Tag Archives: reviews

Binky International Film Festival: An Introduction

It’s almost Christmas again, and around this time last year I decided to celebrate the holidays by doing my “12 Days of Christmas Countdowns”, where I do what I do best, make a list of all my favorite things. This year, I plan on doing almost but not quite the same thing because hey, it’s the holidays, I got nothing else to do! 🙂 However, instead of another 12 Days Of Christmas Countdowns like last year, this year I’m going to treat you all to my first ever “Binky International Film Festival”.

You see, to say that I’m a pop culture junkie would be a gross understatement, because I devour pop culture like an obese kid devours big macs. Not only am I TV-obsessed and I watch more television than is humanly possible, I just discovered that in 2011 I have watched A LOT of movies, almost as many as Roger Ebert and all those other high and mighty movie critics. So in the next… I don’t know, week or so, I’m going to basically be your guide to the movies that I’ve seen all throughout 2011. Note that some are so unmemorable that I don’t even bother mentioning them, and some are old movies I’ve seen a million times but still love and watch over and over again (i.e The Princess Bride) that I have to omit from this “film festival” series.

Just like most film festivals, I’m going to divvy up the movies according to genres, however, unlike most film festivals, I don’t stick with the traditional “drama”, “comedy”, “thriller” genres, instead I pretty much come up with my own names for them. Such as, “big budget awesomeness” “indie darlings” “romance that makes you want to stick a fork in your eye”, etc. I’ll start with “Big Budget Awesomeness” (because there aren’t many) tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll be done before the new year’s. 🙂

Also: I don’t live in the United States so there are a few gems that people rave about but I haven’t seen, not because I’m not aware of their greatness but because they’re not available to me yet. So I would really appreciate it if you don’t leave comments such as “I can’t believe you didn’t see The Artist. It’s like, the best movie of 2011.” You know, that sort of a thing. 😉

Alright, now that I’ve explained what it’s all about, I hope you’ll join me as we review 2011 in movies with the first ever Binky International Film Festival.

See you tomorrow for day one!

Xoxo

Binky Bee

Nostalgia Fact-Check: Clueless

I got this idea from NY Mag’s Vulture blog that devotes this Summer to revisit seminal movies, TV shows and albums that we think were so cool way back when, mostly when we were teenagers and thus they marked an important period of our lives. So far, Vulture has fact-checked a few nostalgia movies, TV shows and albums: Heathers, Ally McBeal, Ace of Base’s The Sign, Ghostbusters and Dinosaurs. Since this is a really great idea to get through the long hot Summer, I thought I’d follow suit and do my own version of Nostalgia Fact-Check. Since I’m a child of the nineties, I graduated high school in 1997 (eek, I’m old!), I thought I’m going to do a Nostalgia Fact-Check only on movies (I don’t exactly get paid to do this so I can’t exactly devote all my time and resources) of the 90s that I thought was “the best thing ever!”, as Vulture so aptly puts it. I just saw Clueless again after so many years two weeks ago, and I thought it’d be appropriate to start with the movie of my generation.

Clueless, written and directed by Amy Heckerling, is a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, and the movie that skyrocketed Alicia Silverstone’s career. Heckerling took the world of Austen’s Emma and set it in 1995’s Beverly Hills, with Silverstone as Cher, the peppy, superficial, well-meaning but ultimately clueless heroine who (according to IMDB description) “spends her days playing match-maker, helping her friends with fashion choices, and looking for a boyfriend.” The premise may sound ridiculous today, but the great thing about this movie is that it is meant to be ridiculous. In hipster speak, it is meant to be ironic. But despite the ridiculousness of the premise, in terms of great teen flicks of the nineties, this one totally holds up and still enjoyable to watch even in today’s internet age.

Sure, a lot (okay, all) of the pop culture references now seem pretty dated, like Paul Rudd’s character Josh’s snark about Cher’s world being “Contempo casual” or Cher openly admitting that she’s a fan of Mel Gibson in this entertaining dialogue:

Heather: It’s just like Hamlet said, “To thine own self be true.”

Cher: Hamlet didn’t say that.

Heather: I think I remember Hamlet accurately.

Cher: Well, I remember Mel Gibson accurately, and he didn’t say that. That Polonius guy did.

But the comedy itself still pretty much holds up in today’s world. In fact, it is significantly better than most teen comedies that have come out after the internet age. And yes, the fact that Cher, who’s only 16, ends up (spoiler alert) with Josh, her ex-stepbrother who’s already in college and is (I think) at least 20, may seem a little icky now, but the way the romance unfolds is still fun to watch and it is both believable and feels earned, unlike most romances in today’s romcoms. And besides, it’s not like the movie ends with Cher losing her virginity to Josh.

