GG at the Movies – Crazy Stupid Love

July 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

Crazy Stupid Love Brings Warm Happy Joy

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone - Perfect Mix of Crazy Stupid Love

BEST movie of the summer!!  Anecdotal relationship advice for three different generations, dramedy offering equal parts laughable peaks to tear-jerking valleys, and unexpected twists equate this BEST status.  Finally, a message that leaves viewers inspired, hopeful and smiling clinches its worthiness.  In this increasingly narcissistic society that accepts divorce as freely as marriage, it doesn’t hurt for all of us to hear the film’s message:  Believe in love. Try harder.  

The fact that the audience I was a part of for this viewing clapped once in the middle of the film and once at the end attests to its must-see appeal.

The film revolves around Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), whose wife (Julianne Moore) has recently announced her infidelity (the “other man” is played by Kevin Bacon) and requests a divorce. Cal takes his sorrows to a singles’ bar, where he is adopted by local ladies’ man Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). Jacob educates Cal in new ways of wooing the ladies and although Cal picks up some decent skills, his heart is in the wrong place: He’s looking for that elusive true love, his soul mate.  Cal is also dealing with the fact that his adolescent son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) is in love with his teenage babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), who in turn is in love with Cal. Meanwhile, Jacob eventually realizes that he’s still pining for the woman (Emma Stone) who got away.

Steve Carell and Julianne Moore Meet for an Eye-Opening Teacher Conference

Carell carries the comedy while remaining grounded in the pain of the character.  His acting makes me think that maybe leaving The Office is a good thing after all.   Incidentally, it’s always astonishing what good clothes and a haircut can do for a guy. There’s a lesson in itself.  (Let’s also not forget the lesson Jacob proclaims, “Be better than the Gap!” )  Moore, as the estranged wife, does her best to be sympathetic, though it’s hard to forgive her. Marisa Tomei has fabulous fun in a featured role as a one-night stand. Emma Stone has impecable comic timing and confidence.   And Gosling’s growth is evident.  I laughed through much of the Carell and Gosling consistently clever dialogue.  Gosling is clearly relishing a chance to flex his comic muscles . . . . along with those ab muscles.  🙂

GG gives Crazy Stupid Love an A+ for laugh out loud lines that deliver a strong subtext.  Go see this, watch and listen!!

 

 

 

GG at the Movies – Bad Teacher

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

I walked into Bad Teacher with mixed feelings.  On one hand, I predicted I’d be appalled and disgusted at the raunchy fun being made of my profession.  On the other hand, I thought I might laugh hysterically at the exaggerated portrayal of academia.  Well, I walked out with neither extreme; instead, Bad Teacher left me somewhere in the middle.  While there was a handful of laugh-out-loud lines and one or two silly moments that probably every teacher who watches the movie will chuckle, “Ha, I can relate!,” I didn’t leave the theater wanting to happily re-cap every moment.

Taken lightly as the writers want us to take it, Bad Teacher can be viewed as a witty satire on conventional suburban, educational values.  Diaz’s character’s transformation from heartless gold-digger to caring teacher is less than believable, but for the endless potshots that the writers take at shallow, status-seeking suburbanites, this shortfall in characterization can be somewhat forgiven.  A fun fact is that the screenplay was written by Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, two of the former staff writers from The Office.  That explains the striking similarity between the dialogue of gym teacher Russell (Jason Segel) and Jim from The Office.

Those looking for a sweet, silly Cameron Diaz character we’ve seen in the past are in for a rude awakening.  Elizabeth Halsey’s (Cameron Diaz) inappropriate, crude and downright mean actions erase memories of precious Princess Fiona of Shrek or naive Mary from There’s Something About Mary. Actually, not a single character in Bad Teacher can truly be categorized as a “good” person. You’ve got your idealistically idiotic young teachers, Amy Squirrell (Lucy Punch) and Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake). You’ve got your hardened “bad” teachers, Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) and Russell Gettis (Jason Segal), and your cowardly admins (John Michael Higgins) and your corrupt test admins (Reno 911‘s Thomas Lennon). You’ve got your bully students and superficial parents (a bunch of kids plus Molly Shannon.)  Hmmmmm . . . . . Ultimately, with the exception of Judy Punch, the actors don’t offer much oomph on the screen.  I kept looking for hints of chemistry between former flames Diaz and Timberlake and came up short – even their (clear throat) dry scene was dry. Punch,on the other hand, is so obnoxious and irritating in this film that she literally made me cringe!

