Movie Monday: Easy A (2010)

Movie Title: Easy A
Movie Release Date: September 17, 2010
Primary Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Indie
Plot Summary (via IMDB): “A clean-cut high school student relies on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing.”

Review: I had some high hopes for this movie, a modern retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, this time in high school.  I wanted to see it when it was out in theaters, but unfortunately work, and real life, got in my way.  No matter though, it went on my list of movies to see when released on DVD.  After last week’s sobfest of a movie, The Time Traveler’s Wife, I needed a good pick-me-up.  From everything I had heard Easy A promised to have my laughing my butt off.  I enjoyed Emma Stone in Superbad (though her part was short), and she had me laughing all through Zombieland.  This was to be her first feature role, so of course it it was going to be awesome.  Right?

Olive (Emma Stone) is a nobody.  She is an attractive, good student, who dresses conservatively, and keeps to herself.  Then one day, everything changes.  Not wanting to go on a camping trip with her best friend, Rhiannon, and Rhiannon’s crazy parents (California hippies who eat patchouli brownies and smoke pot), Olive says that she has a date, with some college dude.  Who?  Rhiannon doesn’t know him, that’s who.  We know the story, she doesn’t really have a date.  Instead she stays at home singing Pocket Full of Sunshine to her dog, over and over (I still have this song stuck in my head now).  Cue to the next Monday at school, Rhiannon asks how her weekend, and of course her date, went.  Olive, not wanting to hurt her friend’s feelings, lies.  “It was great!”  Next thing you know Rhiannon is accusing Olive of losing her virginity (finally) and commending her for it.  Oh, but wait, of course, someone overhears them.  And of course its the leader of the devout Christian group at school, Marianne (Amanda Bynes).  And of course, as well all know from high school, the “news” spreads rapidly, and soon Olive is branded the class slut.  Oh, but wait, the irony doesn’t end there, Olive is reading The Scarlet Letter in her English class.  Of course.

In a whirlwind of events Olive decides to embrace her new persona, despite it being a giant lie.  She isn’t really a slut, but at least now she is getting noticed.  And isn’t that what we all want in high school?  To be noticed?  In some series of events that make no sense soon Olive becomes the person to go to when guys want to improve their image.  For a Best Buy card, or a gift certificate to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Olive will say that she engaged in naughty activities with you, ranging from a simple butt grab, to straight up sex, thus promoting your social standing.  Events happen, Olive is the class harlot, she wears corset shirts with As on them, the Christian group outrages, Olive sees that lying about being a slut is as bad as being a slut, and stuff goes down.  And oh yes, there is chlamydia.  So did I laugh?

I want to say yes, I really do, but that would be a lie.  There were moments when I chuckled, of course, but they were few.  I spent most of the movie waiting.  Waiting for that one zinger that would have me in stitches.  It never came.  The jokes felt pressed and Emma’s delivery was off.  I want to blame the writers, because Emma has proven that she can be funny, but perhaps she simply wasn’t ready to carry a movie by herself.  The funniest moments in the movie were actually courtesy of the over-the-top ridiculousness of the crazy Christian Marianne, played by the lovely Amanda Bynes (at moments she actually reminded me of Mandy Moore from the movie Saved, which is a fantastic movie).  Additional funny moments came from the always amusing Lisa Kudrow (though I will always see her as Phoebe Buffay), and the dry, yet witty, Thomas Haden Church.  Also, I did enjoy looking at the always adorable Penn Badgley (of my beloved Gossip Girl), but even that was not enough to save the movie, and that end I was left feeling unfulfilled.  The last 45 minutes of the movie, were definitely better than the first 45 (which felt like they moved at a crawl, and almost resulted in my boyfriend bailing on me), but why should I have to slough through 45 minutes of awkwardness, for 45 minutes of slightly above average comedy?

Overall I give this movie a C+ (bordering on a B-).  I may be going against the public here (it is rated at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes), but Easy A is not a movie I would watch again.  While I am glad I did get to view it at least once, it will not join the ranks of high school comedies that I watch over and over (which currently includes Clueless and Superbad).    It has some one-liners that will make you chuckle, and the cast, overall, is quite charming, but it simply falls a bit short and flat of where it should be.  Emma Stone, it was a decent starting point, but I know you have much better in you, so keep at it.


Movie Monday: The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

Movie Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Movie Release Date: August 14, 2009
Primary Cast: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston
Genres: Drama, Romance, Mystery, Fantasy
Plot Summary (via IMDB): “A romantic drama about a Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and the complications it creates for his marriage.”

Review: This was a movie that was recommended to me by my dear friend Cassie.  I am always looking for movie recommendations and she was more than happy to oblige.  This movie is based on the book of the same name, written by Audrey Niffenegger.  From what I understand the book is quite loved by those who have read it, thus the movie had a lot to live up to.  In some ways, I think I am lucky, as I have yet to read the book, so I had few expectations for the movie (I know how difficult it can be to actually enjoy a movie based on a book if you happen to have read the book).  Still, I did have some hopes for it as I enjoy both Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana.  As always, this review contains spoilers, so beware.