Clueless is tongue-in-cheek funny, satirizing both the superficiality of 90s teenage lifestyle and the cluelessness of our (okay, my) generation, but at the heart of it, just like the novel that inspired the movie, it’s sweet and has a good message without being preachy. And let’s face it, we all want a closet like Cher’s.

The one thing that made this movie a little hard to watch is Brittany Murphy. It’s not that she wasn’t great in it (she was the best part), but because her life ended so tragically and it was hard to see her as this wide-eyed, impressionable new girl in school, eager to earn her friends’ approval. She had such talent and potential, it was such a shame that her life had to end so soon.

But if you put that aside for a moment, I’m sure you will enjoy this movie just as much as I do, even if you are not a member of my generation. Aside from Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy, this movie also stars a young and pre-Scrubs Donald Faison, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, Jeremy Sisto and the great Wallace Shawn, who kids today probably only knows as Blair Waldorf’s stepdad Cyrus Rose in Gossip Girl.

In closing, Clueless as a movie, totally holds up in today’s world and it is worth to be called “a classic”. Also, “as if” totally needs to make a comeback.

Movie of the new millennium that equals Clueless’ greatness: Easy A (2010)

In 1995, Alicia Silverstone was the next big thing, and today, we can say the same about Easy A’s leading lady Emma Stone, though I do hope that she has better luck career-wise than Alicia Silverstone. Easy A is not exactly like Clueless but it does remind me of Clueless in some ways, because of these similarities:

– It is also based on a great classic (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter) though in Easy A’s case it’s more “inspired by” than actual modern-day adaptation.

– Emma Stone’s Olive Penderghast, unlike Silverstone’s Cher, is whip-smart, witty, wise beyond her age, but like Cher in Clueless, her life turns into a mess after she tries to help out a friend.

– Penn Badgley is no Paul Rudd, but his character possesses the same charm and sweetness as Rudd’s.

– Just like Clueless, it has totally awesome lines and I think it kind of captures today’s generation the way Clueless did in the 90s.

– In ten or fifteen years, maybe some other blogger will do a nostalgia fact-check on Easy A.

– Alicia Silverstone went on to star in Batman & Robin after Clueless, and Emma Stone is in the new Spider-Man movie. For Stone’s sake, let’s hope The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t become the atrocity that was Batman & Robin.

And there you go, my first “Nostalgia Fact-Check”. I shall do another in the near future. Next up: Cruel Intentions (1999). It was shocking and awesomely bad back then, but in today’s Gossip Girl world, maybe it will actually hold up? We’ll see. Till then, awesome people of the internet.

Special thanks to NY Magazine’s Vulture for inspiring me with this idea.

Reel Life

It’s almost the end of the year. Time flies! I’m still busy writing my novel, but every now and then I’d take a break to watch a movie just to get my creative juices flowing. So, I figured I’d give my take on these movies to help you choose which flick you want to view on a lazy weekend. Sounds good?

Here are the movies I’ve seen in the past two weeks or so, on DVD or otherwise.

One/ Love and Other Disasters, 2006, Romantic Comedy.

Written and directed by Alek Keshishian, this charming romantic comedy tells the story of a British-born American-raised intern at UK Vogue who spends her life helping her friends find love, while at the same time avoiding to deal with her own commitment issues. If you’re looking for a feel-good comedy to watch with your significant other on Date Night, I recommend looking for this movie in your favorite DVD store. It’s funny, fresh and honest – it deals with the normal, everyday issues of being single: love, career and friendship, without being pretentious and preachy. Brittany Murphy is adorable as Emily “Jacks” Jackson, the main character, but Catherine Tate, who plays her best friend Talullah Riggs-Wentworth definitely steals the scene with her outrageous behavior, and insanely funny “poems”. You will not be sorry in checking this one out.

Two/ Speak, 2004, Drama.

I don’t know if this is an indie movie or a made-for-TV, but in any case, don’t let it turn you off. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, and it tells the story of a high school freshman Melinda Sordino (played by a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart) who resorts to selective mutism after being raped by a senior in a party. The issues dealt in the movie are heavy, but a then 13-year-old Kristen Stewart did a really good job portraying the anguish and trauma that her character went through without coming off too teen-angsty. The supporting cast also did a great job; from Elizabeth Perkins (Weeds) who played her busy mother to Steve Zahn who played her teacher who helped her dealt with her rape through art. I recommend watching this movie if you have a teenage daughter, or if you just want to understand the troubles and perils of being a teenager in general.

