Saturday, June 14, 2008
HAPPY FATHERS' DAY! PLUS: INCREDIBLE HULK - JUNO - KATE & LEOPOLD REVIEWS, AWESOME MUSICIAN PLUG
To all my friends and family who are fathers, I wish you a very happy Fathers' Day. I wish to pay a brief tribute to my truly exceptional dad. Though I'd like to fill this page with memories and thoughts, if I got started I'll be here all night, so I'll keep this brief. My dad is one of the best people I've ever met. He truly emulates the Savior in the way he deals with others. He is patient. He's caring. He's kind. He's merciful. He is hard-working, and self-sacrificing. He's fun-loving. He's a fantastic, considerate, and loving husband. As my mom once wrote to us about him: "You girls would be so lucky to marry a man like this. You boys would be so lucky to be a man like this." He's been so good to our family, to Carol, to the Rays, and to everyone he meets. He's been a great counselor and a great friend. He instilled in me a love for God, a passion for the scriptures, and an awe for nature. He taught, by word and example, the importance of honoring women and of treating all people with friendliness and respect. He got me into Frankie Vallie, Old Westerns, Bond movies, camping, hiking, running, dogs, and (after a lot of effort)...dirt biking. (Sorry, Dad, I haven't been bit by the handball bug yet). He taught me to revere the Holy Priesthood and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. There's a lot I could say, but most importantly: Dad, I love you. You're a great father, a great husband, a great son and brother, a fun grandfather, a beloved church leader, and a great man.
SPIRITUAL THOUGHT: For Father's Day, I love this quote by President Howard W. Hunter: "The title 'father' is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as 'Father.'"
MOVIE REVIEW: THE INCREDIBLE HULK
After Director Ang Lee's (Sense and Sensibility, Crouching Tiger, Brokeback Mountain) artsy-fartsy take on The Hulk tanked at the box office a few years ago, things looked dire for the big green dude. So what was in order? Recast the franchise, get a new director, and basically pretend the first one never happened. This is a reboot of the Hulk franchise, and it's a credit to the filmmakers that I very much enjoyed this film, given that I have no history of giving a crap about the Hulk or his tendency to smash things. I've always looked on the character with mild disdain, writing him off as a Jekyll & Hyde-type on steroids. But this Hulk kept me entertained from start to finish.
Credit must be given to Edward Norton, whose Bruce Banner is a lonely, tortured soul who struggles to keep the rageful beast within him at bay. Norton makes a sympathetic lead, and he does some fine character work here. Nothing amazing, ala Christian Bale or Robert Downey Jr., but solid nonetheless. Liv Tyler does just fine (though there's sure to be some inexplicable hatred for her by the public...there always is for the love interest in superhero movies! I don't get it. I liked Katie Holmes, Kirsten Dunst, and Kate Bosworth just fine). William Hurt, Tim Roth...the entire cast turns in good performances. The cinematography is excellent (some stuff in Brazil is particularly eye-catching). The pacing is great, and while there is some down-time between Hulk moments, the film doesn't lag. This is a much more somber movie than the crowd-pleasing Iron Man, but the handful of attempts at humor hit the mark just fine.
Most importantly, the film gives you a good dose of Hulk smashing things real good. The CGI on the Hulk is far better than the trailers made me think it'd be (with a few exceptions). And the action in this movie is fantastic, visceral, hard-hitting stuff. You truly feel the physical power of the character, and a couple moments startle you with just how kicka** they are. The final battle in particular is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the exploration of the "villain's" motives (villains who think they're doing the right thing are always more interesting), as well as Bruce's desire to control his demons. Good people have a dark side, and bad people often have some virtue left in them, and this movie explores that idea to good effect.
Flaws? Well, being a comic-book movie, you have to suspend disbelief (even within the rules of its own universe) about what's possible or even plausible. Some plot-holes arise (though some are explained as the film goes on, in the moment I was thinking "wait, what?"). One side character's actions seem like a bit of a stretch. But mostly, any qualms I have stem from the fact that I've been spoiled by excellent superhero movies, like Iron Man and Batman Begins. This is not an excellent superhero movie. It is, however, a very good superhero movie that has some truly rockin' action, solid character work, and good acting. It's more than worth catching in the theatres. (Rated PG-13 for action violence, mild language, and a brief foreplay scene that goes nowhere). ***1/2 (out of five).
