Treasures From Across The Pond: The Best of British TV (Part One)

Happy New Year everybody! How did you all enjoy the holidays, did you have fun with the family or are you glad it’s over? I didn’t get to enjoy the holidays because I caught the flu and I was sick the entire time, which is a bummer. But I suppose it could be worse. At least it’s just the flu, right?πŸ™‚

Of course being sick during the holidays is definitely not fun, mostly because it’s also winter hiatus for my favorite TV shows (in the exception of Chuck this year, but that’s only because it’s the final season and NBC is just anxious to get it out of the way, I suspect) and I have nothing to watch. At first I busy myself with the Binky International Film Festival, but then the series was over and I still had nothing to watch. So I did what I always do in times like this, I turn to the internet for research on great shows I haven’t had the chance to watch for various reasons (mostly because my TV schedule is already insane to begin with). I’m still not interested to give Game of Thrones a try (apologies, fans, but somehow I find epic tales like this hard to get into. I’m the only nerd who’s not into Lord of The Rings, after all), so instead I decided to try two British series that the internet have been raving about but I haven’t had time to try: Downton Abbey and Sherlock. And am I glad that I did, because even though Hollywood has churned out some of the best TV shows of all time – the Brits sure know how to make quality series. Their seasons are shorter, their lifespans are often shorter – mostly three or four seasons, only a few really popular ones get more than five – but they are often excellent series, and their quality usually remains consistent to the end.

Today and tomorrow, I want to talk about these two excellent British shows that I managed to watch during the Winter Hiatus, both of which have become my newest obsession. I’ll start with Downton Abbey, which will air its second season in the US this Sunday. If you haven’t seen this charming show, do catch up on its first season this weekend (it’s doable, there are only 7 episodes) so you can get right into the second season when it airs on Sunday. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I have heard about the charms of hit British drama Downton Abbey for some time now, it has been talked about quite frequently on NY Magazine’s Vulture blog and twitter is quite chattery about this show as well (Patton Oswalt, Gillian Jacobs and Yvette Nicole Brown from Community even did a hilarious twitter reenactment once). But I already had a hard time trying to watch all the American shows I’m watching, I decided to just wait for the DVDs to come out. On the last week of December, while I was still coughing and sniveling non-stop, I decided to devour the first and second season in the space of a weekend, and now I’m jonesing for the new season to start. Why does British TV take such long breaks anyway? I’m sure there are Brits who watch TV as obsessively as I do?

The appeal of Downton Abbey is simple, it’s a period or “genre” drama, it’s set in the late Edwardian era, and it follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family, of the Earl and Countess of Grantham and their three grown daughters, as well as their servants (which includes a butler, valet — not the kind that parks cars–, housekeepers, footmen, housemaids, cook, kitchen maids, chauffer, etc). It’s a well-written, well-acted “upstairs/downstairs” soap opera, and it’s addictive as hell. Created by Gosford Park’s Julian Fellowes, this series was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic, averaging 10 million viewers in the UK (which is massive for UK TV standard, by the way) and a cool 6 million viewers in the US, which means this show – airing on PBS – has higher ratings than anything in the CW, including its hit shows like The Vampire Diaries or America’s Next Top Model. I mean, PBS isn’t exactly the cool kids channel. I don’t think people even watch PBS until Downton Abbey comes along, you know, except for the Ken Burns documentary.

After watching a few episodes of Season 1 (or Series 1, as the Brits would have it), I tweeted that this show is like Gossip Girl, if it were very well-written and steered clear of ridiculous plots. At the heart of it, Downton Abbey is very much a soap opera, something that even Hugh Bonneville, who plays the Earl of Grantham, concurs – but unlike most soap operas that tend to be way too dramatic to a fault, Downton Abbey chooses to be more grounded, opting for historical accuracies instead of wildly unbelievable plots that most soaps are known for. Even their slightly unbelievable plot, the one where a Turkish diplomat dies while having sex with Lady Mary, turns out to be a true story, according to its creator and writer Julian Fellowes. A soap opera that show self-restrained in the ridiculous department is very, very rare, and that’s why Downton Abbey is as popular as it is both in the UK and US: this is what we TV viewers have been craving for all this time.

Of course another appeal of this show is that it’s also very, very entertaining. My favorite character is Lady Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the one and only Dame Maggie Smith, naturally. Not only does she have the best lines (her infamous one is of course, “What is a weekend?”), she’s also hysterical without trying too hard. No wonder Maggie Smith nabbed the Best Supporting Actress in A Mini Series last year, she is definitely the best thing about this show that’s already full of so many wonderful things.

