A Room of My Own

the inner ramblings of a self-declared geek

Here, at the end of all things July 14, 2011

Filed under: movies — aroomofmyown @ 7:14 pm
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Tonight is the night a decade or so in the making.  I can hardly stand it.  I’ve had tickets to a midnight showing for roughly a month now, and even though I will be insanely tired at work tomorrow, there is no way I’m missing the last new Harry Potter.

I wasn’t always this crazy.

No one ever said kids books had to be just for kids, but it wasn’t until J.K. Rowling started this opus to wizardry and friendship that I really believed it.  Sure, I had read plenty of kids books, but I read them when I was a kid.  I could reread certain children’s literature for the nostalgia aspect, but I wasn’t really interested in wasting my time perusing new ones.

But these books are something different.  They captivate you from the start.  No adult should feel silly reading these books.  They are so obviously written by someone that loves books and words and history.  The books grow and age, both the children in them, and the content and narrative itself.  It’s an incredible feat to be so aware of your characters at each stage and to usher them so lovingly and naturally through adolescence.

People often talk about how amazingly creative the books are, imagining new worlds and games and histories.  But to me it is much more impressive that Rowling is such a meticulous and informed writer.  She had the story fully envisioned from the beginning and plots it perfectly.  Things that appear in the first chapter reappear with greater significance books later, a modern usage of the rule known as Chekhov’s gun.  Her spell language and character names all have a basis in Latin that is full of foreshadowing.

These are books about children, but for everyone.  After the last one came out, I was sad to be at the end of the Harry Potter journey, but I consoled myself with the movies that had yet to be made.  Now, we are at the end of that journey as well.  It will be sad.  It will be exciting.  It will be perfect, here, at the end of all things.

 

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What They Died For… May 19, 2010

Filed under: movies — aroomofmyown @ 5:29 pm

Somehow I’m trying to tie the approaching Lost finale into my new resolve to blog weekly, but I can’t do it.  This post is about two things.

  1. I am going to try very hard for the next couple of months to make weekly posts to this blog.  Since I’ve started it, it’s been a rather tepid relationship, if I’m going to be honest.  But, hell.  If I can quit smoking, I can blog consistently.
  2. Lost is about to end!  To put it simply, omg.  O.M.G.

What can I say about this show?  That it’s brilliant.  Captivating.  Frustrating. Heartbreaking.  Exhilarating.  Mysterious.  Thought-provoking.  Classic.  Seriously, whether they are flashing backwards, forwards or sideways, I love this show.  We only have one episode left and I still don’t know what the end will look like.   It’s pretty useless to try to make predictions, because this show has a habit of going places you didn’t even think possible.

But let me say this.  After a brief period of trepidation at the beginning of the season, I have grown to love the flash sideways.  I’m not sure if I love season-four-Desmond or season-six-Desmond better, but I always love him.   For a minute, I thought Ben might redeem himself, but I think he’s going to go out like the bastard he came in.  Of course it was Jack.  It was always Jack.

I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but I’m more excited to finish this journey.  To stand at the end of it all and say see you in another life, brother.

 

It’s very gripping…Needs a third act. July 20, 2009

Filed under: movies — aroomofmyown @ 4:43 pm

I’ve been on a movie marathon lately.   In the span of one week, I have been to three films (incidentally, each movie at a different theater).  Even more unusual, every one of them was good, if not great.  It seems hard to believe in the season of superheroes and dirty jokes, but I have found a few gems.

The first, I guess, doesn’t count as something other than a summer blockbuster  (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, iPic Theater).  But the Harry Potter movies just keep getting better and better.  And I don’t think you have to be a Potterhead to love them.  In fact, I saw the first four movies before I ever picked up one of the books.

But this one has a little bit of everything.   It’s fun and exciting.  It’s also the darkest and saddest of the movies.  And it contains a genuine, jump-out-of-your-seat moment.  I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish.  It was also the first time I could have a beer whilst watching a Harry Potter movie.  Not that I did, but I could have.

Another movie on my list was Away We Go at the Oriental Theater.  I knew I loved Sam Mendes for a reason (besides his excellent taste in wives).  This is certainly his best movie since American Beauty, but not really anything like it.  Except maybe it’s also about people struggling to follow their own path.