Three/ Stardust, 2007, Fantasy.

I don’t know why it took me so long to watch this movie, maybe it’s because my non-Neil Gaiman reading friends told me the movie “sucked” when it came out that I kept putting off watching it in fear of disappointment. However, when I finally saw it – it actually did not disappoint. Maybe it’s because I understand that adapting a novel into a movie is hard enough, and the fact that it’s the fantastical world of Neil Gaiman’s imagination surely made it even harder. And other than that understanding, I thought they did a pretty good job of keeping the adaptation as close to the novel as possible, and they even managed to capture Mr. Gaiman’s wonderful sense of humor. Seeing Robert de Niro playing a gay pirate was a little surprising, but he’s Robert de Niro. He can play any role and he was hilarious as the cross-dressing Captain Shakespeare. All in all, it’s a fun movie to watch – especially on a weekend.

Four/ Veronika Decides To Die, 2009, Drama.

This movie is not scheduled to release in the US and UK until 2010, but it already premiered in the film festival circuits for a while and I got the chance to see it last Sunday night. It’s an adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s best-selling novel of the same name and it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jonathan Tucker to name a few. As far as adaptations go, this one sticks pretty close to the novel as well, though it changes the location from Ljubljana, Slovenia to New York City. It’s also not as detailed as the novel, but that’s to be expected. It however retains the intensity and message of the novel and both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jonathan Tucker gave stellar performances as Veronika and Edouard. One thing that I didn’t like about the movie was the fact that the relationship between the patients and the doctors seems disjointed and distant – they hardly interact in the entire movie, except for Mari (Melissa Leo) and Dr. Blake (David Thewlis). But all in all, it was a pretty good, albeit intense, watch. You do need to be in the right mood to see this movie though, so keep that in mind when you decide to see it in theaters when it opens.

Five/ Interview, 2007, Drama.

I’ve wanted to see this movie since it came out, but it was surprisingly hard to find it anywhere and I had to resort to watching it online in the end. As with many of Buscemi’s films, it’s one of those movies you have to be in the mood to watch, but I highly recommend you to give this one a try. It’s also an adaptation, not from a novel but a 2003 Dutch movie of the same name by director Theo Van Gogh, who was assassinated by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim after he produced the film Submission, which analyzed the treatment of women in Islam. Steve Buscemi directed and co-wrote the movie as a tribute to his friend Van Gogh. Both he and Sienna Miller were amazing in the film, and I have to give props to Sienna Miller, who lately have been more famous for her exploits in the tabloids than her body of work, who really showed her acting chops in this film. If you’re not convinced of Sienna’s talents, I suggest you give this movie a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Six/ The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, 2009, Drama.

I just realized that most of the movies I’ve seen lately are adaptations. Hmm, what is my subconscious trying to tell me? (Maybe that I should write more and watch less 🙂 ) Anyway, this delightful movie is also adapted from a novel by Rebecca Miller, who also wrote the screenplay and directed it. Talk about a triple threat! The movie chronicles the journey of Pippa Lee, played by Sean Penn’s ex Robin Wright, from the childhood she spent taking care of her pill-popping mother, to her own troubles with drugs until she found a “savior” in Herb Lee (Allan Arkin), a charismatic publisher thirty years her senior that she eventually married and settled down with. The movie goes back and forth between the present and the past, as Pippa examines her life and does a little soul searching as she struggles with her sleep disorder and a growing attraction with a younger man (Keanu Reeves). Robin Wright proved she’s a solid actress in this movie, and Maria Bello will probably get at least a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Pippa’s mother Suky. It’s already opened in limited release since Nov 27,  so I suggest you go check it out – it’s definitely worth watching. Look out for Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively as the younger Pippa Lee, a refreshing change from her usual sulky poor little rich girl role.

Seven/ Funny People, 2009, Comedy/Drama.

If you haven’t seen this one yet, be advised: This movie is a little misleading. From the title “Funny People”, to the stars (Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann and Jason Schwartzman, among others) to the writer/director (Judd Apatow), you might expect a raunchy, fun comedy like Knocked Up or The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I’m not saying it’s not a good movie, I liked it – it’s just not your usual Apatow comedy fix. I will even go as far as saying that this movie is 70% drama and only 30% comedy. Sure, there are typical-Apatow movie laugh-out-loud moments, but the message of the film is a lot more serious than usual. It deals with fame, success, and what it takes to be happy. It’s actually really deep, and if you’re expecting raunchy, fun comedy, you’ll be disappointed. But if you want to see Adam Sandler tackling a complicated, troubled role like he did in Reign Over Me, then you won’t be sorry. This is definitely one movie to watch if you ever dream of achieving a larger-than-life fame and success. It will give you something to think about.