 

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake

 

Grading Girl gives Bad Teacher a C+ for predictable punches mixed with mediocre acting.  The writers, actors and producers didn’t study hard enough for Bad Teacher to meet expectations.  Ultimately, Bad Teacher does not provide the comic relief of summer’s other big name comedies, Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II, but if you’re looking for a 90 minute escape from reality, it’s worth the price of the ticket – whether or not you’re a teacher.

GG at The Movies – Robin Hood

May 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

Where are the Tights?!

After an evening of working out followed by a refueling at Big Bowl, I ended a fine Friday evening with a viewing of the latest Robin Hood movie starring Russel Crowe.  This movie was directed by Ridley Scott, the same director of GladiatorCrowe’s first big movie blockbuster.  Naturally, I walked in with great expectations but was left in disappointment valley.

You won’t watch a scene unfold in which he steals from the rich and gives to the poor, nor will you view Robin donning a disguise to win an archery contest or Robin getting Friar Tuck to carry him across the alter.   Scenes such as these from the original Robin Hood myth are missing because, for some reason, the powers that be decided to illustrate this movie as a prequel – to the time before Robin Hood became the legend we remember.

I found myself wanting more scene upon scene . . . more Hood heroism, more romance, and more suspense.  What I got was many scenes depicting the history behind the legend.  It’s the 12th century, and Richard the Lionheart is “plundering his way back to England” from the Crusades – while bitter brother John waits to inherit the crown along with his sassy French girlfriend. The French are the real villains of the piece, planning to foment civil war in England so they can invade.  Where does Robin Hood fit in?  Robin starts off as an archer in the army of King Richard the Lionheart, and ends up in Nottingham, where he joins the clan of a fallen comrade. Yet the movie never finds a dramatic tone or climatic point, for that matter.  Crowe plays Hood in an almost stoic manner; he doesn’t do much more above the occasional squint.

Cate Blanchett displayed more emotion, but not necessarily in a good way – Lady Marion acts with such proud, strong-as-any-man severity that there’s no softness to her. When she helps Robin off with his chainmail, it’s supposed to be erotic, but the two might as well be building a bookcase.  Certainly the books they put on the shelf will be more interesting than the story unfolding on the screen.

So the movie is really all about backstory: a rousing roar of royal-court strategizing and double-crossing oppression. Crowe, slashing his way through the movie, is just a glorified extra in the background of the royal rouse.  Where is his Gladiator valor?! He’s stoic enough to be a bore, and so is the movie.  Grading Girl gives Robin Hood a C-.  The only reason this gets a passing grade is because of the well executed war scenes action fans will fancy.

GG at the Movies – The Time Traveler’s Wife

August 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

I would not want the ability to time travel to the future – I believe in taking life’s triumphs and trials as they come.  I might, however, want to take a brief trip back to various occasions of my life.  My daughter’s birth was hands down the best day of my life so naturally I wouldn’t mind revisiting that; it might be fun to take a quick trip to when I was a small child too.  I don’t think I’d want to hang around long enough to change anything . . . who knows how much one small occurence could change signficant results.  It could be enlightening, though, to time travel all the way back to an era in history such as the Romantic period just to experience firsthand a piece of what we read about in literature and history texts.

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a movie that lets us fantasize about this if only for a couple of hours.  A librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago (one of my favorite places for professional development, by the way) suffers from a rare genetic disorder that sends him hurtling through time whenever he is under extreme duress.  Despite the fact that he vanishes at frequent and lengthy intervals, Henry attempts to build a stable future with the beautiful young heiress, Claire, whom he loves. Eric Bana (my new crush) and Rachel McAdams star in this fantasy, and they both are very close to the characters I pictured in my head when I read the book.

I read the book by Audrey Niffeneger five years ago and enjoyed it so much that I instantly formed a summer reading group for my senior students to discuss it in-depth.  The endearing love affair between the two protagonists stuck with me long after I read the last chapter.  Yes, the movie does not delve as deep into Claire’s anguish as the book.  It does not even follow Claire to as old of an age as she progresses to in the book.  Regardless, the movie is a tear-jerker romance in its own right. I went to see this on its second night release . . . I heard plenty of sniffles throughout the show, a testament to the believable characters and appealing plot.  Grading Girl gives The Time Traveler’s Wife a solid B for its hug-your-heart, endearing message – that is, true love has no boundaries.  GG says this movie is worth your time!

