Friday, June 29, 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

JohnnyTwoToes tells you why you need to see this disturbing but powerful drama thriller !

We Need To Talk About Kevin, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver, tells the painful story of a mother coming to grips with her son who has just committed ghastly crimes. She has gone from living in a very big and beautiful home with her husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly) and her son and daughter to a small rundown home in a less than ideal neighborhood. It is just her now. Why? Where is everyone else? 

The film was adapted into a film by Lynne Ramsay who cowrote the script with Rory Kinnear and a little help from the author, Mr. Shriver. As a lot of films do, they tend to over sentimentalize the drama so it feels somewhat staged and fake. Ramsay's direction is a steady mix, methodically seeing our main character of the mother, Eva (Tilda Swinton) wearing down. Eva is shunned in public (sometimes violently) and her new home is vandalized. She is stared at no matter where she goes and she feels responsible for all that happens to her. Swinton does not overdue the anguish she feels, though. She sells her balancing between psychosis and normality so well that I could not help but to feel sorry for her. It is hard not to. 

Now, Eva is not the most enthusiastic mother, but she does what she can for both of her children and her husband while a good provider, financially, is a bit of putz. He means well but is clueless of the horror that is heading their way in the form of their son, Kevin. Eva, meanwhile has done the best she could do, I guess, to be a homemaker but she sees something in Kevin at an early age that scares her. His behavior, his manners, down to his bodily functions strike an uneasy chord with Eva, to say the least. She tries to have Franklin help out but he laughs it off as "Kids will be kids." Clearly, there is something wrong with Kevin. He is sullen, angry and hateful to his mother but fine with his father. Why? you might think you have this film figured out but it goes further than you expect with heartbreakingly horrific results. 

We Need To Talk About Kevin is NOT a horror film. Nobody walks down a flight of stairs upside down, or pukes up green projectile vomit. This is clearly a drama and a very effective one. Tilda Swinton is simply fantastic as Eva. Her looks are perfect for the role as a woman on the edge of losing it and to watch her in this film I could not tell she was even acting. Ezra Miller as the teenage Kevin is nefariously cool and malicious; saint to sinner with a split second smile. Johnny Greenwood's score is sparse but effective and is peppered with timely and sometimes darkly humorous songs. 

I cannot reveal anymore of the plot but needless to say this is not a film to enjoy, so to speak. I think that the director's intention, too. It is an uncomfortable film, with uncomfortable subject matter and it will kick you in the gut. At least it did with me. In the end, director Ramsay has made a real powerful film. About the only thing I will say is you really have to be in the mood for this one. You will be emotionally invested in this film so you might not like what you see, but you will be glad you saw it. This is out on DVD and On Demand. We Need To Talk About Kevin-***1/2 out of 4.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review of Prometheus and Avengers

JohnnyTwoToes Reviews Prometheus and Avengers 

Note: I am very pleased to announce a new collaboration with JohnnyTwoToes, my friend, film-score collector, cinema enthusiast and a fellow Blogger from Nashville, Tennessee. Starting today, I would be working together with Johnny in bringing you some of the very best film scores and movie reviews in the days to come. After all, Johnny has an impressive collection of over 10000 movie scores - certainly much larger (and better) than mine. Here, he reviews two of the most prominent releases this summer of 2012 - Prometheus and Avengers along with Underworld:Awakening, the fourth installment in the Underworld film series! Read on, enjoy! 

Ridley Scott's Prometheus and Joss Whedon's Avengers are two of the best films of the year for different reasons. Scott's Prometheus is a creepy but intelligent science fiction film that is the "prequel" to his 1979 masterpiece Alien. If you go expecting a rehash of the Alien films,people screaming with exploding chests, you will be dissapointed. However, if you go to see a thoughtfully done film that they clearly have put a lot of though into creating then Prometheus is for you.

It starts out as scientists discover cave drawings that match from different areas of the world and from different time periods. It is an impossibilty that they all knew each other, so Mr. Weyland (Guy Pierce) finances a trip to the believed origin of the drawings with a crew of scientists and security personel. Once there, and after a calm before the storm, all hell breaks loose but not as you would think. That is all I can say without giving away the pleasures of this film. Suffice to say it is never boring, but it is a more cerebral film and challenges the audience to think. There is your standard but effective action that flows out of the characters and the story, but there is so much more here.

Scriptwriters by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelhof know how to construct a solid story with smart dialogue and clever, subtle humor. Ridley Scott, who has had a few stinkers in recent years rebounds and shows why he is a master of his craft, and Marc Streitenfeld's score is a glorious memorial to Jerry Goldsmith's score to the original film. I have not been the biggest fan of Mr. Streitenfeld's music, to be honest. I have his scores but, in the movie they were fine, on their own they were bland. Streitenfeld's Prometheus score is phenominally well done. To be honest, Harry Gregson-Williams did compose 2 tracks that are also terrific. Prometheus is old school science fiction done perfectly with a dream cast that includes Pierce, Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall Green and Michael Fassbender as the nefarious droid, David. The cast is uniformally excellent and solid throughout. The visuals and the cinematography are simply stunning and the details that they have put into Prometheus is simply staggering. Prometheus is a mesmerizing masterpiece. Prometheus-**** out of 4.