Yet instead of being surrounded by a deadened suburbia, these characters are surrounded by freaks, in every corner of our country, and some others as well.  It’s sweet and funny and irreverent and tender and over-the-top to a perfect amount.  You can’t watch this movie and not fall in love with the main couple.

Finally, I saw Julie and Julia at the Majestic in a sneak peek.  I went to this movie expecting to be mildly entertained and slightly amused.  It turned out to be everything I expected, only more of it.  I thought it would be funny, but there were more laugh out loud moments than I expected.  I knew I’d love Meryl Streep, but I was completely charmed by Amy Adams as well.  In addition to the women, the men playing the husbands were also extraordinarily good in their roles.

I liked that it was a fun, intelligent movie for women that didn’t have to be about getting the guy.  It was not a romantic comedy, but it had plenty of romance and comedy in it.

I would suggest all three, but maybe not all to the same person, seeing as they are wildly different movies.  It’s not often I say this, but I would own every one of the movies I saw last week.

Enjoy them if you can.  Let me know what you thought.

Next up, (500) Days of Summer. It has possibly two of my favorite actors in the lead roles.  I’ll keep you posted when I see it.

 

Okay, a normal girl and her cradlerobbing, creature-of-the-night boyfriend May 1, 2009

Filed under: fun stuff,movies — aroomofmyown @ 10:30 pm

After such a lengthy sabbatical, one would think the subject of my recrudescent post would be lofty, weighty or some equally heft-conscious term.  One would think.

But then, one would think to one’s self, “Is that really Jess?”  “Is she lofty or weighty (hold the fat jokes)?”  And one would come to the obvious conclusion.  So, I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that I want to talk about Buffy.

I just finished reading the Twilight saga.  What a rip off.  They, like, totally stole the idea of a teenage girl in love with a good guy vampire from the best TV show ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

Now, I admit to the guilty pleasure of reading those books.  It’s like cotton candy, Ricky Martin songs and every movie with Lindsay Lohan.  I know they can’t be good for me, but I indulge myself anyway.  But ultimately, Twilight is trite, formulaic teenage Harlequin romance, with the naughty parts politely blurred out to avoid scarring any young minds.

All you need to do is compare the main characters.  Both are high school age girls, considered to be outsiders, starting over in a new place.  But whereas Bella (even the name is trendy) is quiet and clumsy, meant to evoke the awkward adolescent in all of us – and therefore conforming to every stereotype imaginable – Buffy defies our expectations.  Bella may die for her boyfriend, but Buffy will kick ass for hers.

It comes down to the name.  Buffy…it’s ridiculous; it belongs to a valley girl.  When you look at Buffy, you may see a cheerleader, but inside she’s a superhero.  BtVS is full of irony and angst and humor and tension.  Twilight is sweet and predictable and never once caused me to laugh out loud or burst into tears (frequent occurrences during Buffy viewings).   Where one is entertaining, the other is exquisite.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Bella and her pack of vegetarian vampires pale in comparison to Buffy and a vampire with a soul.  Just call me one of the Scoobies.

PS – Trying out a new theme for the big return.  I think it’s working out okay.

 

And every summer, there she is oiling and lotioning, lotioning and oiling July 21, 2008

Filed under: movies — aroomofmyown @ 5:48 pm

I know it has been forever since I’ve posted. But work got pretty busy through spring and then, well, you know. The snow finally melted and windows were open, porches were begging to be sat upon. Blogging kind of slipped my mind for awhile. But now I find myself in the midst of my summer and I figured it was time to write something. Anything.

Seeing as my brain isn’t up for too much witty banter or political commentary, I decided to make a movie list, which I personally feel is always a good fall back. So I give you my top 10 summer movies. Except there are seven.

1. Jaws (1975)

I swear, this movie could make any number of my “favorite” lists: horror, summertime, blockbuster, monster, childhood, etc. It’s ubiquitous and omnipotent in my world. I bow down before it. But how can it not be about summer? It takes place on an island in the middle of July. Not to mention the sailboats, beach parties and skinny-dipping.

2. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Who wouldn’t want to spend their summer at Kellerman’s? Planned activities. Back alley abortions. Geriatric thieves. But seriously, I watched this movie so much on cable growing up that I could probably dance the final scene with Patrick Swayze. It was the kind of summer that was long gone (with a couple decades to spare) when I was born, but it doesn’t make it any less fun to spend it with Baby and Johnny.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Speaking of summers long gone by…The innocence and goodness exemplified by this movie might not simply be out of date, but might never have existed at all, except for a hazy image of nostalgic wistfulness. Still, the sweetness of this summer tale is topped only by the certainty that you will never know a man as noble and true as Atticus Finch.

4. Dazed and Confused (1993)

For all the sentimental longing of the previous two, I love this movie for its irreverance. Plus, it’s markedly closer to resembling any kind of summer I have ever had. Long days, lots of beer, the quest for the best concert tickets – although mine were Dave Matthews and not Aerosmith. The notable difference is that my summers didn’t start to look like this until I was in college, not high school.

5. Bull Durham (1988 )

While there are plenty of good baseball movies (A League of Their Own, Field of Dreams and Bad News Bears come to mind), this one is my favorite. It’s a movie that has grown on me over the years and now reminds me of long, steamy, sexy summer nights. Not to mention, I owe my whole new appreciation for Walt Whitman to this movie.

6. The Love Letter (1999)

I can never imagine a more magical place to spend the summer than Lob Lolly by the Sea. This movie makes me want to go to the Cape. It makes me want to work in a bookstore. It makes me want to be best friends with Ellen Degeneres. This movie also charms you with its lovers dancing in their underwear, the small town quirks and friendships, and plenty of old fashioned romance.

7. Twister (1996)

The movie is called Twister…it practically screams summer. Plus, the whole thing is full of that charged energy that lingers right before a big storm. Sometimes, in the middle of the long, harsh winter, I put this movie on, and I swear I can feel the warm wind blowing and the storm brewing.

 

We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes October 30, 2007

Filed under: lists,movies — aroomofmyown @ 5:47 pm

As promised, I have compiled a list of my favorite horror movies. The following nine movies are presented in no particular order, except the order in which they popped into my head.

1. M (1931)

M

Directed by legendary Fritz Lang, who also brought us Metropolis, this film is a study in suspense. Peter Lorre delivers a terrifying performance as a child murderer, who not only horrifies his young victims and their parents, but also convincingly portrays the agony of his affliction. One of the first films to focus on the concept of a serial killer, M is a natural starting point for any budding horror movie enthusiast.

2. The Shining (1980)

Also directed by a legend, Stanley Kubrick brings his dark, meticulous vision to the Overlook Hotel. From a superbly selected score to a lead actor in the form of Jack Nicholson who plays crazy just a little too convincingly, this movie is chilling from start to finish. However, it is the bloody images of two eerie little girls that always cause me to watch the scenes from between the cracks of my fingers.

3. High Tension (2003)

After this small French film, Alexandre Aja went on to direct the spectacularly brutal (and much more successful) remake of the Hills Have Eyes. But it is his lesser known piece that sticks with me. A clear homage to the slasher flicks of the 70’s & 80’s, there are many things about this film that should not work. From situations we’ve seen many times before, to a familiar, faceless killer, to the plot twist all filmmakers seem to employ nowadays, Aja somehow makes it all feel brand new. Add to it Cecile De France’s command performance as Marie, and you get a very bloody, very passionate movie.

4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Not only does this movie provide some of the most paralyzing moments on this list, it is arguably also the best film of my lifetime. One of only three movies in history to sweep the Oscars, Anthony Hopkins gives life to an iconic character and Jodie Foster reminds me why she’s one of the smartest actresses working today. A couple of trips to the doctor’s cell and some clever cross-cutting later, the climax of this film still leaves me breathless, even though I know by now that Agent Starling defeats Buffalo Bill in the shadows of that basement.

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The precursor of the slasher flicks, this movie proves that less can be more. Without the amount of sex and gore of the subgenre it helped shape, this film proved how effectively scary the statement ‘based on a true story’ could be. No more real than the masked killers it inspired, this movie nonetheless delivers with its claims of veracity, its stark soundtrack (the movie itself is scoreless) and its collection of unforgettably creepy characters.

