December 31, 2013

White House Down (2013)

Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Unlike Olympic gold medals and Miss America crowns, Oscars are never confiscated from actors at a later date, no matter how heinous a crime they commit later on. For example, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Oscar for Jerry Maguire was somehow expected to excuse him from starring in movies like Rat Race, Snow Dogs, and Boat Trip. Jamie Foxx won the Best Actor award for Ray, but didn't have to surrender it upon the release of this movie. Which seems patently unfair to Vanessa Williams.

Watching Jamie Foxx in this movie just made me wonder how anyone could consider him a great (or even good) actor. Seriously. How can someone go from winning an Oscar to being the worst portrayal of a president, ever? (Considering the president has been played by everyone from Kelsey Grammer to Luke Wilson, that's really saying something). Presidents command a certain air of stateliness and formality that is utterly lacking here. It's as if Jamie Foxx has never watched a real president speak (yes, I'm even including G.W. in that statement) and just decided to play the part exactly how he speaks and acts in real life. 

Without a doubt, there are problems in the movie beyond Jamie Foxx. I might even go out on a limb and say he was one of the better parts of the movie. Of course, he's competing against the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Channing Tatum, and the wife beater in The Great Gatsby. So... it's sort of like being the standout of your middle school orchestra.

So instead of my companions and me zoning out in front of a slightly predictable, run-of-the-mill, mindless action movie, the viewing turned into a competition of who could point out the most ridiculous plot point or character dialogue. Like how Channing Tatum is in the middle of trying to avoid being killed by terrorists within the confines of the White House (and no, I am not spoiling the plot - if you can call it that) and Maggie Gyllenhaal tells him the first thing he needs to do is get to a TV and watch the news. Or the stiff, unmemorable banter between, well, everyone.

Final word: I haven't laughed this much through a movie since Magic Mike.

December 7, 2013

Frozen (2013)

Kristen Bell and other people not good looking enough to remember their names

I had a lot of reservations going into this movie. For one thing, I don't like Kristen Bell. It's not just that she dates Dax Shepard (though really, that's enough), but that she's a mediocre actress who gets an astonishing amount of work. I also still dislike her from the time I sat through When In Rome.

That being said, her voice was completely fine for the movie. If I hadn't known it was her ahead of time, I'm not even sure I would have been able to identify her, which is a positive thing in an animated movie. I've said it before, but there is really nothing worse than having a distinct voice for a character because then all you can picture is that actor instead of getting lost in the cartoon itself. That's why most cartoon TV shows have actors you've never heard of voicing the characters on the show. (Sadly, Seth McFarlane has made such an effort at being visible, he had to go and kill off Brian in Family Guy because Brian sounded exactly like Seth in real life. At least that's my theory behind Brian's demise.)

I was also apprehensive because the commercials really didn't sell the movie to me. Sure, there have been posters plastered on every city bus for months now, but the trailer itself didn't explain the plot at all. It also featured Olaf, the snowman, who frankly, seemed annoying in the ads. I was afraid the movie would try too had to use him as comic relief and end up with something that required a laugh track.

But this movie surprised me in a lot of ways. Olaf the snowman was an excellent character, who did provide comic relief, but in a genuinely funny way. What's that joke about comedy? The key to comedy is timing? (Or follow these incredibly lame steps.) This movie had excellent timing. Between the jokes, the songs (which were mercifully short) and plot twists, everything moved at what seemed to be the exact right pace: not too slow, not too fast. The entire movie seemed to fly by, which, if you think about it, signals a lack of slow parts and dragging in the plot.

But (and there's always a but), there was one glaring negative, weighing the movie down. And that was Elsa's singing voice. Here's the thing about Elsa (the blonde, older sister to the main character, Anna): she's beautiful. Not to be creepy, but after seeing her, I started to understand those weird guys who are super into anime because they think the girls are hot. Say what you want about Disney's affinity for making their princesses white skinned and blonde, but she beats out every other princess in my book. So her delicate little frame, wispy white-blonde hair and sheer, flow-y dress did not match the deep, raspy singing voice Disney gave her. I just don't get it. Her speaking voice? Fine. So why would they have her sound like a 180 pound, 40 year old* while singing? It completely ruined Elsa's solo, which is unfortunate because she's using some pretty badass magical powers while she sings. Fortunately, she only sings one solo, so she didn't ruin the entire movie.

One last thought about Elsa - I can't go into too much detail, but suffice it to say I think she's the better sister. I know, I know, the main character always has to the "quirky" girl who doesn't quite fit in or play by the rules because somehow people relate more to that (What about all the rule-followers out there? Who do they get as role models?), but Elsa is really just better in almost every way. She's prettier, she's got some pretty cool magical powers, and well, she's a queen, compared to Anna's princess status. I'm just not seeing why Anna is going to end up as the marketed princess. Sigh. Us perfect people have it so difficult.

