Saturday, June 2, 2012

Laura Sees Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

I'm thrilled to say I finally saw a movie early enough in it's release to actually review before it's way too late and no one cares anymore. Although I did see Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers and highly recommend seeing them both. I also saw Mirror Mirror and highly recommend never seeing that.

Snow White and the Huntsman is an interesting take on our classic Snow White tale. It has that Batman Begins quality of taking something we consider fantastical or imaginary and examining it under a realistic gritty lens. Most the Grimm Fairy Tales have potential for this type of exploration since the original written stories tend to be on the gruesome side and have mostly been white washed by Disney.

I like that Kirsten Stewart (it's fine, go ahead and judge me, I'm not alone, other people like her too ok?) I also LOVE Charlize Theron (a huge dog activist, go Charlize!) and Chris Hemsworth is just stupid handsome. I mean, it's just ridiculous. My heart has beaten for him ever since loving Thor.

This dark movie is filled with stunning visuals. The way the queen's magic and the 'dark army' is manifested on screen is incredibly creative and beautiful, it's definitely the highlight of the film. I would even say the images are so striking that's it's actually worth seeing on the big screen.

However, some of the attempt to make this movie less of an annoying fairy tale falls short. There is an effort to blend extreme seriousness with a few jokes that doesn't quite work. It's too bad because if they'd managed to meld those energies this would have been a great movie. Instead it's just good, with a few laugh lines seeming awkwardly out of place and some serious moments coming off as ridiculously over handed.

Despite our heroine being a pants wearing leader of men it's hard to tell this tale as a feminist one since ultimately it's a story about one woman trying to kill another woman because she might be prettier. In this version that drive is portrayed by a mirror which we are led to believe might not be magic but is perhaps the evil queen's own hallucination, demonstrating even further the pressure women feel to look perfect forever, and how far our own insecurities can drive us.

It's an interesting exploration to give the queen such dark magical power and yet show that the iconic mirror may be nothing more than a useless piece of metal which she has imagined into driving her to destroy all young and beautiful women, due to her own self doubt and a desire to stay young and beautiful (and the power that comes with it). They also hint at a rape/kidnap story which originally planted this demon inside the queen who hates men and feels the need to punish them all for the one who originally destroyed her. It's fun and I enjoy seeing the softer side of villans, it's always compelling to humanize the bad guy and I was entertained by how they did it in this. Theron's performance pushes it over the top, she is so sympathetic as our antagonist that I actually felt sorry for her until they showed her wearing fur. (Then I was like, EVIL LADY! EVIL LADY!)

It seems that one of the goals here was to make Snow White something more than a useless princess and they do that, although it's limited realistically. When one has spent their entire life locked up in a tower, it's hard to imagine she's had much hand to hand combat training. This is something the ridiculously sexy Huntsman notices and teaches her one move, naturally it ends up being very important and ultimately what saves her. (Thank goodness there was a man around otherwise WHAT would've happened??)

Of course there's also the incessant story line of the appropriate nice guy she should probably be with verses the oh so bad boy who must be wrong, but naturally he would change his ways for the right woman. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! I CAN'T TAKE IT! Stop it, stop it! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!

I am thrilled to say that she does put her hair back in the final battle sequence. If I have to sit through one more action movie where the apparently badass woman has her hair in her face I will just vomit. As if! I can't even read a book with my hair in my face much less fight in an ancient war or take down an alien invasion. Come on, Hollywood!

There are too many horses falling down for me to truly enjoy this movie and there's even one scene where they are all trotting in that insane high stepping gait. From what I understand the horses have to be tortured to learn how to do because it is so unnatural. I found that upsetting and I am probably going to write a letter. There are also a lot of bird feathers and animal fur decorating sets but I'm just going to imagine it was all fake for peace of mind.

Again, this movie is entertaining, and extremely visual so it's definitely a fun watch, but don't forget to bring some salt. It is a fairy tale after all.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Laura Sees Movies: Oscar Predictions 2011

It's a wonderful night for Oscar!

