Saturday, 19 January 2008

Movie Review: Young@Heart

Young@Heart is a documentary about a Massachusetts Senior Citizen’s chorus that rocks out to everything from the Clash, Ramones and Sonic Youth, to Coldplay and James Brown. The film follows the chorus members and their director, Bob Cilman as they learn new songs, cope with illnesses and deaths of their close friends, and prepare for a concert performance, dubbed “Alive and Well”.

Label me mean, but the “old people are so cute” sappiness drives me insane (hence the fact that I almost wanted to smack the two annoying girls sitting next to me that kept loudly aww-ing during the movie). I don’t normally see the charm in grandmotherly types, but I must grudgingly admit, this film won me over, and actually almost drew a few tears. Young@Heart is a great film that shows seniors who enjoy music more than anything. They’re singing their hearts out, and doing something that makes them happy all the way until the very last days of their lives. It is so refreshing to see these elderly characters, alive with so much energy, as opposed to the often seen images of them wasting away in nursing homes. These are old people that sing loud music, stay out late at gigs, and travel the world to perform. They’re not dead until the day they really die, and that is so inspiring to see.

A scene that I found particularly moving was one where the chorus performs for convicted felons at a prison. The positive reactions of the prisoners after the show are absolutely tearjerking. The film is also humorous at times, like the scene where two of the chorus members are trying to learn how to play a CD that chorus director, Cilman has handed them (they can’t figure out which side should face up in the player).

The narration in the film is a little excessive, and director Stephen Walker chose to fill the film with cheesy music videos starring the elderly chorus members, which cuts into the pacing of the film, but overall, Young@Heart is a great movie that shows charming seniors who are living their lives to the fullest by doing something that they love.

Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Cloverfield Movie Review

I saw it! It’s alive! It’s Huge! I just got home from a screening of Cloverfield, the JJ Produced monster film which has hogged the online hype since July. I don’t have the time to do an extensive review of this movie, as I need to catch a plane to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival in just seven hours. But here is my first take.

The potential problem with a movie like Cloverfield is that the hype can wear thin reallt fast, especially when you’re subject them to near-pointless online viral storylines (what was the point of Jamie’s videos anyways?). But things ramped up these last few weeks, and I feel like I’ve seen more of this movie online than I ever wanted to beforehand. It’s a difficult balance to keep the hype going without giving away too much. And sure, they didn’t show the monster, but seeing too much beforehand was my second biggest concern going into the film. Maybe I had already seen all the cool sequences from the film in the advertising?

Friends, I am here to tell you that there is nothing to be concerned about. There is a lot in this movie that was not shown in the marketing. There is more monster than I originally believed there would be. And yes, you do get to see him very very very close-up. He’s unlike any movie monster I’ve ever seen before. A very cool and unique design, and I think you’ll be pleased. The sound design is incredible, I seriously wouldn’t be shocked if this got nominated for some sound related awards, possibly an Oscar (yes, seriously).

My biggest concern going into the film was about the characters. Would I really care about Rob and Beth and all the characters briefly shown running around in the trailer?

Surprisingly, I was wrong again. The characters are very relatable, even though you don’t get too much background information on any of them. The first 20 or so minutes are monster free. It’s all background, getting to know some of the characters, and it’s all a slow build for the monster’s first reveal. Because when the shit hits the fan, you feel like you’re stuck in the middle of this horrific situations with a group of new friends. Of course, the story follows Rob, a young many who has just gotten a job in Japan. His goodbye party is interrupted by the monstrous scream we’ve all seen a billion and a half times in the teaser trailer. While everyone is trying to get out of New York City, Rob is trying to reconnect with Beth, who is trapped in midtown. But the true shining star in this film is a guy named HUD, who appears on camera just a few times. But you will get to know him very well. HUD is the man behind the video camera, documenting the whole thing as it goes down. His running commentary is hilarious, and you will quickly grow to love him. HUD is one of the reasons that Cloverfield works so well. He’s the funny best friend comic relief character that makes most romantic comedies bearable. But instead of being employed to a few funny appearances, the love-able comic relief character is front and center. He is more you than Rob, and maybe it’s better that way. But its so interesting to see a story from the point of view of this type of character. Refreshing even.

Does the handheld format get annoying? Surprisingly, no. Blair Witch used the first person idea as a gimmick. Cloverfield takes the idea, and uses it to tell a story. I really don’t want to give-away any spoilers, even though enough of the film is already online for you to piece together.

Cloverfield is not shakespeare. It’s not a masterpiece. It has flaws (mostly having to do with little conveniences throughout the story (The “they just happen to be there sort of stuff, or the that guy would never let them do THAT sort of stuff. You’ll see what I mean), but it isn’t anything that takes away from the big picture.

Cloverfield is a fun movie. Plain and simple. It’s sit back, relax and go. It’s a roller coaster ride. JJ Abrams wanted to make an American monster movie, and he has done just that. Cloverfield is not a Godzilla rip-off, it’s the reinvention of the monster film. This is the story about characters trapped in a monster film. They aren’t the characters that would be in the big Hollywood blockbuster version, or even an D-level take by The Asylum or Troma. These characters are the people running away from Godzilla. They have no urge to defeat the monster, they just want to get away and reconnect with their loved ones. This is a human story which just happens to take place during this gigantic moment of fear.

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Kate Moss Soho’s Punk Club in London

Christy Turlington @ Chanel Fine Jewelry's dinner in New York City

(Click thumb for larger image)

Kim Kardashian out for lunch with Kim & Khloe

Ashley Tisdale at the Premiere of Hannah Montana