Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Back-up Plan

After noticing that this movie got a 4/10 on IMDB, I was reluctant to see it and especially didn't want to drag Fabio into a romantic comedy disaster.  However, with not much out these days, we watched it together last night and were both pleasantly surprised (low expectations can do wonders!).

It is the story of Zoe (Jennifer Lopez), a pet store owner, who being single and afraid that she will pass the age of having children, decides to get artificially inseminated.  The problem is that it works on the first try and that she meets a very attractive, charming man (Alex O'Loughlin) right outside her doctor's office the day of her procedure.

Trying to pass it off as nothing and ignoring the dreamy man doesn't do much good.  They bump into each other repeatedly and he goes out of his way to romance her and capture her affections.  But when the truth of her situation is revealed, things turn sour, if only for a little bit.  After their first make-out scene she blurts out to him that she is pregnant.  He is obviously quite surprised stating it cannot happen so quickly. 

Despite being clearly very smitten by Zoe he is not sure of being ready for children in the first place, let alone somebody else's child, or worst of all, as they will soon find out, twins.  However, as I'm sure you can imagine, he decides to stick by her and lives out her pregnancy with her, promising to stay with her forever.

There are many cute, heartfelt and humorous scenes but also some very over the top and outrageous ones (a live exorcism style birth, filled with screaming and chanting, in the living room of her support group being one of them). 

Overall this movie was light, enjoyable and made me feel good.  I laughed quite a lot and was touched at times.  Being pregnant, I could relate to some of the emotions - although luckily for Fabio I am not nearly as hormonal and do not sleep with a gigantic pillow in between us.  Not every night at least! 

My rating: 6
Fabio's: 6
Total score: 12/20

A Single Man

A Single Man is an elegant and enticing film by fashion designer and first time director Tom Ford. The cinematography is simply stunning - exquisite images and sequences of movement, beautiful contrasts of monochromatic and vibrant colors, coupled with excellent acting and enchanting music make this movie a pleasure to watch.

Colin Firth's performance is extremely powerful and convincing.  He is an English professor named George who after losing his partner of 16 years in an accident and having tried to go on with his life, chooses this day to be his last.  What we see is this particular day, beginning with George getting dressed in the morning, putting on his impeccable suit and dark-rimmed glasses, and escalating to his meticulous preparations for his suicide. 

His pain is palpable without ever being overly dramatic.  Colin Firth's seriousness and intensity are incredible.  Ford manages to capture just the right amount of melodrama and bleakness and we not only understand but feel George's tremendous grief, without being overwhelmed by it.  There are other things going on in the world around and we watch, wondering if George will or will not commit suicide.

George is a man who was deeply in love but who at the same time is in love with life.  His sorrow and hollowness juxtaposed with the beauty that he sees in front of him are truly alluring and magnificent.  They give the movie a haunting quality, a certain glow which draws the viewer in like a magnet.

Julianne Moore interprets George's dear friend and portrays her character superbly, capturing the 1960's mood to perfection with her charcoal lined eyes, smoky gaze, pouty lips and cigarette always near.  She spends most of her day applying make-up, smoking and drinking, but is the friend George turns to when he feels at his worst.  She seems to have a way of picking him up with friendship, memories of a past fling and a bit of gin.  Her perfect English accent made me forget whether she was American or British.

There are also some sexually charged and ambiguous scenes with a student, played notably by Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy).  It is unclear until the very end what the young man's intentions are, as he is quite clearly stalking his professor, but his presence in the story is important.  Like an angel, he guides George through memories of his former lover and shows him hope for the future. 

This film is artistic, stylish, and classy - not surprisingly.  However, it relies very much on the visual and perhaps the novel by Christopher Isherwood was able to convey more depth to the story.  It is definitely worth seeing for its cinematic qualities and will hopefully leave you wondering, as I am now, what Tom Ford's next project will be. I, for one, hope that a movie is in the making; Fabio believes Mr. Ford should return to making sunglasses.  

My rating: 7.5
Fabio's: 6
Total score: 13.5

Monday, April 26, 2010


After a few weeks of absence, Paulina's blog is back!  I have since gotten married and we are preparing to move into a new house so things have been very, very busy!  After not having watched a single movie for nearly two months, I finally saw Atom Egoyan's Chloe last night. 

I was drawn to this film due to two things - first, its title is the name of my sweet Labrador, Chloe.  Second, the cast seemed strong and the premise quite intriguing - a married woman, believing her husband is cheating on her, hires a call girl to seduce and trap him.

Julianne Moore plays the role of a successful but slightly self-conscious woman to perfection.  Her husband, Liam Neeson, a handsome professor, is aging gracefully and continuously flirts with his students.  Julianne is having a hard time connecting with him and is also out of touch with her son, Michael, who is going through a rebellious teenage phase.  Seeking reassurance on her marriage and perhaps some comfort, she sets up a meeting with Amanda Seyfried's character and plots her fateful scheme. 