Joss Whedon's Avengers is a rousing, popcorn film that has a terrific cast and they are put to good use. Whedon has assembled all of the the Avengers to do battle with Loki after he steals the tesseract (a cube of unlimited energy and power). I have always liked superhero films even though they can be kind of silly. Whedon embraces silly with gusto and has LOTS of fun with it, too. The characters are all interesting and the screenplay, by Whedon, is smart and very,very funny. There are some great lines that are said in this film and Whedon sreads it out to all of the characters. Alan Silvestri's score is tremendously exciting as is the whole film so you will not be bored by anything that you see or hear. Avengers-**** out of 4.

On dvd, the latest installment of the Underworld franchise is out and this is one series they need to end. Underworld: Awakening is a dreadful piece of filmmaking that brings back Selena (Kate Beckinsale) battling with the humans and the Lycans(STILL?). This film is slow, boring and very uninteresting. After about 30 minutes I began to play Angry Birds on my phone, figuring I would not miss much. Only momentarily looking up did I realize I was right, too. The only thing Underworld has going for it Kate Beckinsale in a cat suit and Paul Haslinger's score. Other than that this franchise desperatly needs new blood (pardon the pun) or put it to rest. Underworld: Awakening *1/2 out of 4.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review of Siam Bayshore Resort and Spa, Pattaya, Thailand

Sleazy, Rundown Pattaya Resort in a Touristy Setting 

Note: This review (based on a my recent bad experience at this resort) was originally meant for but was never approved. They wanted me to edit it, make it acceptable, subtly hinting that I remove all or most of the negative remarks if I wanted to publish my review on TripAdvisor. I didn't want to do that so here it appears now. I'll write about this TripAdvisor bias soon in a separate post!

The Siam Bayshore Resort and Spa is supposedly a posh 4 star /5 star rated Beach resort that's currently ranked #13 of around 300 odd hotels across Pattaya, Thailand. Its at the other end of the Walking Street (a Pattaya landmark) near the Mixx club (i.e if you are entering from Pattaya Beach). This is the only distinct advantage (for which even I booked) this poorly managed, run down resort seems to have. For the price you shell out here, I would recommend staying at one of the better hotels on the Beach Road which are definitely better and cheaper - an expensive insight I gained after 2 nights I stayed here.. 

Well, the key ailment the Siam Bayshore suffers from is their awful and brash staffs who man the reception, the restaurant, the pool….pretty much everywhere across the hotel. They are unnecessarily rude, apathetic and treat hotel guests as free loaders. So, take the other glowing reviews you read on with not a pinch but loads of salt. Not believable at all considering I was at the same hotel treated by the same staff !! 

Anyway, apart from their ill-mannered and lethargic employees, some more bad pointers 

- The check in was a slow, ‘no smiles’ dismal affair. No welcome drink or cold towel that was promised and with a truly uninterested reception giving you that “ oh, here they come, one more check in” irritated look. 

- The lobby is small with a dated 80s look. Not the best of Thai architecture if you know what I mean. Nothing classy!

- The Rooms and their Balconies are in urgent need of renovation. Old furniture, faded worn out carpets, okay beds, erratic AC and a strong musty room odor and crawling insects all around. The water pressure in the shower (a must for me) was a miserable dribble that was never fixed in spite of bringing it to the hotel’s attention. 

- The entire hotel just has one single small lift that will take not more than 4 adults. I stayed at the topmost 4th floor and it was a perennial wait every time!! 

- They have 2 pools - one inside the hotel and one outside the hotel across the road facing the sea. The one inside is fairly big with a slide for children but the slide area stinks as it’s near the hotel sewer. 

- This pool is not manned by any lifeguard or staff ! I saw a near drowning of a kid who had waded deep into the pool and was rescued by a fellow guest so people with children need to beware of the hidden dangers!! 

- The pool outside on the road is used for their daily barbecue seafood buffet dinners. You don’t get access to this pool in the evenings unless you buy the dinner. It doesn't cut ice even if you are a resident guest at the hotel. Btw, don’t fall for the tempting buffet poster, I tried it – cold, limited selections with very little seafood, cheap deserts and most of all, expensive. 

- The morning buffet breakfasts were a mad rush with so-so service. Almost the exact small spread for both the days and I also found 2 of the dinner dishes too (from the previous night) repackaged in a new avatar for the morning selection. 

- The hotel concierge is a rip off. I ended up paying 3 times (more than the usual fare) for a taxi trip outing and I actually ended up at the wrong place.

- The Spa is a false suffix to the hotel name, the pricing is way over the top, and Spa staff – indolent and poorly experienced. You’ll get better quality and lesser prices just outside the hotel. 

- Night Security is lax at the gates and entry. As a late nighter, I found the inside hotel entry unmanned on both the nights and outside gates with guards who really don’t care who was entering or exiting the hotel. 

