Monday, December 31, 2007

Shawna's top ten of 2007

Now, let's be clear -- these would be the top ten films I ACTUALLY SAW in 2007. Julie saw a lot more films than I did, so her list will probably be better. Still, I saw more than 10 movies in a theater (23 to be exact -- my fewest in probably 15 years), so it has to count for something...

Okay, from 10 to 1 (1 being the best film I saw in 2007):

10. Grindhouse
9. Sunshine
8. Enchanted
7. The Bourne Ultimatum
6. Gone Baby Gone
5. 300
4. Waitress
3. Sweeney Todd
2. Hot Fuzz
1. Ratatouille

Honorable mentions: Atonement and 28 Weeks Later.

1/2 UPDATE - Somehow I completely forgot about "Eagle vs. Shark". I would probably swap it for #8 and push 'Grindhouse' off the list to honorable mention status.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm Not There...

...I wish. This was by far the most pretentious piece of cinema I've ever seen. Far be it from me to rain on everyone's turtleneck and beret parade, but I couldn't stand 5 minutes of this film let alone the 135 minutes of self absorbed run time.
Let me put it this way. This movie made me feel like having an argument with a 4 year old child.
"Tommy, did you eat your cereal?"
"No Tommy, the cereal did you eat it?"
"OK. Never mind, you win."

It was how I imagine a trendy loft party in Soho would feel like. I walk in and am immediately stared down by a circle of intellectual snobs complete in turtlenecks and black rimmed glasses. After giving me a good scoffing, they turn their noses back to their original discussion: Jane Austen vs. Emily Dickinson aka Pride and Prejudice? Then I feel weird and stupid and unwelcome and just want to leave. Oh wait, pretty much how I felt the entirety of the movie!

Sometimes I feel like I should be more worldly, more exposed to the art and thoughts around me. So I made the mistake of linking artistic to modern and ended up at the Modern Art Museum one day. There I stood in front of two by fours with a piece of hanging wire glued onto it and, if I was lucky, a stripe of color painted down the middle. Oh and what's that? A Pepsi can tacked to a cardboard box? Uchk. I hate pretentious modern art and I hate ostentatious modern art indie film. Enter, I'M NOT THERE.

I did little research going into the film. I stupidly thought that it was a Bob Dylan biopic in the vein of WALK THE LINE, but turned on it's head a little by the addition of a chick playing Dylan and maybe a few other misanthropes portraying him at various ages. Nope, that's the evil studio version that could have made a fortune and have been the catalyst for throngs of teenagers downloading old Dylan tracks. But alas, Todd Haynes threw caution (and logic) to the wind and said "Screw you guys, I'm making a thought provoking tour de force and I don't care if anyone gets it or not!" Well congratulations Todd, I didn't.

Where the film tries to be symbolic and poetic it's confusing and frustrating. What the heck is a blue whale doing in the film eating the little black kid? Why were none of the versions of Dylan even allowed to be called BOB DYLAN? Why were there documentary style talking head interviews that not only confused the through line, but pulled the film to a dead halt every single time? I can't go on. I seriously don't care and I was seriously annoyed at the end of the movie.

I sat through the entire thing, just waiting, just hoping that eventually they'd wrap it all up to a concise and realistic/actual ending - 'where's Bob today' sort of thing. Sorry, Todd couldn't be bothered.

At least when I watch the tripped out movies HEAD or THE WALL they have an understandable narrative, main characters, and an exciting and fun soundtrack. I'M NOT THERE had the soundtrack.

Monday, December 3, 2007


So Shawna and I got to see a freebie screening of ENCHANTED at the less than enchanting early morning hour of 9am. Shut up, I know 9am isn't early but it's early when you have to get there hours before just to ensure you can beat out a bunch of 6 year olds in line behind you. Our moods couldn't be darkened by even the nosiest of babies crying, talking, whining, seat kicking during the flick - which should basically be enough to tell you we enjoyed it.