The movie is fairly interesting to watch at first but very quickly there are moments that are preposterous and just impossible- chance encounters and text messages, eerie, overly ominous music playing constantly in the background, an out of the blue lesbian scene, a "shoe orgasm" (I'm serious), a reappearing hairpin far too reminiscent of a certain famous ice pick, an ultra modern house with lots of windows... 

There are many scenes of a sexual nature but without much eroticism- the whole time one senses that there is something brewing underneath that is not quite right.  I didn't feel much passion or tension and thought that everything was a bit too fake and trying so hard to stand out that in the end it was just plain bizarre. Amanda plays her character's psychotic side very well however, with her big, blue eyes and pale, innocent looking exterior. 

But despite good performances the script falls tremendously short.  Viewers who expect too much will get very little in return.  This film lacks the intelligence of Fatal Attraction or the thrill of Basic Instinct.  Sadly, Chloe gets worse and worse as it goes on, ending in a literal and figurative free fall.

My rating: 5
Fabio's: 5
Total score: 10/20

Friday, March 12, 2010

Crazy Heart

My apologies for not having posted anything during the past week or so... I was away in Greece visiting my sister and her two little children - no time for movies!  I'm back in freezing cold Switzerland now and after having watched the Oscars, its many surprises (Hurt Locker!!!!), and funny banter between Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, decided to see Crazy Heart to find out if Jeff Bridges really was so outstanding.

He plays the role of Bad Blake, a very talented country musician who has struggled his entire life with alcoholism and therefore finds himself broke and aimlessly touring the country, playing in dodgy venues, at around 60 years of age.  During one such stop over he meets Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal, also nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actress), a pretty, young journalist who wants to interview him.

Jean comes across as slightly needy and lonely, the type who is drawn to the wrong kind of guys.  She surrenders quickly to Bad's charisma and they end up falling heavily for each other. Their chemistry is extremely believable and almost palpable at times.  I very much enjoyed their on-screen time together.

But Jean is also the mother of a four year old boy and problems arise as Bad's alcoholism severely gets in the way of the development of a healthy relationship between them.  She is infatuated by him and admires him, trying to see past his weaknesses and addiction, but must protect what she loves most, her son.  Bad wants to turn his life around, unmasking his softer side as he desperately searches for some joy and comfort, but as one line in the film goes, "it's too little, too late". 

Colin Farrell does a surprising and commendable representation of Tommy, a famous and thriving country singer who learned what he knows from Bad and tries to help him in his career.  They both sing quite remarkably and most of all make it look very, very natural.  I'm not a lover of country music but I found the tracks enjoyable, particularly "The Weary Kind" which won an Oscar for best original song.

Jeff Bridges sings and performs with ease and seems to have been made for this role.  His Oscar is very well deserved and the movie satisfying without being a masterpiece.  Bridges' strong and impressive performance is what really carries this film.

My rating: 7
Fabio's: 7
Total score: 14

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Greatest

The Greatest, starring Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, and Carey Mulligan (An Education), is a relatively unknown movie by a first time director (Shana Feste) that is nevertheless quite good.  It is so little known that I have been unable to track down the movie poster (I think it may not even have come out yet in the States).

Brosnan and Sarandon are married and play the grief stricken parents of two teenage boys, one of whom dies suddenly in a horrific traffic accident at the very beginning of the film.  Sarandon is excellent and demonstrates she is a superior actress in her portrayal of a mother grieving I would almost say to the extreme.  She is haunted by what happened to her son, by the fact that he stayed alive for 17 minutes and that she was not there to help him.  She simply cannot get over the loss and resents her husband for moving on so quickly.  A very poignant scene occurs when he offers her a bell, a sort of tool to help her with her grief, and tells her to ring it each time she thinks of their deceased son.  She takes the bell from him and starts ringing it- non-stop.  This and many other moments were extremely sad, showing how people cope with loss in very different ways.

Things get even more complicated with the early appearance of Carey Mulligan's character, the girlfriend of the late young man, and her surprise announcement.  This leads to even more sadness and hurtful reminders for the mother, but also a certain easing of the pain for the father, which inevitably results in great tension between the couple.  Sarandon gets especially furious, distressed and jealous when, trying to reach her husband during a break down, she finds his phone turned off and learns subsequently that he had gone to the movies with the young girl.  The scene escalates so much with an almost silent force that Brosnan picks her up and throws her fully clothed into the ocean, to awaken her and make her see that her anguish is unreasonable and causing pain to the rest of the living members of their family. 