GG at the Movies – The Ugly Truth

July 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

Before seeing this, I was at a party when someone told me she didn’t really like this movie because the ending was predictable.  While I was able to guess the resolution, I still enjoyed watching it unfold.  The truth is that The Ugly Truth is a funny, sweet, and light escape.  Not a true “chick flick,” this movie will make both men and women tick.

Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler

Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler

In The Ugly Truth,  Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a morning show producer whose search for Mr. Perfect has left her single. She’s in for a rude awakening when her bosses team her with Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), a hardcore TV personality who promises to spill the ugly truth on what makes men tick.  Heigl plays her role as the “psycho aggressive control freak” career woman with conviction and Butler plays the pig-headed anchorman with sexy nonchalance.  At first, Mike appears to be the complete opposite of the attribute list Abby has put together for her perfect man.  You know the list, ladies, all those things you’re looking for in Mr. Right:  sense of humour, sensitivity, career success, good looks….  Abby’s list is that and more.  In fact, she brings this list on dates and checks off the qualities as she discovers them in a potential mate.  One can see why she hasn’t had much luck in love.  Along comes Mike Chadway who promises to help her get the guy of her dreams if she, in turn, promises to let him stay as anchorman for her show once she gets that guy.  He’s that confident.  Here’s where the fun starts:  Mike is very, very blunt in what makes guys tick.  He believes all men are perverse and isn’t afraid to say so.  Without spilling every reveal, one point he makes clear is that men are very visual. . . and so the venture begins.  Abby transforms herself according to Mike’s advice, she does get the guy but later learns he’s actually not the dream guy.  It’s fun to watch these two bicker back and forth as they fight the obvious spark between them.  It’s even more fun to laugh at (or balk at) some of the things Mike has to say about how a woman should ‘get the guy.’  Speaking of transformation, the supporting cast is lovably quirky:  My favorites are John Michael Higgins, who plays a sexually frustrated anchor on Abby’s show and Cheryl Hines as the prudish wife and co-anchor.  The change this couple makes under Mike’s influence serves as hilarious background.

Grading Girl gives The Ugly Truth a B.  Yes, the ending is predictable . . . I don’t even need to reveal it here; you can guess what unfolds.  Credit needs to be given, however, for the funny lines, for the obvious chemistry between Heigl and Butler, and for the quirky supporting cast.  This movie is worth the ticket price.  If nothing else, you’ll walk away with a debatable topic to discuss – that is, what you think the ugly truth is between men and women.  How should a girl go about attracting the man she wants to date?  What do men want?  What pushes a man’s buttons?  What pushes a woman’s?  Is it all about looks in the end?

Grading Girl thinks the ugly truth is that timing is everything, by the way.  😉

Extra credit for some pieces of Heigl’s wardrobe . . . I WANT that low back black dress she wears in the movie!!!  I need to find out where and how to get it!

GG at the Movies – My Sister’s Keeper

July 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

My Sister’s Keeper has been the book I recommend to anyone and everyone – male or female, young or older – since I read it three years ago.  Imagine my excitement when I discovered that Jodi Picoult finally sold the rights to release it as a movie.  Granted, I was skeptical of Cameron Diaz cast as the mother figure (my doubts were pleasantly diminished, by the way, after watching her believable, real performance) but I was ecstatic that this tear-jerker was going to unfold again before my eyes, only this time on the big screen.

Before I go any further, let me explain (as I mentioned in my previous review of Change of Heart) that this was the first book I EVER read that made me outwardly cry – and as an English teacher and life-long lover of reading, that’s saying a lot.  I cry very easily during sad (even not so sad) movies but, for some reason, it is harder for me to cry while reading.  Maybe the cognitive skills I use while reading is seeping the emotional energy out of me or maybe seeing something unfold in front of me is more compelling than watching the reading “movie” in my head.  Who knows . . . but I do know that the twisted ending to this book – the tearjerker turn point – is the part that made the book so unbelievably great, so poignant, so “Jodi” – as my daughter would say.  Yes, Picoult is her favorite contemporary author as well.  She’s got me beat by having read eight of Picoult’s books so far . . . and counting.

A solid movie . . . an even better book.

A solid movie . . . an even better book.