It's that time of year. Usually my favorite time of year but unfortunately I did not get out to see as many movies as I'd hoped and the movies I did excitedly run out too did not made the cut this year. However, I still know the drill and it's always fun to make my predictions so here we go. I've only included the major award categories to keep this post from being as long as the show itself.

Actress in a Supporting Role
The Nominees:

Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"

Jessica Chastain, "The Help"

Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"

Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"

Who I think will win: Melissa McCarthy

Who I want to win: Melissa McCarthy

This is the only category I am making  a wildcard guess in because this is traditionally the academy's wildcard category. The most unpredictable wins are often for the actress in a supporting role statue (although supporting actor can be an unexpected win as well) and the one category I always take a risky guess with is this one. Also might I add that I would just LOVE to see Melissa McCarthy win, her performance in Bridesmaids is one to be remembered and it would be delightful to see her honored for it.

However, it is possible that I'm wrong and that Octavia Spencer will win. I hated The Help but I would never disparage her performance, she is an excellent actress. I'd also like to give a shout out to vegan nominee Jessica Chastain. You rock Jessica!

Actor in a Supporting Role
The Nominees:

Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"

Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"

Nick Nolte, "Warrior"

Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Max von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Who I think will win: Christopher Plummer

Who I want to win: Kenneth Branagh

Christopher Plummer seems on track to take this award and honestly, his performance in Beginners aside, he deserves it. Considering he is widely regarded as the finest actor without an Oscar nod this could very well be his time and it would be a delight to see him take the statue.

I'm rooting for Branagh because I thought he was breathtaking as Olivier. Particularly because I felt he honestly expressed his own self doubt as a movie star through this role as he simultaneously honored this man with his performance. It was hilarious to see Olivier starring and directing this film within the film, something Branagh is known and often mocked for doing. A wonderfully insightful performances, definitely one of my favorites this year. My Week With Marilyn was also one of my favorite movies this year, I'm a huge Marilyn fan and I just loved the story and how they told it.

Actor in a Leading Role
The Nominees:

Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"

George Clooney, "The Descendants"

Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"

Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"

Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

Who I think will win: Jean Dujardin

Who I want to win: Ryan Gosling

Despite some buzz (and by buzz I mean Brett Easton-Ellis drunk tweeting) that Clooney is getting a lot of votes, the real winner this year is The Artist and I think Dujardin's performance is one of those secured wins for this film. He's truly the star of this movie while only delivering one line. That is the sort of performance that wins awards. I can only hope Uggie will join him onstage for the acceptance speech.

I want Ryan Gosling to be nominated and then to win for his performance in Drive. But whatever. Let's just look at this instead. 

Actress in a Leading Role
The Nominees:

Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"

Viola Davis, "The Help"

Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"

Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

Who I think will win: Meryl Streep

Who I want to win: Viola Davis

This one is tough for me because I honestly do believe there is a 50/50 shot at this category. Viola Davis could easily walk away with the win here but something about that performance in The Iron Lady makes me hesitate. Unfortunately, the structure of The Help does not offer the brilliant Ms. Davis much support either as she is arguably not the protagonist of the film. I was frankly surprised to see her in the Best Actress categories as I fully expected her to be nominated in supporting. Honestly I do believe if she was up for supporting she would take it in a landslide. However, against Meryl in one of her most insane performances, I think it's a tougher call. But I'm here to make predictions and I have to put my money somewhere so I'm putting it on Streep. The odds are rough in this category though so don't be surprised if I'm wrong. I'll be happy if I am.

The Nominees:

Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"

Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"

Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"

Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"

Who I think will win: Michel Hazanavicius

Who I want to win: Michel Hazanavicius

The Artist was not my favorite movie last year but it is a great movie. The execution, how we saw it, how it came out on film, and primarily how it was directed, is why. It is not a great story, nor is it a format we've never seen before. But to reboot a format that is long retired, and make it feel fresh yet classic, is a feat indeed. And as I've said before, I fully expect The Artist to be the movie carrying the broom stick Sunday night.