Final word: I just hope Disney adds both princesses to their collection.

*Update: I later looked it up to realize Elsa is voiced by Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem, according to John Travolta). So she's not 180 pounds, but she is over 40 and while I understand she voiced both the speaking and singing parts of Elsa's character, I hold fast to my opinion that her voice was totally inappropriate in its singing capacity. I know she's on Glee, but just because you have a nice singing voice doesn't mean it was meant to sing this character. And now I have to hear it ever goddamn day because every child in America is obsessed with the friggin soundtrack to this movie and it plays on repeat in every coffee shop, book store, and toddler gym (yes, you read that correctly) I go into.

December 3, 2013

My Picks for Disney Princess BFFs

Rappers and Avril Lavigne copy other people, so why can't I? Jill O'Rourke's ranking of the 11 Disney princesses in order of their BFF potential got me thinking - what would these ladies bring to the table in a friendship? So with only my opinions substituted for someone else's article idea...

11. Aurora, Sleeping Beauty

Look, I like sleeping as much as the next person. My dream Saturday consists of alternating bowls of cereal and naps on the couch. But it doesn't bode well for a friendship if we're both so zonked we can never actually meet up or have a conversation. Besides, most restaurants stop serving brunch at 1 pm.

10. Cinderella, Cinderella

One word: mice. Being a pet person is one thing; inviting rodents into your home and singing to them is quite another. It makes me wonder if she's a less attractive version of Rebecca Romijn's character in Friends.

9. Pocahontas, Pocahontas

Living in San Francisco, I know plenty of hippies. I even enjoy them sometimes. Their "oneness with nature" and the foraging of their own food entertains me. But frankly, Pocahontas seems a bit too outdoors-y for me. I prefer to spend my girl time getting pedicures and gossiping rather than scaling waterfalls and frolicking through the forest.

8. Belle, Beauty and the Beast

We get it - Belle likes to read! If Belle lived in current times, she'd be a pseudo-intellectual hipster minus the skinny jeans. Think about it: she carries a satchel, rides a bike and always carries reading material just to prove to everyone that she's a 'reader.' She's just a New York Times subscription and a facebook page away from alienating her friends with constant reposts of every article she reads.

7. Merida, Brave

Merida is probably way too into Hunger Games (what with the whole bow thing), but she seems like the kind of girl who's up for a good time. And that accent! It would be like hanging out with Sean Connery, who can even make the words "an album cover" entertaining. The downside? You could never hang out at her house because of those annoying little brothers.

6. Jasmine, Aladdin

Personally, I think every girl needs one rich, beautiful friend. Yes, she may whine about how bored she is with all her first world problems, but think about all the fringe benefits: You get to play with her tiger! You can borrow her expensive silk (albeit, slightly ahem, revealing) clothes! You can be the third wheel on Aladdin's magic carpet!

5. Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

 Her voice is a little annoying, but she also cleans. She's the friend that comes over for a dinner party and totally does the dishes afterward. She also always travels with an entourage, so you can be sure she won't be clinging to you at a party, waiting for you to introduce her to people.

4. Rapunzel, Tangled

Sure, she's a little on the immature side, but dude, her hair can heal people!!! And she seems super low maintenance. I mean, her biggest dream in life is to travel like, 20 miles from home to see some lights and the only thing she brings is a frying pan! Hello, travel buddy! Besides, I like my friends to be a little on the optimistic side - I'm cynical enough for two people.

3. Ariel, The Little Mermaid

She's a bit of a hoarder, and you're likely to get re-gifts every year for your birthday, but at least she'll always get your something! Plus, think of her potential as a team member during guessing games like Catch Phrase - what's the word again? Winning!

2. Tiana, The Princess and the Frog

I live next door to a sushi restaurant and I've been trying to make friends with the owner for years. What could be better than a friend who can also make your favorite foods? Besides, I've never been to New Orleans and having friends to crash with in vacation destination cities is priceless.

1. Mulan, Mulan

I probably have an Asian bias, but Mulan seems the best of the bunch. For one thing, she wasn't born into royalty, so she seems less entitled and clueless than a lot of the other princesses. For another, she'll spend her days talking about stuff other than guy problems. And she hates skinny dipping with others. Because really, who wants to be friends with that girl who can't wait to strip her clothes off in front of people to prove she's 'crazy?' She had me with "we could just close our eyes...and swim around."