The second season was criticized in the UK for being too soap-y and overly dramatic but seriously, in my opinion, it’s still excellent. Don’t listen to them haters. Yes, it is a bit more dramatic and soap-y than the first season. And there are several plots that veered a little too much on the dramatic side, but so what? Even when Grey’s Anatomy was still good (first and second season), it’s way more soap-y and dramatic than this show ever could be. And the second season was worth the watch if only for the romances! From the angst-y “will you two just get together already?” entanglement of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley to the sweet but problematic romance of Mr. Bates and Anna, there is no shortage of squee worthy moments in season two, and let’s face it, those moments are the reason why we love television in the first place, right?

UK viewers and those of us who don’t live in the UK but have gotten hold of the second season through wildly nefarious means will have to wait with bated breath for the third (and possibly final) season set to premiere some time in October (or is it November? Not sure) this year, which means we have to suffer withdrawal for at least ten months before we get our fix again. But if you live in the US, I highly recommend you turn on PBS this Sunday night and watch the second season. Better yet, follow comedian Patton Oswalt on twitter (@pattonoswalt) and watch it with him. He promises to live-tweet the episode this Sunday. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

I’ll see you back here tomorrow for my review of another delightful (and popular) British series, Sherlock. Until then!

xoxo

Binky Bee

Binky International Film Festival: Day Ten

Hello and welcome to Day Ten of our first ever “Binky International Film Festival“. We have reached the end of 2011 and also the end of this series, yeay!πŸ™‚ I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series as much as I have, it has been great, looking back and reviewing the movies I saw this year, and I’m really excited to begin 2012 because it seems like it’s only going to get better, what with the highly anticipated Hunger Games and The Amazing Spider-man premiering in March and May respectively.

And now let’s end this series right with the last genre: “Cool Guy Flicks”. It’s not action hero, but it’s pretty darn close. Cool Guy Flicks are the movies in which the protagonist charms, dazzles, saves the day and gets the girl. There aren’t that many that I saw in 2011 but the ones I did were pretty memorable, so let’s take a look, shall we?

“Cool Guy Flicks”

Limitless

Opening Weekend: March 18, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 105 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Neil Burger & Leslie Dixon
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Abby Cornish, Robert DeNiro, Anna Friel

Haven’t you ever wished there was a drug that could make you not only smarter, faster, stronger but also be as cool as Bradley Cooper? In Limitless, that’s exactly what happens to loser Bradley Cooper when he gets his hands on a drug that turns him into super awesome Bradley Cooper – like all the cool Bradley Cooper characters you love combined. Of course great power comes a great price, but you can’t deny that while he’s on top of the world, it is an awesome wild ride. Bradley Cooper does charming manic really well, and even though I still think he’sΒ  NOT the sexiest man alive, I can see the appeal. One thing I especially love about the movie the unusual ending, something refreshing (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it) that doesn’t usually happen in movies like this. If you want your cool guy flick comes with a dash of intelligence, you definitely should give this one a watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Source Code

Opening Weekend: April 1, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 93 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Duncan Jones & Ben Ripley
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga

Unlike Limitless’ Bradley Cooper, Source Code’s cool guy protagonist isn’t exactly all charming and handsome and powerful. However he does have to save a train full of people from a terrorist attack over and over again, so he’s definitely a real hero. I really like the premise of Source Code, especially when the possibility of alternate realities (universes) existing within the source code is introduced, and Jake Gyllenhaal knows how to carry this movie and plays the hero without being a little too much, but the ending kind of pisses me off a bit because it opts for a romantic happy ending that leaves more questions than answers, at least when it comes to the logic of these alternate universes that exist within the source code. It’s good right up until the end and then it gets kind of lame, which makes it a little frustrating and anti-climactic. Ah well, better luck next time, Gyllenhaal.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Fright Night

Opening Weekend: August 19, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 106 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Craig Gillespie & Marti Noxon. Story by Tom Holland
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots

Remakes haven’t really had a successful run this year, with Footloose being the worst of it all, but sometimes there are some remakes that can be a fun watch. Fright Night is one of them. I’m not saying this vampire flick is good, I’m just saying it’s actually fun to watch. It’s campy, it’s ridiculous and it’s a little stupid but it’s never lacking in fun. Colin Farrell once again shows his comedic chops as the bloodthirsty vampire neighbor, and he’s just awesome in this. After the “emo vampire” trend that has swept the world these last few years with Twilight, Vampire Diaries and to a certain degree True Blood, it’s quite refreshing to see good ol’ fashioned non-brooding, conscience-free, freakishly violent vampires for once. I wonder why vampires became emo in this side of the millennium. Is it because the majority of the population are on some kind of anti-depression lately that vampires, who live on human blood, become so Zoloft-y mellow? I doubt the diabolical, evil yet sexy and delicious vampires of years past will make a comeback anytime soon, but at least it’s nice to relive the good ol’ days with these bloodsuckers for once.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

And that concludes Day Ten of Binky International Film Festival. I’m all done, you guys, woohoo! It’s a little bittersweet for me to close this year without having seen so many of the highly anticipated 2011 movies such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and especially Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, but I’m hoping I’ll get a hold of them soon. Until then, I wish you a fabulous new year, may 2012 proves to be an amazing one for us all.