Eight/ The Cake Eaters, 2007, Drama.

This is another Kristen Stewart pre-Twilight indie movie and there’s a reason why she’s been acting since she was a child, she’s actually a really good actress. And in this movie that marked the directing debut of actress Mary Stuart Masterson, Kristen Stewart once again shines as Georgia, a 17-year-old small town girl who suffers from Friedriech’s Ataxia. I know that the description of the film is about how two families lives start to intertwine with the return of one son – but somehow, to me the movie is not really about that. As with most indie movies I watch, I have no idea why it’s called ‘The Cake Eaters’ (not once did they mention cake in the movie, though they do eat steak a lot), but if I have to guess – I think it comes from “having your cake and eating it”. Georgia may have a debilitating illness, but she doesn’t let it hinder her from falling in love and being with a man who truly cares for her. And the same goes for Beagle, the man she falls in love with – who to some may seem like a “white trash loser”, but is actually a gentle, kind and loving man who’s often misunderstood. This movie is not for everyone, but if you’re into slow-paced art flicks, there’s no harm in watching it.

Nine/ Coco Avant Chanel, 2009, Drama/Biography.

I’ve wanted to see this movie ever since I heard that they were going to make a Coco Chanel movie with Audrey Tautou in the lead role, so my expectations were pretty high and I’m happy to say, this movie doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve seen the Coco Chanel TV movie with Shirley McLaine… expect to be confused by the discrepancies in the story. But the writers of both versions are not to be blamed for this, apparently not much is known about Chanel’s early life and she was known to have made up a lot of tales to hide her dark past. Coco Avant Chanel (English: Coco Before Chanel) chronicles the journey of one Gabrielle Chanel before she became the Coco Chanel. From her dreams of becoming a star in Paris, to her affairs with Etienne Balsan, a French millionaire, and Arthur “Boy” Capel, an English businessman, this movie showed us the kind of woman Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel was; someone who was tough as nails, driven, ambitious and headstrong. Audrey Tautou portrayed this legendary designer so well, and Alessandro Nivola was charming as Boy Capel. If you’re into fashion (or French films), I highly recommend this movie.

Ten/ The Ramen Girl, 2008, Comedy/Drama.

This is another one of Brittany Murphy’s criminally slept on charming little movie, and I don’t know why she loves playing an American expat so much, but she’s always so adorable I can’t really blame her. The Ramen Girl tells the story about Abby, an American girl who moved to Tokyo to be with her boyfriend, only to be dumped and left all alone in a city where she knows no one and hardly speaks the language. Broken-hearted and alone, she walks into a Ramen shop across her apartment in the rain and has a meltdown. After being comforted by the delicious ramen in the shop, she has the (slightly delusional) idea of training to be a ramen chef and practically forces the grumpy owner of the shop to teach her. The movie then follows Abby as she trains under the tyrannical chef and learns how to grow up and becomes the woman she always longs to be. Watch this movie if you’re looking for something light and charming to entertain you on a rainy day, but make sure you have a bowl of ramen ready, because I guarantee you’ll feel hungry after seeing the many bowls of delicious ramen on screen.

Eleven/ Paper Heart, 2009, Comedy.

Do you believe in love? Have you ever been in love? Well, musician/comedienne Charlyne Yi does not believe in love and has never been in love, so she embarks on a journey across the United States to make a documentary on love to get a better understanding of love. While she’s in the process of making the documentary, she gets a taste of love herself when she meets Michael Cera – and their journey together is captured in the documentary. And before you Google “Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi”, know this: it’s fiction. But not pure fiction. All the actors play themselves and the people being interviewed in the documentary are all real people with real stories – the only fiction part is Yi’s own love story with Cera. Director Nick Jasenovec called it “hybrid documentary” to blend the fiction and non-fiction content in the film. The plot itself is based on Yi’s original idea of a documentary and Nick Jasenovec suggested to be accentuated with a fictional storyline. The result: a quirky, cute and adorable comedy that you’ll fall in love with. And even though Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi are not really dating in real life (though they were rumored to be, which inspired the storyline), you’ll be wishing that they are a real couple at the end of the movie. This is one cute movie you can watch together with your significant other on date night, and it’ll leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

So there you go. Eleven movies you might want to check out in the near future. If you’ve seen any of them, tell me what you think!

xoxo

Binky Bee