6. Halloween (1978)

If Leatherface is the stern daddy figure that spawned the infallible masked killer prototype, Michael Meyers is the cooler, older brother everyone wants to be. The first of the Unholy Trinity (joined in ’81 by Jason Vorhees and ’84 by Freddy Krueger), this movie makes my list for simply being the best of the slew of movies these three would eventually inspire. A simple premise, illustrated by a disturbing point-of-view shot in the beginning of the film, and lots of blood, sex and mayhem later, Halloween became Carpenter’s classic.

7. Jaws (1975)

Proving once again that necessity is the mother of invention, Steven Spielberg had to shoot around a malfunctioning mechanical shark. Using water-level shots and John William’s ominous score, the viewer’s imagination is left to fill in much of the horror. The result of not seeing the shark on screen until a substantial portion of the movie has passed is still causing viewers to scream in fright and keeping potential swimmers firmly on the ground. Wildly successful, this movie launched the concept of ‘blockbuster.’

8. Psycho (1960)

A master in his trade, Alfred Hitchcock built a career out of the subtle art of surprise vs. suspense. This movie has a bit of both. Surprise is when Janet Leigh meets her untimely end in the shower less than halfway through the movie. Suspense is when we know a killer resides at the Bates Motel for the rest of the film, while the rest of the characters do not. With possibly one of the greatest lines ever in a horror movie, Psycho still has us going a little mad almost 50 years later.

9. Scream (1996)

In the mid-90’s, Wes Craven reinvented the horror genre with his clever, self-aware Scream trilogy. Employing the slasher flick cliches, while at the same time poking fun at them, Scream will make you laugh just as often as its titular reaction. Beating out even Psycho with its shocking murder, Craven kills his blond bombshell in the opening act, a small role performed smartly by Drew Barrymore. Video-store-geek Randy’s rules for surviving a horror movie should be a mission statement for any horror film aficionado.

So that’s my list. Not meant to be comprehensive, it’s just a fun collection in honor of Halloween. I invite you to leave your favorite horror movie in the comments. Unless, of course, you can’t stomach the genre. In that case, you could write about the movie that scared you so much, you can no longer watch anything scarier than Fox News.

 

Generally speaking, when scary things get scared, not good October 15, 2007

Filed under: movies — aroomofmyown @ 5:01 pm

In honor of Halloween, one of my favorite holidays, all the horror and suspense movies have been moved to the top of my Netflix queue. Hence, a number of my next posts will be devoted to the darker side of the movie spectrum.

Today, I want to take the opportunity to review a movie that I was long overdue to watch. The release of his latest film prompted me to finally settle in for Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects.

Devil’s Rejects

To say I was delightfully surprised would be an understatement. Given that his debut endeavor played like a 90-minute version of one of his music videos, I didn’t have much hope for the sequel. What I found was a cleaner, tighter version of a horror movie that turned some of the conventions of a sequel on its head. While Mr. Zombie still has a tendency to use slow motion and shock vulgarity to cliched effect, he has grown as a filmmaker.

Turning his collection of psychotic killers into the victims of this movie makes this a sequel unlike any other to a horror movie we have seen recently. After all, who roots for the devil? Mr. Zombie works at manipulating our sympathies towards unforgivable characters.

His characters, particularly Otis, Baby and Captain Spaulding, become much more than caricatures. These are no faceless killers with zero emotion and relentless ability to survive death. These are humanized creatures, capable of rage, annoyance, excitement, even love and fear.

Mr. Zombie has grown in other ways as well. A soundtrack filled with southern rock is used coyly and with no small amount of irony. The guitar-and-bullet-ridden finale had me grudgingly cheering on characters I despised half a movie ago.

Also, the decision to drop the Dr. Satan storyline, one of the downfalls of House of 1000 Corpses, is a sign of a more mature filmmaker. The tangent just confused the plot. As a rule, plot lines do not need to be terribly convoluted for a horror movie. There is a difference between scarce and simple, and the remainder is quality.

All in all, a step up for Mr. Zombie, this film makes us uncomfortable not only with its blood and guts (which are more than ample), but also with its ability to force up to acknowledge the humanity of the bad guy. Who roots for the devil? Well, in this movie, I do.