DVD REVIEW: JUNO
This year's indie darling is every bit as good as you've heard. Just be aware that the story itself isn't ground-shaking. It's a good, simple, sweet, and straight-forward tale. What sets the movie apart is its tone, dialogue, acting, and sheer likability. As someone who's worked with teens for the past five years, I can tell you that this is pretty true to life in terms of current teen vernacular and attitude. And while this world of teenage pregnancy, divorce, and step-families is not "traditional," it is, sadly, true to life for a lot of people, and what I liked is how a lot of the characters are truly supportive of one another and try their best to do the right thing by each other. The relationships are complex; some are touching, honest, and giving, while others are less so. Even the least likable character in the film is painted in a way that, while the actions are inexcusable, they are understandable.
Ultimately, this is a morality tale where a teenage girl decides against an abortion and places her child up for adoption; from my perspective, that's to be applauded. Her dad and stepmom, while frowning upon her sexual activity, genuinely love her and support her in their own irreverent way. The film has other uplifting messages, and while the way things happen with Juno should be interpreted by teenagers as the exception, not the norm, for unwed pregnancies, in the context of these particular characters it works. Where the film really shines is in the very real and engaging performances by the actors across the board. Elizabeth Page (X3: The Last Stand) is truly fantastic as Juno, running the whole gamut of emotion. Michael Cera, of Arrested Development fame, basically plays the same character he did on that show, which is fine, because he's just so dang lovable. J.K. Simmons (the newspaper boss in Spiderman) and Allison Janney (Hairspray) are a hoot as Juno's parents. Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30, Alias) and Jason Bateman (also of Arrested Development) do good work as the prospective adoptive parents. And a certain cast member of The Office makes a brief, funny early appearance.
Juno works very well as both a comedy and a drama, with some very touching moments intermixed with wonderfully written comedic dialogue. NOTE: The first 20 minutes feature an unnecessarily dense onslaught of vulgar humor, but after that it gets much better.The music is great, too. RATED PG-13 for frank sexual discussion, vulgar humor towards the start, moderate language (including one variation of the f-word), and brief sensuality). ****1/2 (out of five).
DVD REVIEW: KATE & LEOPOLD
This is an older one that I've just got around to seeing. Blah. Meh. I like both of the main actors, but this movie was just so...bland. An hour into it I thought: "I haven't laughed or been moved, engaged, or amused by this once. Not once. In a whole hour. It wasn't terrible, it just...didn't try. I generally love romantic movies, but there was no real chemistry in this. Hugh Jackman falls for Meg Ryan even though they'd not shared one genuine moment of connection and she'd been a total b---- to him nonstop. Dialogue: bland. Story: half-baked. I did enjoy the argument for chivalry, I just wish it'd been presented in a better movie. If you need your Meg or Hugh fix, go watch Sleepless in Seattle or The Prestige instead. ** (out of five).
MUSIC PLUG: MEGHAN COFFEE
So I caught this show on Friday night at a local pub by singer/songwriter/mother Meghan Coffee. She's local (from Georgia), but has a New York sound. I actually went with a friend to see another band, only to find out this girl and her band were playing instead. I was thinking of bailing, but then we heard her sing and stuck around. Really good stuff, if you ask me. If you're into Sarah McLoughlin, my good friend Laura Ostler, or think Jennifer Tilly would sound awesome if she sang, give this girl a listen. Her band was very good, as well. I LOVE her CD (Songs To Sail By), which I bought at the show. It comes out next week, and I bet you can get it on iTunes within a few weeks. For now, give her a listen at: http://www.myspace.com/meghancoffee
Just let the music on her myspace play in the background while you do something. If you don't love it...then we agree to disagree, no biggie. I really dug it.