Disney has had the stranglehold on the princess market for years now so it's no surprise they felt compelled to grace us with another Halloween costume idea (that we'll no doubt be able to purchase around June '08 for our youth). Not that I have a problem with that whatsoever. Thank God for people who still want young girls to play dress up and play make believe. And although I don't consider myself a feminist, I'm proud to see they took the helpless princess myth (they had a hand in creating) and turning it on it's head for once. Little girls don't necessarily need KILL BILL to show them how to be a strong and independent woman, so it's nice to see they have something in their age range that doesn't smack of apologetic either.

If you haven't seen JUNEBUG, go rent it and feel free to avoid most of the movie and just watch the parts featuring Amy Adams. It's practically her demo reel showcasing her ability to love furry animals, be awed by everything, and her uncanny talent to make everyone around her want to be a better/nicer person. She's incredible at being naive, and more importantly, at just being a good person. She makes the perfect princess and does so without being shrill, precious, or annoying.

There homages left and right, so read the insider Disney blogs before you go to know which receptionist in the movie did the voice for Belle and who was Ariel. Not that any of that matters in the grand scheme of things, but it does make for a little LOST like adventure while you sit.

Although intrigued by ENCHANTED, I did have a few "wha?" moments like why not more Susan Sarandon - in human form she was much more threatening than her cartoon self. Like SPLASH there's a great deal of suspension of disbelief, which I'll go with any day if executed well, however, there wasn't a trace of courage to be found in attempting to flesh out some of the mythology in the film. HOW can a cartoon go from their world to ours? WHY does it have to be in a sewer hold in the middle of NYC? WHY can't an evil witch queen find a way to stop her Prince kid from following the would-be princess? HOW does he know how to get there? And I could go on and on, but again, they didn't HAVE to answer these questions, the movie works without having to, so easy out!

Stop being a self loathing sarcastic shell for a few hours and go see a fun, colorful, smart, and sweet Disney movie that the whole family (literally for once) can enjoy. Afterwards I guarantee you'll be smiling, letting a car cut in front of you on the way out of the parking deck, and it might take at least 2 hours before you fall victim to the sour grapes reality that we all unfortunately, easily melt into.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It's likely you're going to want to get out of the house this weekend and avoid Christmas shopping and the grim reality of the year flying by faster than paparazzi on their way to get shots of Britney's latest SUV exit. So do yourself a favor and go buy a ticket to see JUNO - yes you can believe the hype on this one. It's the NAPOLEON DYNAMITE/LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE indie hit of the year. So feel free to like it and join the "it" crowd, or dislike it and join the other portion of the "it" crowd who will no doubt be changing their mind once the majority of the public like the film too.

All the press on Diablo Cody, albeit well deserved and inherently interesting to cover, has, I believe, overshadowed the amazing actors performing her masterpiece. Jennifer Garner is one smart cookie and I hope to see her take on more roles that allow her to go from cute and silly romcoms to these more serious and strict, yet likable characters. Jason Bateman can do no wrong these days (let's ignore MAGORIUM for now), and his natural and seamless comedy chops are in full effect. Michael Cera is spot on as his usual awkward yet highly observant for his age self. Finally, Ellen Page, who will hopefully not have to audition and fight off hoards of teenage snarky competition to snatch her next role, was pitch perfect and held her own amongst the cast.

Although no one is a proponent of teenage pregnancy, it was refreshing to see one put on the screen that felt, ick, for lack of a better word, real. It addressed abortion without beating us over the head with the pro and con viewpoints which allows the audience to form their own opinions (gee go figure). The film allowed for a more adult conversation to be made about not only teenagers growing up too fast, but adults as well. Bateman's character is a kid in adult clothing who grew up too fast and resents every second of his "adult" life. However, again, we as the rather smart and attractive audience that we so much resemble, are allowed to agree or disagree with the characters actions without the smell of judgement filling the room.

It's great to see lower budget fare with strong source material doing so well in the marketplace. Let's hope this give studios breathing room to add a few more to the slate and a few less "four quadrant friendly" accountant developed fare in the years to come.