The movie begins with Henry (Eric Bana) at age six singing in a car with his mother as they drive along a snowy highway.  Next thing you know Henry disappears, appearing to have evaporated from the back seat.  Moments later he reappears outside, in the snow, naked, only to watch his mother die in a car crash.  A much older man, who says he too is Henry, appears and tells him that everything will be ok, even if he doesn’t feel it will be right now.  He too then disappears.  Fast forward 25 years or so.  Henry, now an adult, works as a librarian in a Chicago library.  One day, as he is going about his business, he meets Clare (Rachel McAdams), who seems to know everything about him, despite this being the first time Henry has actually met her.  Turns out, when Clare was a little girl adult Henry used to time travel to her in a field outside her house.  Henry is Clare’s best friend and she has been in love with him since she was six years old.  The two quickly fall in love and are soon married, all the while dealing with Henry’s condition, which is actually as a result of a genetic anomaly.  At moments it is difficult for the two, particularly Clare, who has to deal with her husband up and leaving with no notice, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Their love, however, is strong and soon, they decide to have a child.  It is not without difficulty and heartbreak, leaving them both frustrated, and with an interesting incident where Clare sleeps with a younger Henry (it’s not cheating she claims).  As the movie moves on we then begin to wonder, why do we never see Henry, in any of his travels, older than his early 40s?  When we find out, we are heartbroken to learn the reason.

So did I enjoy the movie?  Do I recommend it?  I am going to be upfront and honest.  The first 80 minutes of the movie were a bit slow.  I kept waiting for something to happen.  Henry and Clare fell in love, he traveled, she cried, etc.  Where was the hook?  The climax?  Often when I watch a movie I can tell what direction it is going.  The bad guy is going to eventually get caught, the two lovers will eventually get together, the superhero will save the day.  But with this movie, it honestly felt like we were just going to watch Henry travel throughout time, over and over and over.  Then it hit.  The hook.  The climax.  And then I spent the last 25 minutes sobbing my eyes out.  At the end of the movie my eyes looked like I had been punched, thanks to some non-waterproof mascara.  And so, that 80 minutes of waiting was made null, as those 25 minutes filled me with so many emotions (sad, happy, depressed, exciting, heartbroken, moved) that I could barely think straight.  Well-played, movie, well-played.

The acting of the movie was solid.  Neither of the main characters were a particularly challenging role, in my opinion, however Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana embraced the roles and made them enjoyable, though it certainly does not hurt that they are both attractive to look at.  McAdams is born to play these beautiful, intelligent, loving characters.  It was also great to see Ron Livingston (who played a friend of the couple).  Though his role was not large, he always puts a smile on my face, as I have nothing but fond memories of Office Space.

The direction and flow of the movie was decent.  It was not out of the ordinary, if I am being truthful, but it did not leave me confused or wondering what had just happened.  As I mention earlier, at times it did feel as though as the pacing was a bit slow, but when it comes to time travel, better slow and clear, than quickly and confusing.  Speaking of the time travel aspect of the movie; I thought this was particularly well done.  Whether the credit goes to the directory, screenwriter or author, it was easy to follow and understand.  Often with time travel there are major gaps in the plot, or paradoxes develop that cannot be explained, creating confusion and misunderstand.  With this story, it was always perfectly clear, even if it a bit unrealistic at times.  One particular touch that seemed perfect and made complete sense when traveling through time?  No clothes.  When Henry would travel his clothes would be left behind and he would reappear butt-naked (if you enjoy Eric Bana’s butt then this is perfect for you).  It was the small things like that which made this movie enjoyable.

Overall I give this move a B+. While it had its slow moments, at the end of the movie I can say that it was a 107 minutes well spent and enjoyed.  It’s re-watch value is relatively low, but for a movie night from Netflix, well worth it.  But beware, this movie is not for everyone.  It is not a romantic comedy, in fact there is very little comedy in the entire movie.  It has very little action, and the only nudity is male buttocks.  It is not fast paced.  It is a straight up drama that is meant to tear at your heartstrings.  If you do not like crying, don’t watch it, because I guarantee you will need that box of tissues by the end.

Movie Monday: 500 Days of Summer (2009)

Once again as an effort to blog more I have decided to do yet another themed day.  Movie Monday.  Each Monday I will review a movie that I have recently seen.  It won’t be a professional review, by any means, but I will give my thoughts and feelings on the movie, the actors, everything about it.  If there are any movies you would like me to see and/or review, please feel free to comment on one of these posts, or send a message via my Ask Me. So, without any further ado, this week’s review for Movie Monday!