The younger brother, appearing almost indifferent at first, succumbs to his emotions in the second half of the movie.  The father, who keeps a cool demeanor and tries to hold the family together through his strength also finally collapses and interestingly, Sarandon picks up where he left off and comforts him, telling him that their son did not suffer.  The whole family and their links are very credible and Brosnan astonished me by being particularly realistic. 

Even if this movie is almost painful to watch due to the difficult subject matter, it is very well acted and written, making it extremely emotional and powerful.   It ends well so do not be too afraid, but if you are a crier, a tear or two will definitely be shed. 

My rating: 8
Fabio's: 7.5
Total score: 15.5

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, Garry Marshall's (Pretty Woman) latest movie packs in an all star cast.  In alphabetical order: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane and Patrick Dempsey from Grey's Anatomy, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner (Twilight), Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift and more, all share the spotlight in this messy romantic comedy.  Unfortunately, an ensemble as strong as this one does not suffice to make Valentine's Day a film worth seeing.

If you are expecting a light, airy, fun romantic comedy like I was you will be disappointed because this was neither very romantic nor very funny. Everywhere you look you will see a beautiful, famous, smiling actor but the film is extremely shallow with a terrible plot and very little character development.  We follow the intertwining lives and love tribulations of many different couples and singles as they handle the joys, and mostly the burdens, of Valentine's Day. Lots of people are saying it and it is true, the film is a knock-off of Love Actually, except much worse. 

Ashton Kutcher, a heartbroken florist, and Jennifer Garner who plays his best friend, have the most screen time.  Their acting is typical and what is happening to them remotely interesting compared to the dozen or so other subplots.  But the scene where Garner pretends to be a waitress to confront her lying boyfriend (who proceeds to choke on his drink, what else...) while he is having a meal with his wife was just too much.  Anne Hathaway as an undercover phone sex entertainer was absurd, as was Queen Latifah, her boss who overhears a raunchy conversation but lets her carry on and even takes a call herself.  Bradley Cooper's character, though charming, was absolutely not credible- from his sweet, flirtatious interactions with Julia Roberts on the plane, to the final surprise revelation. The teenage high school couples were dreadful to watch, especially the part where one of the boys gets caught naked with only a guitar for cover by his girlfriend's mother.  Like the rest of the cast, even the cute, little boy had a ridiculously predictable role and it was clear from the start who he was in love with.  It's a pity to see so much talent go to waste, particularly Julia Roberts who really does not belong in this chaos.

The second half of the movie was even worse than the first and started veering towards the outrageous during a male bashing dinner party that single and disgruntled Jessica Biel hosts yearly (who organizes an "I hate Valentine's Day" dinner in the same room as a wedding is taking place???).  Things really started to go downhill for me at that point and the last 30 minutes or so I was literally rolling my eyes to myself.

There were too many actors, too many side plots, none of which were engaging or developed enough.  Of course, everything ties together nicely and neatly at the end, like a Valentine's Day gift with a bow.  But don't be fooled, this movie is no present.  If you have nothing better to do, go ahead and watch it.  Otherwise, treat yourself to a nice romantic evening with your loved one or by yourself.  It will be time much better spent. 

My rating: 5

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Capitalism: A Love Story

Capitalism: A Love Story, is Michael Moore's latest exposing documentary.  After taking on General Motors, the Bush Administration, and the health care industry in some of his previous films, he this time tackles the issues of greed, capitalism and corporate dominance.  He shows us real life examples of people losing their homes, jobs, savings and hope, powerless in front of the great, evil, out of control machine that capitalism has become. 

As is his habit, Moore narrates and conducts his own interviews.  There are funny bits, like when he asks a few bankers to define derivatives and credit default swaps and no one seems able to give an explanation that makes any sense.  Other parts were more repetitive such as when he visits the headquarters of big banks with yellow "Crime Scene" tape and tries coming into the buildings to make "citizen's arrests".  This was mildly funny for a few moments but it came up too many times throughout the film.  Also I found that the footage of what happened to some hard working Americans- though very sad- was not edited enough and too long.

The rest of the movie highlights what led the United States to the grim financial situation it is in now- going back to FDR and his proposal for a Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing certain basic economic freedoms, through a more comfortable time for the middle class in the 1950's, followed by immense deregulation during the Reagan years which resulted in gambling by financial institutions, enormous inequalities between the rich and the poor (the part about low pilot salaries was particularly frightening) and finishing with the icing on the cake, the huge tax payer funded bailouts.  

Overall this film is a very important one to have made and to be watched but I did not think it was one of Moore's finest.  I am not in love with it nor am I sufficiently outraged by what I learned.  The movie felt flat.  In my opinion it went to too much length to prove a point we already know- greed is not good.  

My rating: 6
Fabio's: 6
Total score: 12