Lars and the Real Girl

I had the pleasure of reading Nancy Oliver's script way back when and I remember the intense enjoyment I got from just the word on the page. I know what you're thinking, "Hey Julie, pick up a book sometime", but it's just so rare these days to have a such a visceral happy response to an extremely well crafted script. So when it came time to finally see the movie, it was going to have to do a great job of overcoming my already uber high expectations for it. Luckily for both parties involved, it did.

One of my all time favorite movies that I could watch repeatedly and never tire of (you know, the deserted island DVD) is HARVEY. Jimmy Stewart's performance is heartwarming, realistically fantastical, and subtle. It's the universal question of what makes someone crazy vs. our "sanity" - and more importantly how their insanity reflects on our own struggles in this crazy world.

Ryan Gosling's performance is so precise, so understated, and so tortured, that it's impossible to not leave this movie a more observant person that when you came in. I wouldn't dare compare Ryan to Jimmy, they are different entities and, well, I'm just not ready to think anyone can beat Jimmy at the game. However, I will say that when it comes to evoking an emotional response from just "being" on the screen, he ranks up there with the best of em.

LARS is the story of a young man so despondent, so depressed, and so lonely, that he decides to order a Real Doll to fill his empty void. His brother and sister in law are a mix of emotions - both ecstatic that Lars has decided to come out of his shell, but horrified at the fantasy that comes along with it. In other words, the Real Doll is Lars' white rabbit - only her ability to be seen makes it even harder for those trying to not let the inmate run the asylum.

I won't go into story synopsis here, I hate reading those, and more than that someone always gives away too much of the story. So I leave it with you to see the movie and hopefully have a fun time getting to play in Lars' world, even though the glaring reality of life threatens and surrounds him. Getting the chance to appreciate what we have and understanding that we could all do with a little more make believe in our lives is a priceless gift. It's also one we've been afforded before - ALICE IN WONDERLAND, BEING THERE, HARVEY, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY are just a sliver of examples where Coo-Coo Crazy mixes with Eccentric mixes with Sad. In the end we're all just lonely people looking for someone to bring out the best in us, otherwise it's no fun to be our amazing selves, all by ourselves.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


The epic poem you tried to avoid reading in high school, "Beowulf" has now been adapted again for the screen, only this time director Robert Zemekis chose to use 3-D computer animation to tell the tale.

Okay, so I like to pretend I'm a writer, and yet I see that my sister the supposed non-writer of the Benson sisters is completely pwning me in the witty and biting reviews she's writing. I'm not sure I can compete on this turf.

Still, I'll give it my best shot, and I've got quite a shot to take at "Beowulf."

First, let's establish some "dos and don'ts" for animated action films:


Give all of your male characters six-pack abs.


Mimic Austin Powers films by playing "hide the sausage" behind candles, helmets and whatever else can conveniently cover the exposed nether-regions of aforementioned 6-pack ab carrying heroes.


Give a rousing and stirring battle cry. Example: 300 had "This. Is. Sparta!"


Try to rally people by constantly announcing yourself. Example: "I. Am. BEOWULF!" It makes you sound totally egocentric and lame. Seriously, you're one step away from someone mocking you "ooh, look at me, I'm Beowulf, y'all, aren't I awesome?"


Present characters and vistas which we could only imagine and can only now be created in some lifelike manner by computer animation.


Try to use 3-D to the point of annoyance. Yes, I can tell I'm watching a 3-D film because I'm wearing stupid glasses. I don't need your movie pointing spears at me to scream out "look! I'm in 3-D! Here's a spear!"

So, now that we have those little rules out of the way, what's left to say?

Um, Neil Gaiman and Roger Avery, I really really like you guys. Really. But maybe we didn't read the same poem.

Grendel is a troll (and Crispin Glover was good voice casting). Last I checked there is no mention of who Grendel's father is. And I know you were going for this "vicious circle, sins of the father" thing, but honestly, it felt shoehorned in to me.

