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.