Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The King's Speech - Colin Firth Finds his Voice

I've mentioned time and time again that in my eyes, Colin Firth has always and will always be dreamy Mr. Darcy. So when I watch a film that makes me completely forget that part of his resume, it's pretty impressive. With the most Oscar nominations this year (at 12), The King's Speech is a royal engagement you should definitely watch before the Academy Awards on February 27th. Garnering nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor AND Supporting Actress, to name but a few, The King's Speech is based on the true tale of stammering King George VI (Queen Elizabeth's Dad).

Colin Firth played this role marvelously, consumed with an air of arrogance, but a reluctant vulnerability, fighting off demons from his traumatizing childhood. When an actor takes on an accent or a specific speech impediment, there's always the risk it could turn out too mechanical or over-the-top. In Colin's case, the stammer was not forced at all. I found myself completely captivated with his story, cheering him on from the sidelines.

But it wasn't him alone, Colin's supporting cast was equally amazing! As his wife (the Queen Mother), Helena Bonham Carter had the supportive wife bit down, with the perfect mix of helpless sympathy and compassion, the way she took on her husband's failures and successes as her own. And as King George's speech therapist, Geoffrey Rush was the only one who seemed to be able to speak to a King with such guts and gusto, with pompous confidence in his own abilities that definitely paid off. The dynamic between these three actors was phenomenal, casting couldn't have been better.

As much as this role didn't make me think of Mr. Darcy, cast members from Pride and Prejudice (BBC) were popping up throughout the film to make sure I didn't quite forget why I love Colin Firth. Don't think I didn't see you, Elizabeth (Jennifer Ehle), and Mr. Collins. By the way, did anyone else get a slight tinge of lingering attraction when Colin's character met  Jennifer Ehle's. Wishful thinking? Swoon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marketing Insight from Mad Men

"i don't think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box"
Peggy Olson - Mad Men

Shameless Gives Lip
After the third episode of Showtime's Shameless, it seems like the, 'let's see how shocking we can be', shenanigans have calmed down a bit and it's starting to get into a more comfortable groove. It looks like each week, a money problem arises, and it's up to the Gallaghers to scheme their way through it, as the dysfunctional family that they are. And they really do take dysfunction to another level, last night kidnapping an old lady from a nursing home, to pose as their dead Aunt Ginger. Well, crisis averted, and Aunt Ginger's social security cheques will continue to help out around the house, at least for now.

Forget nice-guy Tony and even car-thief Steve, Lip (Jeremy Allen White) is the one who's stealing my attention. He's perfect for the role of second-in-command at the Gallagher house. Being forced to be responsible, he has a protective nature just like Fiona, and even makes money off of his smarts, getting paid to write exams for other kids. Plus, that scene with him and Karen, screaming at the roaring trains passing overhead, perfectly reminds us of how frustrating his life really is and how well he handles his situation. In last night's episode, Lip gets a serious beat-down from the brothers of a girl (Mandy) that younger brother Ian rejects. He takes the punishment for Ian head-on and doesn't run away scared, which I loved. You've got to appreciate the natural banter and conversations Lip and Ian have, very typical of real brothers. Lip doesn't rat Ian out to save his own neck, and he throws in a dig about how slutty Mandy is, even though it makes his beating even worse. Gotta love that Lip.

Monday, January 24, 2011

83rd Oscars get Social Media Savvy

This year, the 83rd Academy Award nominations will be announced live and online, via Livestream, which is pretty exciting for movie-addicted, social media enthusiasts (like me). Those of you who'll be at work can watch right along with the press and find out which of this year's memorable film performances got a coveted spot on the list.

Not to be outdown by the upcoming Grammy's, the Oscars are going all out in terms of social media interaction with fans, planning 'Oscar Tweets', and daily online programming to get people hyped up. This year you can not only be on the periphery of the most prestigious, star-studded Hollywood awards show of the year, but you'll get the chance to be engaged in what's happening backstage, behind the scenes.

You can watch the nominees announced live at 8:30 am EST right here. Oscar night is on February 27th so you have just over a month to watch all the nominated films.

Watch live streaming video from academyawards at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Ryan and Michelle Shine in 'Blue Valentine'

Do you ever watch only the first half of films you don't like the endings to? Like Titanic, until the iceberg hits, or Romeo and Juliet, until Mercutio dies. I like having that option, to watch the happy parts and pretend the rest never happened.

Blue Valentine doesn't give you that option. Director Derek Cianfrance tells the story of Dean and Cindy using flashbacks to a happier time, in stark comparison to the discontent and loveless life they currently live. It is so very effectively done that I found myself craving scenes from the beginning of their relationship, the good times, so I could get away from the exhaustion of watching their marriage painfully deteriorate. This is, I think, what Cianfrance was going for, because you feel what they feel. You can’t help but fall in love with Dean as he pursues her, romances her (something she is obviously not used to), and saves her from her circumstances. But, it's not all romance and passion. You also feel as claustrophobic as Cindy does with Dean in that tacky hotel room. And you feel as hopeless as Dean feels, in love with a woman who simply outgrew him.

