story: Sofie's getting married and she wants her dad to be there. So she invites the three possible candidates to her mother island resort. Lots of singing and revelations ensue in this Abba musical.
Been There/Done That Moment: Two weeks of island hoping one summer. Fabulous. I want more!

Letter's to Juliet
The Place: Verona, Italy
The Story: In Verona she discovers a group of woman who respond to the letters left at Juliet's home. When she finds a very old letter and responds she starts on an adventure to find one woman's true love from 60 years ago. And maybe her true love as well.
Been There/Done That Moment: Been to Italy and been to Verona. In fact ... been to Juliet's house and left a note on the wall myself. Hoping to find my true love too.

The Place: Lot's places ... but I am talking about Paris.
The Story: It's a dream within a dream within a dream. Which is fine ... because I have been dreaming of Leo since the days of Titanic.
Been There/Done That Moment: I really really liked the Paris scenes. They just felt so very real. And definitely BTDT.

Sex and the City (The TV Show)
The Place: New York City
The Story: 4 best friends go through life and love in the City.
Been There/Done That Moment: Been to NYC but not to many of the great places that Carrie and her fiends are able to. But every time I see the show (and that is often, since I own the giant pink velvet bible DVD edition) I want to go to NYC. Hell, I want to MOVE to NYC.

And now ... a few of those Been There/Done That photo moments:

Garmish, Germany
Winter Wonderland in the Alps
Alpine adventures

Winter Wonderland in Bavaria
Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Bangkok, Thailand



Fredriksborg Slot, Denmark

Fredriksborg Slot, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

The clear water of the Greek Isles.


Santorini, Greece

Letters to Juliet in Verona

Juliet's statue at Juliet's house in Verona
Oh Paris!
Oh Paris!
Oh Paris!
New York, New York!
New York, New York!
New York, New York!

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