Best Picture
The Nominees:

"War Horse"

"The Artist"


"The Descendants"

"The Tree of Life"

"Midnight in Paris"

"The Help"


"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

Who I think will win: The Artist

Who I want to win: The Artist

I'm laying all my cards out and my bet is with The Artist this year. I also think they will take Original Score, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Art Direction. It's a good movie and a safe choice for Hollywood. While seemingly different and adventurous, it is still a classic love story that any audience member can enjoy. Not unlike last year's winner, no one will mind watching this flick take home all the gold, and everyone can shrug and say, yep, it was great. Yay.

Honestly given the list of nominations, I think The Artist deserves it. There are other great movies on this list but this one is certainly the most unique and refreshing. I do wish Oscar would grow some balls and honor some darker stories, but given our economy and general social climate it's no surprise we've been embracing uplifting films the last few years. 

I apologize if these predictions are a little boring, as I realize I've chosen The Artist for the majority of them but I honestly believe it's going to take the majority of the categories and I'm trying to help you win the pool here.

Personally, I am super bummed there was nothing for Drive, especially for Albert Brooks (who I actually loved, believe it or not, more than Ryan Gosling). There are performances I was riveted by in Like Crazy, Weekend, Young Adult, and Cedar Rapids as well. My absolute favorite movie from last year, The Future, nobody saw, and there are a bunch of movies that I still need and want to see such as Carnage, We Need to Talk about Kevin, Melancholia, and Take Shelter. Many of this films have praised performances that are perhaps being overlooked here as well and if I had gotten my tush to the movie theater a little more I would've been able to bitch about this properly. None the less, I'll be sure to tune in tonight to see if Billy Crystal is still funny. I think he probably is. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Laura Sees Movies: The Artist

The Artist. Widely regarded as the front runner for all of the major Oscars (and the nominees haven't even been announced yet) this film is getting a lot of attention. It has an unheard of 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been called, dazzling, close to perfection, innovative, ravishing, charming, beautifully shot, etc.

I agree. The Artist is a fabulous movie. Wonderfully entertaining, sweet, moving, and very funny. When I headed down to the Angelica to see a silent film, I was certainly not expecting to laugh the way I did. I was pleasantly surprised.

The performances are excellent, the costumes are gorgeous, and it also features the best musical score I've heard in ages. However it should be noted that the composer utilizes some preexisting music from other film scores and there is a touch of drama surrounding that subject.

The Artist is a true homage to cinema, and movie lovers like myself appreciate nothing more.  There is a unique element to watching a movie made in the fashion of a classic. I had a lot of fun seeing a silent movie on the big screen, something I had never done, and found the style and execution to be perfect for this story. A fairly ground breaking format for Hollywood (or maybe not since all they did was re-boot an 80 year old format) the film feels fresh and different. Mostly because we never get to see movies like this anymore.

Despite all this, I found the story to be quite simple, predictable, and without risk. Although a sweet love story, I was notably more emotional over our protagonist's relationship with his dog, another example of silence working in The Artist's favor, the unspoken love they share was clear and most powerful.

I'm not sure why I'm surprised, but I'm disappointed that this is the film everyone is up in arms about. I know that my preference for a darker movie is my own but I do wish people would get a little more daring with their storytelling. The Artist is very daring in it's execution but plays it safe with it's story. I demand more, Hollywood. I want more.

That being said. The Artist is a lovely movie.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Laura Loves Movies: Top 5 Vegan Flicks 2011

I wanted to do some sort of end-of-the-year round up, and although I'm sure I'll analyze and complain about all the awards nominees once Oscar's are announced, I figured, why not talk about the animals? I was absolutely thrilled to make this is list, mostly because it was such a great year for vegan movies.

Here are my top 5 favorite film experiences that I had last year watching movies that I felt carried a message (in one way or another) for the animals. Be sure to check them all out! IMMEDIATELY!

 1) Vegucated- I LOVE THIS MOVIE! By far the best documentary I've seen in ages, Vegucated is hilarious, entertaining, informative, and well paced. I would recommend this engaging movie to any viewer, vegan or non. This film's intention is clear-cut and persuasive. I can hardly wait to see how many people it affects. Vegucated gets my number one spot on this list because I truly enjoyed it as a movie, vegan ideals aside. Vegan ideals not aside, I couldn't agree more with its approach and execution. Bravo Vegucated!!