So, all in all, maybe this hotel works for desperate first timers who only visit Pattaya for all the wrong reasons and who are probably too intoxicated with all that Pattaya (and Walking Street especially can offer) but for frequent travelers and those visiting Pattaya for a nice holiday, the Siam Bayshore resort can be a complete spoilsport. I am not coming here ever again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Out Of Towners (1970)

Hilarious Neil Simon / Jack Lemmon NY Comedy from the 70s

Not the 1999 remake starring Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin but the original directed by Arthur Hiller (Love Story, Outrageous Fortune) and scripted by the Broadway guy Neil Simon (Lost in Yonkers).

In any case, the Out-Of-Towners is possibly the funniest movie ever made about a sanitation strike in a city or this is a lame NY comedy you’ll hate. Besides, has there ever been a Neil Simon movie set in New York without someone getting mugged at Central Park? It exactly depends on which side you are?

Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis are a unlucky Midwestern couple (George & Gwen Kellerman) who suffer through a night of every plausible Big Apple humiliation and go home with their tails between their legs. Good riddance! This city's tough enough without an extra pair of Simon characters whining in self-pity and issuing a non-stop stream of stale wisecracks. Watch out for comic cameos from ace comedians of that era like Paul Dooley, Ann Prentiss, Anthony Holland, Sandy Baron and Anne Meara.

Yet, the Out-Of-Towners is personally notable because it brought back some best moments of my life. College, is what I mean, when like the feckless couple from Ohio who fly to Manhattan for a job interview - I was prone to sleepless nights during my job hunts immediately after college. Not because of culture shock (well, at least not on the surface) but usually because I'd had too much on my mind, too many expectations and too many people around.

Another reason some may like the Out-Of-Towners is Sandy Dennis’ strong support and Jack Lemmon's witty performance. For a large part of the film, he has to whistle all his S's because he's chipped a tooth on the prize in the Cracker Jack box. I wonder if his understudy had to keep reminding him about it.

Almost as good as Richard Dreyfuss' sashaying, queeny King Lear in The Goodbye Girl. Must be a trademark Neil Simon thing, he seems to hold the limbo bar pretty low for his leading stars. Anyways, lets thank Neil Simon for making us laugh about violent crime... again. Neil Simon incidentally received the Writers Guild of America award for the screenplay. For me, it was a good watch though!

Free Streaming/Movie Download - Video Link: VeeHD

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fear Factor for Today's World

A special thanks to Mikeala B. Reid, a freelance political cartoonist and illustrator whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Boston Phoenix, Bay Windows, Metro Times, The Rochester Insider, Women's eNews, In These Times, Ms., The Funny Times, Campus Progress, Girlfriends, The Minnesota Women's Press, and other assorted fine publications.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Nordic Wake Party Lingo

Learning Words of Sorrow and Solace 

At college, I was friends with an oddball ‘beer addicted’ trio who were crazy about everything and anything Nordic - Norway especially. They frequently spoke Norwegian, loved Norwegian movies, Norwegian bands and even Norwegian beer - Ringnes!! In fact, during the summer, they went on a 30 day backpacking trip across the Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden. 

Their rented house was also called the Norse House. They claimed, it was "devoted" to the culture and lifestyle of the Nordic countries. When someone sent them an email that King Harald V of Norway died, they wanted to hold a wake party. They were too sloshed to even realize that it was a joke!! (By the way, Harald V still lives).

The joke notwithstanding, the Wake party was too good an idea so they wanted to do it anyway! It was decided that the people attending the party should express their grief and console other mourners in Norwegian. However, very few people at the party (in fact, none) would be able to speak Norwegian. neither do I. 

Crazy as it sound, I was hooked though. So, I went home, I went home, locked myself in my room, switched the net and emerged 3 hours hour later with the Norwegian Terms of Sorrow and Solace – a sample of which you see below that came quite handy at the Wake party!! 

Words for Sorrow and Grief 

Jeg er bedrøvet. 
I am sad. 

Jeg stal har dø. 
I should have died. 

Vi gikk å se "Min Liv Som Et Hund." 
Let's go see "My Life as a Dog." 

Mit bekken banket. 
My pelvis is throbbing. 

Min magesekk har stukket mod en Skjødpersons spyd. 
My stomach has been stabbed with a Laplander's spear. 

Words for Solace and Consolation

Jeg smører min sko. 
I am greasing my shoes. 

NÂ det omveltnig begînte! 
Now the revolution begins! 

Det Svenske som suge mose gjøret det!
The scum-sucking Swedes did it! 

Ham var et adelig mann. Ham manget å tilføyelse Island. 
He was a noble man. He wanted to annex Iceland. 

Du er aller tiltrekkende. Behage trøst meg. 
You are very attractive. Please comfort me. 

Learn them by heart, and you will never again feel at a loss when you are at a crazy Norwegian wake party, or in Norway or need to express your sadness or comfort an other Norwegian.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Big is Beautiful or Is It ?

NOT what YOU Think !!

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