Happy New Year, Blogosphere!

Xoxo

Binky Bee

Binky International Film Festival: Day Nine

Hello and welcome to Day Nine of “Binky International Film Festival”! We’ve made it, only one day more to go before we end this series and the year 2011 as well. I’ve had a blast doing this, so I hope you all have enjoyed this as much as I have. Today we are going to take a look at my “mistake” movies, aka “Romance That Makes Me Want To Stick A Fork In My Eye”. The genre romance and I have never really gotten along to begin with, but this year the only three movies in this genre that I saw were all torturous. They really do want to make me stick a fork in my eye. Seriously, Hollywood, if romance is this tedious… Maybe the whole celibacy thing is the right way to go after all.πŸ˜‰

So what are these three movies that make me wish I could ge those combined six hours of my life back? Read on…

Romance That Makes Me Want To Stick A Fork In My Eye

Water For Elephants

Opening Weekend: April 22, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 12o min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Francis Lawrence & Richard LaGravenese
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz

I watched this movie out of curiosity, and because of it I now fully understand why curiosity kills the cat. I thought I was going to die from boredom watching this movie, and if it weren’t for the divine Christoph Waltz, I would’ve turned it off after 30 minutes. I don’t know exactly what made me hate this movie, maybe it’s Robert Pattinson and the Twilight of it all, or maybe it’s just because it took too damn long to get to the friggin point or because it isn’t a story about animal cruelty in the circus as much as it is about the love affair between an older married woman with a young impressionable ex-veterinary student. And how cruel her husband is. Or something. I don’t know, I stopped paying attention about the time when Pattinson first made googly eyes with Witherspoon and got distracted by other things until that scene where Waltz strangled Witherspoon because it brought me memories of Inglourious Basterds (Christoph Waltz loves to strangle pretty blonds on screen, it seems). Maybe I just don’t have a romantic bone in my body, but dear god this movie was painful to watch, and not just because of the animal abuse.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Adjustment Bureau

Opening Weekend: March 4, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 106 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Geoff Nolfi
Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly

Three movies disappointed me so deeply this year, and they’re all “sci-fi”: Super 8, Attack The Block and The Adjustment Bureau. But at least in the case of Super 8 and Attack The Block, there are aliens involved. Adjustment Bureau is just a romance masquerading as sci-fi and that is the worst of the worst. I feel cheated. You see, this movie started out cool and promising – there’s Matt Damon, running for Congress, and there are these mysterious men in suits and fedoras that are kind of like The Observers in Fringe, who act as some kind of guardian angels – making sure humans are all in their right path. Problem is, their only concern in this movie is Matt Damon’s love life. They go through so much trouble just to make sure Matt Damon and Emily Blunt don’t hook up, because if they do, Damon won’t be president. And if he doesn’t become president.. Someone else will. And… that’s it. Arrghh!! There are children dying all over the world and that’s all they care about? Really?? I mean, I get if Blunt’s character turns out to be evil or if Damon doesn’t become president, the Antichrist will rise to power or something, but no. They just are so against these two attractive people schtupping and Damon spends the whole movie trying to convince them otherwise (because you can’t stop attractive people from having sex with each other, weird men in suits!). At the end I couldn’t take it anymore and turned it off before the movie ended because it made me want to blow my brains out. That was 106 minutes of my life (well, a little less because I didn’t finish it) I could never get back, Matt Damon. I hope you’re happy.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

One Day

Opening Weekend: August 19, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 107 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Lone Scherfig & David Nicholls
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jim Sturgess, Patricia Clarkson