Beowulf is a flat out hero. Period, end of story. He is not some flawed human character...certainly not in the literature. I know it's very en vogue to paint all heroes as flawed and somewhat more human than previously portrayed (see new wimpy-Superman and loser-Cyclops for reference), but seriously, Beowulf's only flaw is he likes to brag about himself. And what kind of flaw is that if you are a badass who kills monsters and rips off arms?

So, no more of this "remember me as a man, not a hero" b.s. they keep peddling. I like my heroes to be like my vodka -- clear, strong and straight up.

No frou-frou for my heroes, please.

Oh, what the movie? It looks really cool in places. Can't say much for the sound, since I was in a theater with a crappy audio set up. The 3-D was fine except for the gratuitous tricks, and the characters move well. Most of the women (with the exception of the Jolie-model) have limited facial movements and look like plastic Barbie dolls.

Worth a rental, unless you are dying to see 3-D, then you might as well take it in on the big screen.

And if you avoided reading Beowulf in school, you'll think it's a pretty decent story. If you have read it, this version won't make a lot of sense.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dan In Real Life

I've been to Paris. Once. Granted it was a whirlwind 36 hours in the city of love, but it pretty much lived up to everything I thought it would be. Beautiful architecture, amazing food, romantic lighting, and the unsettling feeling of being judged as a "Stoopid Americahn".

This unfortunate, if not accurate, French stereotype had trouble dissipating during DAN IN REAL LIFE as I watched the gorgeous Juliette Binoche flow on and off the screen. She's PERFECT! Of course Steve Carell, Dane Cook, and practically every man in the room would fall in love with her. Problem is, she's TOO PERFECT! It was virtually impossible to believe that this graceful creature would be playing tackle football or NOT horrified to put on used bowling shoes. I kept waiting for her to fit the children for berets, wake everyone up to the smell of fresh baguettes, and teach the adults the finer points of wine tasting. That's what Binoche would be doing on a Tuesday, not roughing it in the sticks with some loud and nosey extended family.

The following exchange may or may not have been in the movie. I may or may not be making this up, I honestly can't remember.

Dan (Steve Carell)
Gee Marie (Juliette Binoche), you look really good this morning.

Oooh thank you Mr. Dan, vou are so sweet and I lauve vou.

What? Don't you mean you love my brother who is predestined to marry a stripper and not a beautiful Parisian goddess like yourself? What the heck did you see in him anyway?

Moi? Ooh I dunno, I tink he vas, how do you say, funny. But non, I lauve you and here ist saume French Toast for vou.

Aw shucks.

Unfortunately, Peter Hedges decided to write/direct a bit of fantasy this time using only imaginary characters for an imaginary perfect world where families gather at the off season to play crossword puzzles and put on variety shows. It might have been nice to ground the father/daughter relationship between Steve and his eldest as we never do see them have a heart to heart about her desire to leave the nest. Notice how Hedges chooses to go for the broad laugh in the shower scene. Instead of Steve being captivated by his daughter exposing her feelings and soul, he's captivated by the naked Binoche in front of him. A moment that if turned on it's head would have meant the world in character development for everyone involved, but no, you're right Peter, let's have Steve jump out of a two story window instead for a good trailer moment.

My suspension of disbelief and ducking the flying loose ends aside, I did find moments of this film very touching, all credit due to Steve Carell. His emotional guitar duet should make you tear up if you have any soul left in your carcass. It's just to bad that someone as funny and talented as Carell is subjugated to pratfalls and someone as untalented and unfunny as Dane Cook gets work.

