Monday, December 21, 2009

My Movie Weekend

While people were scrambling for bargains, or running to see Avatar, I decided to take the back roads of movies, and try out some other films before I get roped into seeing James Cameron's comeback.
I saw three movies this weekend, and cost me just eleven bucks thanks to the Cinemark Early Bird Special, and getting inside a special sneak preview.
Earlier tonight, I saw Emily Blunt as The Young Victoria. I thought she did a fine job as the woman who would define the 19th century for England. They played up the love story with Prince Albert. However, there should have been more details about efforts to get her to agree to a "regency" where someone becomes the monarch until she's old enough. It was lacking in drama, but it told the Queen's story just fine...despite some embellishments. I really liked Jim Broadbent as William IV.

As for the weekend, I chose Up in the Air and Princess and the Frog. If The Hurt Locker goes back into release, I'll see that, too. I should have done that the first time a couple of months ago.
When Up in the Air was first released, a lot of people said it was a movie of the times. George Clooney plays Ryan, a guy who flies around the country to fire people. You can see why he loves this lifestyle because he's treated like a king with a ton of perks he's earned the hard way through frequent flier programs. His lifestyle is threatened by Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick. She prefers using teleconference to fire people by remote control. Ryan is told to let Natalie join him on his rounds to show her the ropes, and maybe learn about whether her way is the best way.
Along the way, Ryan meets Alex, played by Vera Farmiga. She, too, is a frequent flier, and they cross paths quite often.
It's interesting that while Ryan has no need for marriage or a basic home life, Natalie does, even though she's gung-ho about her process.
It's not long before Ryan wonders about his life, and whether he should make changes. This is especially true when he shows up for his sister's wedding in Wisconsin. Natalie also has her doubts when she actually has to fire people through a script that doesn't prepare her for every situation.
The movie is directed by Jason Reitman, who directed Juno a couple of years ago. It's been getting a lot of Oscar buzz. The movie's timeliness, and Clooney and Kendrick as the leads, help this movie work. We'll know for sure when awards season starts in a few weeks.

I was also interested in Princess and the Frog because it's Disney's return to traditional animation, as in not CGI or Pixar. So, how can you teel a familiar fairy tale in a new way? You raise the stakes, put the story in New Orleans, get some good songs that work better than you'd think, and some swerves to get the usual happy ending. It's not just about kissing a frog, but also about how hard work and faith can get a person ahead. Anoki Noni Rose, who was robbed big time by the Emmys for ignoring The Ladies No.1 Detective Agency, does a wonderful job as Tiana, while Bruno Campos is great at the Frog Prince Naveen. Keith David is really spooky as Dr. Facilier, the voodoo doctor who casts the dark spell. Louis, the trumpet-playing crocodile, is also a hoot, thanks to Michael-Leon Wooley providing the voice.
Among the songs, I liked "Almost There", which is about Tiana's plans to turn an old sugar mill into her restaurant. I expect the Saints to adopt that song through the NFL playoffs. If the Oscars are smart enough to bother looking for a "Best Song" this year, that should make the cut. The Golden Globes don't think so, but I bet 100 Avatar t-shirts got them to put that movie's "love song" in the final mix.

After that, I may give Avatar a try if I get one of those passes the Sacramento Bee is giving out. Of course, I'd have to wait until the new year to see it, but I wouldn't feel left out. If The Hurt Locker does start picking up awards, that will be next for me.

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