**Vegucated DVDs are available via it's website. It is also available to purchase and rent via itunes. It will soon be available for streaming on Netflix too.

 2) Contagion- This blockbuster is jam packed with celebrities and follows the outbreak of a deadly and highly contagious virus which is quickly spreading across our planet. Unsure of how it started, the CDC springs into investigative action and as we are riveted by what happens to our beloved characters, as we are held captive by the unknown origin of this fatal disease. Two moments stand out as startlingly anti-animal agriculture, one being when a CDC executive rolls his eyes at a government official who suspects the outbreak may be a weaponized version of the bird flu and responds, "No one has to weaponize the bird flu. The birds are doing that." The second is the ultimate payoff at the end of this delightfully scary movie when we learn the point of the illness's origin. Be sure to check out this chilling flick, a horrifying romp, with a sharp commentary on the way we eat.

3) Forks Over Knives- I could hardly make a 2011 vegan films list and not include this one. It's impossible to sum up all the acclaim this documentary has received, but for starters check out this wonderful no-nonsense review by Roger Ebert. This film which is essentially an on-screen adaptation of The China Study, took what is admittedly a difficult to read, dry book, and made an extremely accessible, relevant, and easy to understand documentary. It has also been cited as the deciding factor in the announcements of Russel Brand, Ozzy Osbourne, and Eliza Dusku's conversion to a vegan diet. I ranked this film at 3 for two reasons. First, I think it's a little boring. Second, they make zero comments about animal welfare so it's message is not my favorite. But really, who cares?! Look at the difference it's made already. You rock Forks Over Knives!

**Forks Over Knives is available for streaming on Hulu Plus and Netflix. You can also buy it via their website

4) No Gano (You Can't Win)- No Gano is an extraordinary 12 minute documentary short about cockfighting in Puerto Rico. I had the pleasure of viewing this powerful film at a screening.  Simply and beautifully executed by Jorge Torres-Torres I was startled and touched by it's message. The images of suffering birds are incredibly potent and a glimpse into this dark world is a compelling one.

**Unfortunately I do not know of a way you can see this film as of right now. I will update this page if I become aware of an option.

5) Rise of the Planet of the Apes- What? She put this silly movie on there? YOU'RE DANG RIGHT I DID. I just saw this movie for the first time recently and all I can say is that it is exciting, fun, creative, action packed, and absolutely FILLED with animal love. There were no animals used in the movie at all (RIGHT ON HOLLYWOOD) yet the apes look amazingly lifelike. It also has an extreme anti-vivisection message. Even the character you feel may prefer life as a human companion eventually realizes his fate lies in the wild and breaks free of his civilian restraints, all the while leaving us to believe he does truly love the humans who raised him. Seriously! SO FUN. Watch it before you hate on it. James Franco is sexy.

Did I miss anything? Please let me know! I'd love to hear which movies tickled your vegan bone in 2011. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Laura Sees Movies: The Muppets

The Muppets!!!!

Honestly, I had mixed reactions when I first heard this movie was underway. I was initially apprehensive mostly due to Jim Henson's death, and Frank Oz's lack of involvement, but I was intrigued when I heard that Jason Segal was writing it, solely based on my enjoyment of his Sarah Marshall vampire puppet musical.

The Muppets as written by Jason Segal works quite well. It is entertaining, sweet, hilarious, adorable, and chock full of fun celebrity cameos (as expected). Without any spoilers I will just say I was awful excited to see that waitress.

A traditional musical, this movie embraces the honest emotional conflict about the idea of a new Muppet movie on the big screen. Should we? Do we still want to see a Muppet movie? Should we let sleeping Muppets lie? Maybe their time has passed and there won't be an audience for it anymore? Will we wreck everything with this if it sucks? Yet no one can deny how loveable our Muppets are, everyone has a favorite (mine is Pepe), and we will always want to see more.