I suppose this movie provided its own surprise ending by not having a surprise ending.  It completely left out the twisted resolution that made My Sister’s Keeper the phenomenal New York Times bestseller that it is.  Did the producers take the easy way out by portraying the expected ending to a sad cancer story?  Did they want to leave the element of surprise to those who have not yet read the book?  To the movie’s credit, if you did not read the book, you may walk out of the theatre believing you viewed a very solid movie – and you’d be right.  On the other hand, acting out the Jodi Picoult original version would have been as easy to portray on film.  I am convinced that if the original storyline was left in tact, this movie would have received even greater reviews from the critcs and even greater traffic at the box office.

Both the original and big-screen story center around Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian Fitzgerald (Jason Patric) who have been informed that their young daughter Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) has leukemia, and that she only has a few years to live. As the Internet Movie DataBase states, the doctor suggests to the parents that they try an unorthodox medical procedure of producing another child in a test-tube that would be a perfect match as a donor for Kate. Sara will try anything to save Kate, and they have a new baby Anna (Abigail Breslin) to be used as a donor for Kate. Right here, it becomes an interesting question to me asking if they had Sara for the right reasons.  The first thing they use is blood from the umbilical cord for Kate. As years go on, the doctors must take bone marrow from Anna to give to Kate. At age 11, the next thing Anna must give to her sister is a kidney. Anna has had enough of all of these medical procedures, and she decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation and the right to decide how her body will be used. The whole family is being torn apart by Anna’s decision because everyone knows what will happen to Kate if she doesn’t get a new kidney. Anna will hire a maverick lawyer, Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), who would look only onto Anna’s interest.  The conflict ensues from there.

It appears that Cameron Diaz is maturing away from her giggly girlfriend days on to approachable, maternal roles.  Her concern, anguish, and guilt come through loud and clear with this movie . . . she happily surprised me.  Of course, Abigail Breslin does a seamless job as a wiser-than-her-years girl standing up for herself while fiercely loving her sister.  Jason Patric is one of those “that guy” actors whose face we recognize but whose name slips us.  I’ll certainly remember his face.  🙂  Kidding aside, he does a fine job of portraying the father and husband trying to balance life with his family.  Sophia Vasselievia captures our hearts and sympathy instantly and portrays the dying sister with grace.  Evan Ellingson charmingly plays the older brother whose own troubles get overshadowed by his sister’s illness.  The book delves much deeper into the troubled soul of this young man.  Finally, Alec Baldwin earns a solid pat on the back for his forceful prescence as maverick lawyer who only has Anna’s best interest in mind.

I won’t give away the ending, and I will continue to strongly recommend the read.  On the other hand, Grading Girl gives the movie a solid C. Whether or not you read the book, the ending is, in my opinion, predictable and cliche.  The acting is solid and it’s still a tearjerker, but it is not the compelling story line Picoult intended it to be.  This may be a good movie to wait until DVD release. It’ll make for a decent movie to watch in the comfort of your own home on a chilly fall night.  GG is disappointed.

GG at the Movies – The Hangover

July 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

Researchers say laughter relaxes the body, boosts our immune system, triggers the release of endorphins, and protects the heart.  Well, if you would like 100 minutes worth of the best medicine, go see The Hangover.   I laughed the ENTIRE movie and not a quiet soul was in the theatre – virtually each audience member released quite a few endorphins that night.

No, this is not "Three Men and a Baby"

No, this is not "Three Men and a Baby"

Most great comedies are based on truths — we find humor in the illumination of our own human tragedy.  It makes us feel better about our own misgivings and puts things into their proper perspectives; that is, that life should be taken much more lightly than we tend to get caught up in.   Office Space is funny, for example, because we’ve all worked that type of boring job and put up with that type of boss at one point or another.  The Hangover is about a Vegas bachelor party gone horribly awry.  Yes, many have had those nights, though perhaps not to such extremes. The Hangover is funny because it takes this cultural tradition almost all of us can relate to and finds genuine humor in the pain of what happens afterward.