The last romance in this list is no better than the other two, but the good thing is, I already know it was bad before I saw it – from the scathing reviews to the many disappointed comments in NY Magazine’s Vulture comment section – so I knew exactly what I was getting going in and therefore I can enjoy this movie more. First, it was just too much fun making fun of Anne Hathaway’s fake British accent. I mean, dear god, it was atrocious! She slipped on and off and halfway through the movie, she even sounded Irish. It was hilarious. She’s a good actress, but she really needs a better dialect coach. Even Reese Witherspoon in Vanity Fair put her to shame! Dear Producers, hire British actresses to play British roles next time. Problem solved. Second, I don’t really get the point of the movie. I haven’t read the book but even I know the premise isn’t something that translates to film easily. It’d take a group effort of incredible director, screenwriters and actors – and this one just fell short, despite the author of the book adapting it to screenplay himself. Dan Humphrey, take note. It’s always better if someone else adapts your book. Luckily though, Jim Sturgess is just so darn cute that I didn’t mind having to stare at him for two hours, even if Hathaway’s accent gets in the way of enjoying his gorgeousness every now and then.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

And there you have it, Day Nine of Binky International Film Festival. We only have one more day left so I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for our final day, where we’ll be taking a look back at some “Cool Dudes Flicks” to end the series. I’ll see you soon!

xoxo

Binky Bee

Binky International Film Festival: Day Eight

Hello and welcome to Day Eight of “Binky International Film Festival“! I can’t believe we actually made it to Day Eight, I thought I was going to be done with this in a week. How wrong can I be.πŸ™‚ And I really hope you are enjoying this series as much as I do. I don’t know if I’m going to make this an annual event yet, but I’m considering it. This was so much fun for me to do, even as I’m battling the flu. Didn’t mean that to rhyme.

Anyway. Today we are going to take a look at some great and not-so-great 2011 comedies with the genre “Laugh It Up”. I love drama as much as the next girl, but my first love will always be comedy. Life is no trip for me, and sometimes I just want to forget my troubles and laugh without any inhibition. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important a thing to be taken seriously.” That being said, let’s all take a look at this year’s comedies!

Laugh It Up

30 Minutes Or Less

Opening Weekend: August 12, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 83 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Michael Diliberti. Story by Michael Diliberti & Matthew Sullivan
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, etc

I usually love slacker comedies, and I always love Jesse Eisenberg, but for some reason I couldn’t really connect with this one. I don’t know why, I guess it’s just really not that funny. Which is a shame because Aziz Ansari is hilarious in Parks and Recreation – and here he’s just kind of meh. Jesse Eisenberg still plays up the old nervous, neurotic schtick but it doesn’t really work here. He’s funny when he’s neurotic when there’s no reason to be. But having a bomb strapped to his chest kind of defeats the purpose. This falls in the “not-so-great” comedy of 2011 for the unmemorable-ness of it all.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Horrible Bosses

Opening Weekend: July 8, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 98 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Seth Gordon & Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldberg. Story by Michael Markowitz
Stars: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, etc

Who knew that little Sam Weir from Freaks and Geeks who later grew up to be cutie Dr. Sweets in Bones would actually be multi-talented as well as easy on the eyes? He wrote this hilarious summer comedy and judging from the box office earnings, and the fact that my brother-in-law scream giggled his way through the movie, Horrible Bosses definitely falls in the pretty great comedy category. All three leads: Bateman, Sudeikis and Day were simply fantastic, backed by a strong supporting cast (which includes Jennifer Aniston! She’s been in the tabloids so much we’ve forgotten she can be funny. Welcome back, Jen Aniston), and laugh out loud lines – this movie is the 2011 comedy you shouldn’t miss. So get to the DVD store (or Netflix) before the year is over!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Take Me Home Tonight

Opening Weekend: March 4, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 97 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Michael Dowse & Jackie Filgo, Jeff Filgo. Story by Topher Grace & Gordon Kaywin
Stars: Topher Grace, Anna Farris, Chris Pratt, Dan Fogler, etc

Critics weren’t so kind with this set-in-the-80s sorta coming of age comedy, but I actually didn’t think it was that bad. It’s not “oh my god this is the greatest thing ever” good but it’s watchable, and it has some really funny parts too. Topher Grace, like Jesse Eisenberg, always nails the nervous, neurotic pasty white guy role, and he’s in his element in this movie. Anna Farris, as always, shows why she’s probably the most underrated comedic actress of the year. And Chris Pratt, her real life husband, plays her jerk (but loving) fiance so perfectly. The story, however, is just so-so and follows the typical “staying up all night” comedy formula, which makes the movie predictable and boring in some parts. But hey, if you have nothing to do on a weekend, there’s no harm in trying this movie out.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Paul

Opening Weekend: March 18, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 104 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Greg Mottola & Simon Pegg, Nick Frost.
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman, etc