Blue Valentine is a realistic portrait of a failed relationship, everything that’s wrong with simply co-existing and mechanically moving through the motions of marriage. Parts of it were physically hard to watch, to see the same two people show so much affection, then act with such disregard and malice towards each other. It was emotionally heartbreaking and both Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling acted with such intense passion. Michelle plays Cindy with such naivity and vulnerability, while Gosling is stellar, powerful, and well, dreamy. While not typical, Blue Valentine is quite the love story. Well, I guess they’ll always have their song.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two-Face Richard Harrow, 2010's Best Television Character

After only one season, Boardwalk Empire has already become a fan-favourite, flaunting its gorgeous, intricate set designs, period costumes and colourfully conflicted characters. It ran the risk of becoming just another mob drama (not that I'm complaining) but halfway through the season, we were introduced to a mysterious man donning a tin mask to cover up his half-blown-off, face-disfigurement from the war. Just watch Richard Harrow's (Jack Huston) mannerisms, with quiet, abrupt speech, slurping every couple of words due to the fact that he's, well, missing half his face. It's mesmerizing.

Skillfully portrayed by Jack Huston, who's pretty much Hollywood royalty (his grandfather was John Huston the director, and his aunt is Anjelica Huston). If you kind-of, sort-of, recognize him, it's because he was in Eclipse, so no point in hiding the fact that you saw it now. Even with his small, bit-part as Rosalie's fiancé, and rapist in that movie, he made quite an impression. Atlantic City Mob Boss in the making? We can only hope.

In December the people over at HBO announced that Huston would be a series regular on Boardwalk Empire next season, after making a serious impact in just five episodes. I guess we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Meet the Gallaghers, Showtime's 'Shameless' Family

Who doesn't love an underdog? A 'tale as old as time', watching characters overcome the hand they've been dealt is always good TV. For a society that loves to watch people hit rock bottom, and then attempt to build themselves back up (like Britney Spears and the fun-loving train wreck that is Californication's Hank Moody), Shameless is unapologetically just right.

A remake of a British television show of the same name, the first episode opens in blue-collar Chicago, with alcoholic Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy) introducing his six children. The main focus is on Fiona (Emmy Rossum), the eldest, who basically runs the household, collecting money to pay the bills, getting the kids off to school on time, and taking care of the youngest, a toddler. She's the rock of the family, has multiple (I counted three) jobs to help scrimp and save while Papa Gallagher signs over his disability checks directly to the bar he frequents.

The true protagonist of the show, Fiona is hardened by her circumstance. All in one episode, she meets and reluctantly falls for a guy, Steve, who seems too good to be true, only slightly jaded by her situation. In her defense, he DOES buy her a shiny, new, washing machine. Not sure how this relationship will turn out, since happy doesn't really last long on cable.

Another thing about cable television, on channels like HBO and Showtime, is that pretty much anything goes. From nudity to swearing, it can be realistic in that we're not really censored in real life, but just because you can swear and be nude all you want, doesn't mean you do. After that first episode, with the raunchiest sex scene I've seen on TV pretty much ever, Shameless runs the risk of having to spend the rest of the season living up to that shock value.

Notable mention to Joan Cusack, for finally getting the chance to be in something her brother isn't already starring in. She was actually the most interesting character of the premiere, playing an OCD mom who can hardly take her eyes off the Food Network. So much so that she doesn't notice her daughter spending entire tutoring session under the table, showing gratitude to the second-oldest Gallagher child, Lip.

I must admit, I like the dysfunction of it all - the chaos, commotion, and how wrong it is. With compelling, and seriously flawed characters, it makes for a great story, and an enjoyable addition to the Showtime television family. I guess we'll have to wait and see if they can keep it up, or if the need to 'shock' the audience trumps the root of the story they're trying to tell.

Shameless is on Sundays at 10 pm on Showtime (U.S) and Mondays at 8 pm on TMN (Canada).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Soundtrack to 2010 - Music That Saved My Life

I hate those 'time flies' rants so I won't do one, but I will say that it really is hard to believe it's already 2011.

These are songs that made up the soundtrack to my life over the past year, not necessarily from this year, or from this decade for that matter.

Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
When I first heard this song, I must've rushed home and listened to it another five times just to hear every word and every note. I drink it in every time it plays, and seeing them sing it live was enough to turn this into an all-time favourite.

Florence and the Machine - Dog Days
This was THE song of the year. You aren't doing it justice unless it's full blast, so you can hear the fantastic instrumentals, paired with probably one of the most gorgeous rock vocals of the last few years, courtesy of Florence Welch.

Kate Nash - Kiss that Grrrl
Addictive, you WILL be singing along.

Penny and the Quarters - You and Me
If you don't recognize it, it's the song Ryan's character plays for Michelle's character, in Blue Valentine. It's hypnotic - I love it.

Otis Redding - These Arms of Mine
I've loved this song forever, I mean, IT IS Otis. And if you can remember, it's playing in the background when Baby visits Johnny's room in Dirty Dancing.

Sufjan Stevens - Chicago
Very few songs have the ability to make you feel like it's the first time you've ever heard it, each time you listen to it. This is one of those songs.

Eminem - Love the Way You Lie
I know, it's so overplayed, but for whatever reason, this is one song I NEVER change the station from. It epitomizes the genius that is Eminem, his passionate and reckless nature, and the crazy we all know is in him. Although it is scary to hear him verbalize the abusive things he's thinking, it's a kind of destructive poetry, even WITH Rihanna on the track. She should just stick to singing other peoples' choruses.