It's not the worst movie I've seen all year, we'll save that honor for SPIDERMAN III. If you're looking for a a BIG CHILL like romcom than this is your one stop shop. But if you're looking for the feel good, best acted, laugh out loud filled movie of the year then go see JUNO or LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (those reviews coming soon) and netflix this for a good chuckle one night. There is very little reality in Dan's "Real" Life.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

American Gangster

Tremendous acting chops, a detailed and talented director, and 2 1/2 hours of numb-butt were all in full effect in this "mobsters for dummy's" flick. However, it seems that the exorbitant cost of paying Russell, Denzel, and Ridley to do the film left a lack of funds for the hair and make-up department. I counted at least 10 bad mustaches in the first hour of the film and then lost track to what I believe is the best "how-to" movie of the year.

Sure, the GODFATHER gave us a glimpse into the world of Italian mobsters and revenge, but this tour de force not only steals all that good stuff, it adds a primer on how to go from lackey to loaded! That's right kids, it's the man who can supply the purest form of addictive substances to their neighborhood walks away with the gold! Although this may sound like capitalism at it's best, the slightly twisted addition that heroin KILLS most of it's customers leaves a bit of a stopgap in their longevity. Instead of quietly suggesting they quit the needle cold turkey, Denzel hands out free turkeys to the the grateful demographic. So I suppose that's a bit of free promotion that not only keeps the town at his feet, but keeps the addicts inside with plenty of leftovers to snack on while stoned.

As an exclusive here on SisterCritics, I'm confessing that I'm going to switch careers and go into the entrepreneurial world of mobster-ing. Instead of drugs I will market heroin kits! Every great product needs accessories, and while the other guy is doing the dirty (and illegal) work of addicting the locals, I'll simply supply cute and crafty heroin roll up kits complete with the following:

A personalized needle - one can't be too safe these days with all that AIDS going around.

An adjustable thick rubber band - available in hundreds of designs and colors - try the popular "American Flag"!

A Williams Sonoma Silver Spoon - it's the extra long handle you'll appreciate next time you burn your fingers on those knock off spoons.

A cotton ball dispenser - the organic fibers collect more heroin juice than that "other" brand.

Zippo Lighter - engraving available

A pillow - for the after shoot up snooze

And probably much more after I really research what it takes to actually shoot up heroin - all of this coming from a gal who re-reads the Advil bottle 15 times before taking one.

Sorry everyone, I got a little carried away with my new business plan, but I'd better keep tight lipped on this idea - it's money in the bank. So what did I think of the movie?

Although I agree that both actors can read the phonebook and I'd still pay $15 bucks to see them, it might have been nice to see them acting in the same scene together for more than 5 minutes. Not only is it abominable that the GODFATHER church scene killing montage is "borrowed" for AG's climax, it's the only 10 minute montage that has these guys sharing some celluloid. Some of the most interesting aspects of Denzel's character come out in the final moments, but let's just toss those aside and get to the part where he takes down the big bad NYPD. Sigh. Great performances, tacky mustaches, twisted POV/message, all of which pretty much make it a shoe-in for an Oscar nom.

So run out and see AMERICAN GANGSTER soon as most people already believe it's the best movie of the year and not even Russell Crowe's Joe Don Baker hairstyle can deter them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

We're Baaaack!

"Ok. So it's been awhile." No wait, let's start over.

"Hey, how ya been?" Too casual?

Erm, how's "sorry it's taken us almost 5 years to bring back SisterCritics" suit you? Better? Good, now moving on...

We've (Julie and Shawna) been pretty busy these last few years and no excuse is really going to be good enough for why we've let you down. (Do you like how we're assuming you care? Good, cause it makes us feel better about ourselves.) But we've dug deep and realized that we missed doing SisterCritics as much as you loved reading it and disagreeing with us by eventually throwing your computers against the wall. So you're welcome. We're back.

"But wait Shawna and Julie, you've tempted us before, what can we expect from you this time?" Well how about ridiculously AMAZING movie reviews and a bit of insider info that you would have to, like, read on another website to find!? We'll try to bring back as much of the DVD reviews, TV reviews, and our general superiority in all categories of media to the site. So bear with us until we get things really rocking and in the meantime, here's a picture of a gorilla and a bicycle I saw while driving down Vine St. a few weeks ago. Enjoy.

Only in Hollywood.