In the story, Doug (Justin Bartha) is about to be married, so his friends — Stu (Ed Helms), a dentist planning on proposing to his girlfriend, Phil (Bradley Cooper), a schoolteacher bored of the married life, and Doug’s soon to be brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who is smart yet socially inadequate — take him to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.  As the Internet Movie DataBase summarizes, the guys get a suite at their hotel, then sneak on to the roof of the hotel and toast to the night ahead. Skipping forward to the next morning, the three groomsmen awake with no memory of the previous night. They find Doug missing, Stu missing a tooth, a tiger in the bathroom, and a baby in the closet. Initially they believe Doug to have gone out for breakfast, but soon worry when his cellphone has been left behind. They collect what memories they have to figure what happened to Doug.   What a riot!!  The valet brings them a police car, which they had dropped off the night before.  The hilarious adventure ensues from there and I personally enjoyed the ride the entire show.  The boys find themselves in one crazy dilemma to the next before the resolution.

I believe this movie is genuinely funny because it achieves a balance of character and vulgarity.  Too many movies take things way too far for the laugh . . . this one pushes the limit just enough.  It’s not too vulgar with just the right amount of personality.  We laugh at the characters’ misfortunes because we like them and empathize with them.  Perhaps they even remind us of our own friends or ourselves.  Helm’s character makes a great supporting goofball without being too creepy.  Cooper uses his good looks to his advantage: he essentially turns the typical Leading Man figure into a bumbling idiot, self-absorbed and clueless. Galifianakis has a fair share of the film’s funniest dialogue.  He plays his character naturally; for instance, when he embraces his brother-in-law while nude, the act seems innocently awkward rather than deliberately awkward . . .  and that’s what makes it so funny.

The Hangover is destined to become a cult flick in the years to come.  Grading Girl gives The Hangover an A- for approachable characterization and endless quirky lines.  This is rated R, but it is not raunchy or indecent as some R movies blatantly are just to qualify for the rating.  So for a couple hours of pure unabashed entertainment, head to the theatre to see this comedy hit of the summer!

GG at the Movies – The Proposal

June 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Movies, Reviews

 

Time for Grading Girl to act as TLC @ the movies!!  I’m a firm believer that one can’t see too many movies or read too many books!!!  Both provide an entertaining outlet or informative tool, both open us up to vicarious experiences we may not achieve in real life such as traveling to strange lands or achieving grandiose feats, and both open us up to different point of views that provide new perspectives on our own lives.  In other words, books and movies help us live more consciously!!!

 

The first kiss scene

The Proposal is one of those walk-out-of-the-theatre-smiling movies.  It was funny, entertaining and charming.  It is a story of a pushy editor-in-chief of a publishing company, Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock), who forces her young assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), to marry her in order to keep her Visa status in the U.S. and avoid deportation to Canada.  He grudgingly accepts, under the condition that he is promoted to the position of editor. When the government investigates, the two are forced to spend the weekend with his parents in Alaska in order to sell the lie. The family suggest they could marry the same weekend, and they reluctantly accept. The problem is that they start to fall genuinely in love as they spend more and more time together. 

I found myself smiling through much of this movie as I watched the family (including lovable cast members Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, and Betty White) warmly welcome Margaret to their home with open arms.  I found myself laughing out loud as I watched Margaret try to acclimate herself to the unique traditions of the family while fighting her confusing feelings toward Andrew at the same time.  Sandra Bullock transitions effortlessly from the icy, stoic boss to the charmingly clutzy girl out of her element.  She still steals the show at age 44 and the first nude scene of her career (the funniest scene in the movie!) proves she still commands the screen.  I have to admit I didn’t know who Ryan Reynolds was before this movie.  His biggest claim to fame before this movie was X-Men Origins:  Wolverine.  This week’s Entertainment Weekly proclaims him as the “Our New Favorite Leading Man.”  He’s certainly easy on the eyes and his portrayal of Andrew displayed his sweet, sensitive comedic side.  The two stars certainly have a magnetic chemistry despite their age difference. 

There is plenty of rustic scenery to back-up the chemistry (with Massachusetts standing in for Palin country), and the absolutely adorable Samoyed family puppy steals a few scenes as well (GG loooooves this doggy!!!!).  The only problem I have with this movie is that the buildup of their genuine feelings eventually leads to some tired and silly flourishes.  There is one scene, in fact, that is so outwardly predictable it becomes cliche.

In the end, Grading Girl gives “The Proposal” a solid B.   If you want a fun movie that will make you smile, laugh and remember that life can have happy endings, go see this movie.  It progresses to the somewhat predictable ending rather quickly but it provides great entertainment.  GG recommends it for a summer night movie!! 

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