Movie Title: 500 Days of Summer
Movie Release Date:  August 7, 2009
Primary Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
Plot Summary (via IMDB): “An offbeat romantic comedy about a woman who doesn’t believe true love exists, and the young man who falls for her.”
Genres: Drama, Romance, Comedy

Review: I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  He is an extremely talented actor, very smart about choosing his roles, and though I can’t say because I have never met him in person, he seems like a genuinely kind and intelligent guy.  Thus 500 Days of Summer has been on my list for quite sometime.  But let me tell you, my list of movies to watch is quite long, and to be honest, there were many movies above this one.  This last summer, however, during a conversation about actors that we love, one of my coworkers told me that I need to see 500 Days of Summer, NOW.  She told me it was one of the absolute best movies of 2009, and if you love JGL, then this movie was a must see.  So, with her urging, I stuck it in my Netflix queue.  There were still a couple of movies I needed to watch before it.  I finally receive 500 Days of Summer in the mail in October.  But then things got a bit crazy and busy (losing my job, job searching, starting a new job).  The movie sat there, unopened in its little Netflix envelope for months.  It wasn’t until my boyfriend reminded me that it was sitting our bookshelf a couple of days into this new year that I finally watched it.  And boy, it was worth it.

Beware, there are some spoilers.  Let me begin with the story.  The opening sequence begins with narrator stating that “This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.”  Right then my heart sank just a little.  I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be the happy ending I would be wanted.  And guess what, it wasn’t.  But!  With that being said, the story (and ending) was exactly how it should have been.  From the start the relationship of Summer (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is fraught with turmoil.  While there are moments of happiness for the two lovebirds, from the beginning it is doomed.  From the start Summer stated that she doesn’t believe in love, and that she doesn’t want a relationship, yet Tom still persists.  As the viewer you hope that he and Summer will end up happily ever after (how can you not when Zooey Deschanel is just so adorable), yet you know that, deep down, it won’t happen.  And yes, that saddened me, yet I persisted on, hoping that by the end, no matter what happened, I would have enjoyed the movie.  After Tom learns that Summer is engaged to be married, after telling him repeatedly that she would never do so, he falls into a pit of sadness and depression.  While you feel bad for him you also can’t help but think “I told you so.”  The signs were there all along, why couldn’t he see them?  Furthermore, you are left wondering, how could Summer have changed her mind so radically? As the movie is obviously drawing to a close you do find out, and when you do, it is heartbreaking.  Running into each other in the park Tom asks her why she changed her mind.

Summer: I woke up one morning and just knew?
Tom: Knew what?
Summer: What I was never sure of with you.

At this point my boyfriend had joined me in bed while I was watching this.  Those three lines were spoken and he went “Ouch.”  And frankly, that was the best way to describe the interaction that has just occurred between the two characters.  Summer, having once never believed in love, is now happily married and deeply in love.  Tom, once a believer in true love and fate, now believes that things don’t happen for a reason, that fate does not exist, and that everything is just a coincidence.  So will Tom ever find happiness?  It is a good question, and though we can’t say for sure, when he meets a beautiful young girl interviewing for the same job as him, appropriately named Autumn, we see that even though there may not be such a thing as fate, sometimes coincidences can result in happiness.

While the story may not have been how I would write it, and definitely not how I wanted it to end, it was appropriate, and frankly, it seemed well written.  But this is not what made the movie so enjoyable.  What made the movie enjoyable was the absolutely fantastic acting.  This movie was definitely an “indie flick”, and it is well-known that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are “indie actors”.  But it was more than that.  Their personal quirks seemed to play absolutely perfectly into their characters.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Tom spot on, from the happy and ridiculously in love puppy dog, to the depressed and lonely brokenhearted boy.  And Zooey, oh Zooey.  She plays these quirky, adorable, endearing characters so well.  And even though she broke Tom’s heart, you can’t help but still love her and wish her character nothing but happiness.  In addition to the great acting by the lead actors, the supporting cast, particularly Tom’s best friends, played by Geoffrey Arend and Matthew Gray Grubler, was outstanding.  Every scene these guys were in, they stole the show.

So the story, the acting…How about the direction?  Well I can’t really say too much about this, as I know little about it, but since I enjoyed the story, I enjoyed the acting, and I in general liked the entire movie, I am going to say the direction was well done.  The film seemed to always be moving forward (even when it was actually going back in time, since it was a non-sequential storyline), and there was never a moment where I was bored or hoping things would hurry along.  While I of course wanted to know the ending (I needed to know if JGL would find happiness) I enjoyed the journey and the story of how we got there.

To sum it up, this is a movie I absolutely recommend and I give it an A- (IMDB gives it an 8/10).  Though it is not your traditional love story and does not fall into the traditional romantic comedy or drama category, it holds its own as a fun and enjoyable indie flick.  If you love non-traditional love stories, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel or indie movies, then this is a movie for you.  But beware, you may be in tears by the end.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.



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