This is quite possibly, my favorite comedy of 2011 (along with Bridesmaids), and sadly not many people saw this movie. Maybe it’s because the title is just too vague, or maybe because Americans aren’t as familiar with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as the Brits do, or maybe because of lack of promotion – in any case, it was criminally ignored and I wish to rectify that. Go get Paul on DVD because, even if you’re not a sci-fi geek and you’re not into aliens, it’s still laugh out loud funny. Because Pegg and Frost are always brilliant together, and adding Seth Rogen as the politically incorrect alien, Kristen Wiig as the glass-eyed daughter of Bible-thumpin’ trailer park owner, Jason Bateman and Bill Hader as hapless FBI agents make this movie an insanely funny movie that everyone should watch. So watch Paul. You won’t regret it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Arthur

Opening Weekend: April 8, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 110 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Jason Winer, Peter Baynham. Story by Steve Gordon
Stars: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner

Speaking of British imports, Russell Brand may be the one that most international public are familiar with. There’s that whole schtick with the Jonas Brothers a few years ago, and then he married pop star Katy Perry (though rumor has it they’re “having troubles and spending time apart” so who knows how long they’ll last — UPDATE 12/30: Brand just filed for divorce), which made him a household name in both sides of the Atlantic. But that doesn’t mean that all his movies are successful. In fact, in the case of Arthur, it’s kind of a dud. It’s tricky to remake a classic, and it’s even trickier to remake a classic with a comedian like Brandt, who has a polarizing effect on the public. That’s not to say that Arthur is all bad, it has it moments. Sadly, there aren’t a lot of those. However, the soundtrack, produced by Mark Ronson and featuring Ben Gibbard, Daniel Merriwhether and Fitz and The Tantrums, is definitely worth listening to.πŸ˜‰

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Your Highness

Opening Weekend: April 8, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 102 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): David Gordon Green & Danny McBride, Ben Best
Stars: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, etc

This movie seems to have sparked only two reactions: love and loathe. For example, David Edelstein, NY Magazine’s resident film critic loves it. But then a lot of people hate it too. I usually don’t agree with Edelstein (he hates The Dark Knight and Inception, and calls Drive “overrated”) but for some weird reason he and I are in agreement about this one movie. I actually like Your Highness. It’s a screwball comedy done right, I think, and Justin Theroux, who is much much more than just Jen Aniston’s boytoy du jour, is simply delicious as the villain. Is this movie crass? Absolutely. Does it have a coherent plot? Not so much. But is it funny? Yes. Both Portman and Deschanel were delightful, McBride was hilarious and James Franco once again is a delight in his clueless Pineapple Express-y comedic way. I thought it was a fun watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Change-Up

Opening Weekend: August 5, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 112 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): David Dobkin & Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Stars: Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, Olivia Wilde, Leslie Mann, etc

This is another comedy in this list that critics seem to hate, and I don’t exactly fault them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this movie, but I understand completely why they did. The problem isn’t in the premise, tired as it may seem this whole Freaky Friday body-swapping thing, nor the actors – both Bateman and Reynolds know how to bring the funny and Mann and Wilde are great sidekicks, but it’s in the fact that the movie tries just a little too hard to be funny. It’s like watching a stand up comedian who’s nervous and tries too hard to make people laugh that he resorts to slipping on a banana peel, when all he needs to do is just tell the jokes and he might actually get some sincere laughs. That’s kinda how this movie feels. It could’ve been actually enjoyable and funny, but it just tries too hard to be and it ends up being not that funny. Shame, really, because it really does have the potential but it just can’t quite get there.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

And that concludes Day Eight of Binky International Film Festival. We only have two more days to go, you guys! I really hope I can finish on New Year’s Eve, but you’ll have to blame Downton Abbey if I don’t because I am still busy devouring both seasons right now.πŸ˜‰ Don’t worry, I kid. Not about Downton Abbey. We’ll get to Day 10 on the 31st, I promise. But check back in tomorrow, on Day Nine we’ll take a look at this new genre I just invented: “Romance That Makes Me Want To Stick A Fork In My Eye”. I know, it’s a mouthful. But it should be fun, so I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

xoxo

Binky Bee

Binky International Film Festival: Day Seven

Hello and welcome to Day Seven of the first ever “Binky International Film Festival“! I hope you’ve been enjoying this series so far, and if you’re not… Well, tough. It’s my blog.πŸ˜‰ Just kidding. I really do hope you’ve been enjoying this series and are willing to continue our journey until we finish with Day 10 on New Year’s Eve.