The point is, the true heart in this tickling movie, is that it takes our beloved Muppets of the past and tells this new story with the weight of the material in hand. At no point do you feel the Muppets are being violated or that anything is "wrong." Granted, it's not our traditional old Muppets and honestly, it never will be due to the change in voice artists. None the less, Jason Segal honors the Muppets with this script, his love letter to their legacy.

Go see it. I love The Muppets. And I want to hug Jason Segal.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Laura Sees Movies: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Well this is it. The review you all have been waiting for. The Twilight film tetralogy is peaking with the final book that I've been told by readers "get weird." Many people have told me Breaking Dawn is "terrible," "my least favorite of the books," "jumps the shark," "takes a left turn," etc.

I, having read the summary of the Twilight book series on Wikipedia once by accident, was aware it was about to graduate to a significantly more adult level, however, I was curious how they would handle it on screen. After all, their bread and vegan butter is a teenage audience, and violent vampire sex plus the birth of a demon baby seem like R material to me.

No worries Team Jacob fans. Taylor Lautner's shirt comes off in the first 10 seconds of the movie. Seriously.

SPOILER ALERT: the dialogue is terrible. Honestly sometimes I can't believe these were ever books. To enjoy the Twilight series purely as a set of bad vampire teen movies is one thing but every time I remember someone actually read this drivel I get super depressed.

Breaking Dawn showcases the authors socially conservative beliefs even more than the previous stories. They wait for marriage to have sex, and once pregnant, Bella is horrified at the idea of an abortion and hardly considers it. Edward constantly dominates Bella and the most annoying thing Twilight does is hide this sexism under the guise of romance. It was easier for me to take it's blatant disregard for women lightly when it's just sexy boys fighting over having tense unfulfilled moments around a girl, but now that marriage and babies are involved it gets too deep and honestly I think the message these movies send is probably doing more harm than good.

Teenagers adore these boys because they say amazing things and that's quite powerful before you've learned how much people will lie. They're also hot. It's all sexy all the time and Bella, although exceptionally beautiful, is very much an every girl. I absolutely understand the obsession with this phenomenon. If I was younger, or maybe less bitter, I would be right there with those screaming teens.

Still, if I had a demon baby inside me, I don't think I would carry it to term, especially if it was killing me. And I wouldn't let my vampire husband boss me around either just because he might drink my blood.

Whatever. Robert Pattinson's hair looks good, Taylor Lautner is almost old enough for me to stop feeling guilty for wanting to slap him with my panties, and we are finally headed toward the payoff that the previous films have been so dramatically building up. Luckily part 2 is released in one year and then hopefully all these young fans will realize that people can be full of it and that Stephanie Meyer wove some really sick messages into her fiction.

It's a polarizing feeling to love terrible movies and simultaneously hate the message one is sending to young female minds. It's probably not doing nearly as much damage and I imagine.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Laura Sees Movies: Like Crazy

I am extremely fond of this movie.

My favorite movies list for 2011 is quite short, and Like Crazy has made the cut. An incredibly down to earth, refreshingly honest piece that portrays a complicated journey. A literal and simple examination of trying to make long distance work, Like Crazy minces no words, and is no fairy tale.

This couple is presented with the obstacle of attempting to maintain a relationship when our British heroine, Anna, driven by her passion for our American hero, Jacob, violates her student visa by staying a few months past it's expiration. Following this incident, our lovers are kept apart by inconvenience, red tape, and new sexual relationships with people who aren't halfway across the world.

Two young people are as capable of deep love as anyone, and you hope for our sweet couple throughout. However, you empathize with their attempts to have a normal life as well. As you watch, it's impossible to know what's best for anyone, and naturally, you begin to wonder if location is more powerful than love. Maybe hearts eventually travel to wherever our feet are, even if that's not necessarily where we would like them to be.

Without any spoilers I will say that the ending will surprise you, but Like Crazy does not have anyone skipping out of the theater. The performances are excellent, the dialogue is lovely, and it is shot in a delightfully uncomplicated manner which compliments the realistic style. It's about love, really.