Today, we are going to take a look at my personal favorites of 2011, the movies that I love so much I can watch over and over again, thus making this a “Repeat Viewing” genre. I can now safely say that 2011 is quite a good year for movies. Sure, there are a lot of crap this year but then again, there are always a lot of crap movies every year. But the good ones are not that few and far between this year, definitely an improvement from 2010. And if the Mayan Apocalypse doesn’t end us all, let’s hope this time next year we have an even better list of movies to discuss.πŸ™‚ Now, let’s get right down to business and begin Day Seven!

“Repeat Viewing”

Drive

Release Date: September 16, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 100 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Nicolas Winding Refn & Hossein Amini
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston
Defining Song: A Real Hero Feat. Electric Youth by College

Without a doubt, in my opinion, Best Movie of 2011. I didn’t know what to expect going in, I only knew that people were all talking about it and giving it high praise on Twitter. I came for Ryan Gosling, and I got so, so much more. It’s a little hard to talk about this movie without sounding like a crazed fangirl, so bear with me. Drive is amazeballs because 1. Ryan Gosling and his silent acting equals pure brilliance. 2. Albert Brooks in the role of a villain: mind-blowing. 3. The insane violence: puts Tarantino to shame. 4. The music: oh the music! It really sets the mood. Gosling himself described this movie as a “Pretty In Pink with a head smashing” and I don’t know how else to describe it that would do it justice. It’s definitely not to everyone’s taste but if you like indie, offbeat, strange movies (with head smashing) – you will probably LOVE this as much as I do.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friends With Kids

Release Date: September 9, 2011 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Approx. Running Time: 100 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Jennifer Westfeldt
Stars: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Ed Burns, etc

This movie was highly recommended by NY Magazine’s Vulture blog post-Toronto International Film Festival, and because it has not only half the cast of Bridesmaids but also Adam Scott and Ed Burns, I waited with bated breath until I could finally see it, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Jennifer Westfeldt (some of you may know her as Jon Hamm’s lady love) wrote and directed a charming little movie about friendship, love, parenthood and marriage in very real, non-preachy, non-judgmental way. Five minutes in, you see these characters and you will think, “Oh that reminds me of my own group of friends” (only they’re much, much better looking). The issues discussed were very much what friends in their thirties would discuss: love, marriage, kids – but it’s not desperate or stupid, which is what most romcoms tend to be. Whether you’re single, or married, or divorced, I think you’d be able to enjoy this movie very much. Trust me. I know these things.πŸ™‚ (PS: Couldn’t find the trailer for this movie on Youtube, so I tried embedding it from a different site. Hope it works. If not… well, I tried)

http://www.traileraddict.com/emd/45908

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Hanna

Release Date: April 11, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 111 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Joe Wright & Seth Lochhead, David Farr. Story by Seth Lochhead
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana

Okay by now I do have to admit that I have this fascination with violent movies. My favorite movie of 2011 is Drive and months before I saw Drive, I was raving about how awesome Hanna is, a movie that tells the story of a teenage girl trained by her ex-CIA father to become an effective assassin. Hanna is violent, but it’s also empowering and strangely enough, sweet. The relationship between Hanna and her father is beautiful, how the two would do anything to protect each other. And the way Hanna longs for companionship, and her loyalty to her new friends – there’s a lot of sweetness there to offset the violence. Parents may not be too crazy about the idea of a teen girl fighting for survival and killing without hesitation, but between the infectious score by The Chemical Brothers and the brilliant fight sequences, I’m totally hooked and I’m screaming for more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

It’s Kind of A Funny Story

Release Date: October 8, 2010
Approx. Running Time: 101 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Stars: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Lauren Graham, etc
Defining Song: Blood by The Middle East

Okay I know this movie is not a 2011 release but I decided to put it in this list for the following reasons: 1. I only discovered this movie in 2011 and 2. I love it so much, I have to include it here. At first I thought it was going to be just another depressing coming-of-age movie but as it turns out it’s nothing like I expected. It’s funny. It’s eye-opening. It’s uplifting. It deals with depression in a real way but at the same time doesn’t end it on a nihilistic “there’s no point to all this let’s just wait for a planet to collide with earth and get it over and done with” note (I’m looking at you, Lars Von Trier). Is it a little too positive? Perhaps. But maybe not. Depression is real. As someone with Bipolar Disorder, I’ve experienced it many, many times. But I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can always get help. Happiness is not deprived of you. Life is still worth living after all, and that’s what this movie is about. For that alone, it deserves to be watched over and over again, especially for those who are still battling depression and in need of some perspective.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

HappyThankYouMorePlease

Release Date: March 4, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 100 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Josh Radnor
Stars: Josh Radnor, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan

I have to admit, out of the five main characters in How I Met Your Mother, Ted is my least favorite. He is exactly the type of guy I would avoid being friends with, so when my fantasy gay husband Neil Patrick Harris tweeted about this movie that his co-star and friend Josh Radnor wrote, directed and starred in, I was a little skeptical. But then I saw the movie and realized, Radnor is no Ted. Sure, the character he plays in this movie bears some resemblance to Ted, but only if Ted were a depressed, failed writer trying to find meaning in life by (unwisely) taking in a little boy he found abandoned in a subway. It took a while for the movie to win me over but it did. At the end, I can really relate to characters who are just trying to find themselves and each other in a chaotic world, maybe because that’s how I feel most of the time. And I like the way the movie ends in an upbeat, happier tone – what can I say, at the end of a movie I want to be able to say, “I’m happy. Thank you. More please!”

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

And that concludes Day Seven of Binky International Film Festival. We still have three more days to go, so come back tomorrow for Day Eight where we’ll be taking a look at some of the year’s most entertaining comedies in the “Laugh It Up” genre, because life is hard enough without a little laugh every now and then, right? I’ll see you back here tomorow… hopefully same time, but always same place.πŸ™‚ Until then!

xoxo

Binky Bee

Binky International Film Festival: Day Six

Hello and welcome to Day Six of “Binky International Film Festival”! I hope you’re all enjoying the holidays. This time of the year is the time where friends and families gather, the time for joy and celebration. So I thought it would be the right time to take a look at some of the most depressing movies of 2011.πŸ™‚ Hey, it’s easier to discuss these movies when we’re in a festive joyful mood than when we’re actually really depressed, right?

There are quite a few “Depression-Inducing Flicks” that came out in 2011 but I only had the energy to see four of them, because I still like my life and I don’t want to kill myself just yet. Watching this type of movies can be draining… But somebody’s got to do it. So let’s take a look at these four flicks and nibble on those Zolofts, shall we?

“Depression-Inducing Flicks”

Monogamy

Release Date: March 13, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 96 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Dana Adam Shapiro & Evan M. Wiener
Stars: Rashida Jones, Chris Messina, Meital Dohan

I saw this movie because I have such a girl crush on Rashida Jones and because it was part of my “Relationship Breakdown” movie night (this and Blue Valentine will make you want to swear off romance forever), and even though this movie isn’t bad, I kinda regretted seeing it because it’s just so sad. I feel really sad for Rashida Jones’ character, who loves and trusts her fiance implicitly and has faith in their relationship, when all he does is become obsessed with a woman he doesn’t even know. What is it about human nature to be dissatisfied of the good thing we have in favor of something that may only appear exciting and unknown? This movie does make me think though, and makes me realize that part of our problem as a society is our lack of gratitude and appreciation of the good things we already have and tend to take for granted. But still, I wish it could’ve just gotten that message across without making Rashida Jones cry.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Melancholia

Release Date: November 11, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 136 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Lars Von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgard, Kiefer Sutherland

I watched this movie because it had gotten a lot of praise, not just from critics but from celebrities I follow on Twitter as well. Sure, the Cannes Film Festival premiere of this film was overshadowed by director Lars Von Trier’s idiotic comments about Hitler (yes, that’s the way to get you working in the film industry, Lars, insult the Jews. Nice going), but no matter what your feeling is about this “eccentric” Danish director, you can’t deny he has made some pretty interesting films so far. Dogville was an example that he might just be a genius. Melancholia, however… Okay. How do I put this. I can’t in all honesty say it’s a bad movie. Because it’s not. It’s visually stunning, it’s obvious that Von Trier is a true artist, and Kirsten Dunst’s performance is absolutely poignant here, especially considering she had been to rehab for depression. But I just can’t love this movie or rave about it because it is so nihilistic and non life-affirming that I just want to throw shit at Von Trier after I saw it. I get it, Lars, life is meaningless and then we die. But that’s why we turn to pop culture, to distract us from all that. Come on, at least spread a little joy!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

We Need To Talk About Kevin

Release Date: December 9, 2011 (NYC)
Approx. Running Time: 112 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

If your child grew up to be a teenage sociopath who decided to wake up one day and killed a bunch of his classmates in a high school massacre, should you blame yourself? What makes a psychopath, nature or nurture? Those are the questions that this jarring movie asks, as it follows Eva (Tilda Swinton), who’s trying to slowly put her life back together after her son Kevin commits a massacre that took the life of several of his schoolmates. The movie goes back and forth in time, chronicling Kevin’s life from when he was a baby up to the moment that he decided to do the unimaginable. Tilda Swinton’s performance was just so heartbreaking and, even though he only played a small role, Ezra Miller’s chilling turn as Kevin once again cemented him as the young star to watch. It is hard to watch this movie, because of its heavy subject matter but it’s worth the extra trip to your therapist just to see their amazing performances.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Angels Crest

Release Date: December 30, 2011
Approx. Running Time: 92 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Gaby Dellal & Catherine Trieschmann
Stars: Thomas Dekker, Joseph Morgan, Jeremy Piven, Kate Walsh, Mira Sorvino, etc

They say that nothing is more painful for a parent than having to bury your own child. So the premise of this movie, in which the disappearance of a three year old ripped through a small community, is already depressing by default. Watching a young – very young I might add – father lose his son that he loved very much is hard enough, seeing his growing realization throughout the movie, that he may not have been the best father and that he has indirectly caused the death of his child, is even harder. It’s always sad when you see people with the best intentions fail not because they don’t love enough or care enough but because they don’t know enough. And that’s what this movie is all about. I would’ve loved it more if the ending was a little bit uplifting, but since it was even more heartbreaking… I say don’t watch it unless you’re in a very emotionally stable state.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

And that concludes Day Six of Binky International Film Festival! Sorry for backing out on my words earlier about posting this on Christmas Day, I didn’t count on my flu getting even worse, not better. But I shall get over this soon (I hope). In any case, I will try to post the next four days of this festival before New Year’s Eve. Come back tomorrow for Day 7 where we’ll be taking a look at my personal favorites of 2011 in the “Repeat Viewing” genre.

Till then!

Binky Bee

Binky International Film Festival, Day Five

Hello and welcome to Day Five of the first ever “Binky International Film Festival“. We have taken a look at quite a few genres this past few days and today we are going “Across The Pond” to the United Kingdom and take a look at some of UK’s best that I managed to see this year, aside from the Harry Potter movies, of course (they’ve already been discussed on Day One: “Big Budget Awesomeness”).

Since it’s Christmas Eve and all, I’m going to keep it short and simple because I have a dinner to get to and family’s coming over tomorrow. Busy, busy day! So let’s get straight to it, shall we?πŸ™‚

“Across The Pond”

Jane Eyre

Release Date: September 9, 2011 (UK), March 11, 2011 (USA, limited)
Approx. Running Time: 120 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Cary Fukunaga & Moira Buffini
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska, Jamie Bell

I was really anticipating this movie out of all the others this year because Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels of all time and I am anxious to see Michael Fassbender in the role of Rochester, and I’m happy to report that he didn’t disappoint, neither did Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre. It is a little jarring at first to see the chemistry between them simply because of their age difference (and Wasikowska looks so so young) but after I reminded myself that that’s the way things work back then – it didn’t bother me so much, at least not as much as St. John kissing his sisters on the mouth. Yes I know it was a different time, but still. You don’t kiss your sisters on the mouth, dude.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Never Let Me Go

Β Release Date: February 11, 2011 (UK), September 15, 2011 (USA, limited)
Approx. Running Time: 103 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Mark Romanek & Alex Garland
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield

Like Jane Eyre, this movie is also an adaptation from a popular novel, but the similarities of the two end there. Never Let Me Go, adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, is romance mixed with science fiction, and I usually have a problem with that. But not this time. Probably because the romance (mild spoiler alert) doesn’t have a happy ending, and because there’s no “grand Hollywood miracle of love”. It’s a little depressing, but at least it stays true to the novel and in a way, to life. The only thing I had a problem with is the love triangle. The way both girls act as if the guy, Tommy, had no choice in the matter, is rather infuriating. Have some self respect, ladies!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Attack The Block

Release Date: May 13, 2011 (UK), July 29, 2011 (USA, limited)
Approx. Running Time: 88 min
Director & Screenwriter(s): Joe Cornish
Stars: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmall

I was sort of anticipating this movie as well, thanks to the many critics who raved about it on twitter. But I was sorely disappointed. The critics made it seem like this movie was the new “Shaun of The Dead”, and it’s not that at all. It’s more like JJ Abrams’ Super 8, with less sympathetic characters (they’re thugs. It’s hard to be invested in a movie where the fate of the world rests on a bunch of teenage delinquents) and better soundtrack. Luckily for me my Brit friend has already warned me that this movie would disappoint, so I adjusted my expectation prior to watching, but still. I don’t get what those movie critics saw in this film, because I sure don’t see it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

And that concludes Day Five of “Binky International Film Festival”. Check back in tomorrow where we will continue with Day 6: “Depression-Inducing Flicks”. It’s going to be quite a ride, make sure you have your Zoloft ready.πŸ™‚ Until then!

Happy Holidays to you and yours,

Binky Bee